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Dormant Grass vs Dead Grass

Posted by Brian Gerber on Nov 19, 2020 2:46:37 PM

Is my grass dead? Or just dormant?  A brown lawn doesn’t necessarily mean that your lawn is dead. It could be dormant.

During dormancy, your grass is conserving its energy & water and sending its resources down to the root system rather than to the grass blade itself. This will cause your grass to turn brown and appear to be dead but, inside, the grass crown remains alive. 

Grass plant structure

What Makes a Lawn go Dormant?

  • Summer Dormancy: Dormant grass in the summer can be caused by intense heat or drought stress. Grass enters a dormant stage to conserve its energy and water. It can remain safely in its dormant stage for about 3-4 weeks without dying. Grass can be brought out of summer dormancy with regular watering. 
  • Winter Dormancy: Dormant grass in winter occurs when temperatures drop. Grass will turn brown and growth will slow. 

How to Tell If My Lawn is Dormant or Dead? 

  • Tug Test: Tug at your grass. If your grass pulls up easily, it is dead. Dead grass will not come back so the next step would be to think about reseeding the dead areas of your lawn.
  • Uniformity: Is your whole lawn brown or just brown in patches? If your whole lawn is brown it might all be dormant. If it’s brown in patches it might be something else such as disease, pests, drought damage or inconsistency with your irrigation system. 
  • Watering: Dormant grass will revive with regular watering. If you water and your grass does not come back from summer dormancy - it is likely dead. 

Warm Season Grass:

Examples: Bermuda grass. Zoysia, Bahia, Centipede grass. 
  • Thrives in warm weather.
  • Can tolerate heat.
  • Originate in tropical regions.
  • Require lots of sunlight.
  • Will typically go dormant in temps under 65 degrees F. 

Cool season and warm season grass

Cool Season Grass:

Examples: Rye (annual or perennial), Kentucky Blue Grass, Tall Fescues, Fine Fescues.

  • You will often find a blend of these in Northern areas of the US. These grasses work together to meet different needs such as high traffic, sun and shade.


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