Rye Grass and How to Care for It

Ryegrass or Lolium is a genus of about ten species of tufted grasses native to Asia, Europe, and northern America. This genus belongs to the grass family Poaceae and is also closely related to the fescues (Festuca). These tufted grasses are characterized by dark green leaves that have a shiny surface and an extensive root system, making it a great choice for a cover crop. The species within the ryegrass genus cross with each other to give rise to a wide array of plant types.

Different species of ryegrass serve different purposes; some are grown as turfgrass and offer green cover in winters; while, others form a constituent of high-quality pasture mixtures. Ryegrass should not be confused with grain crop cereal rye (Secalecereale).

When planting ryegrass, it is necessary to choose the right type that suits your purpose the best. However, it might be onerous for beginners to choose one from a variety of plants. To help you choose the best ryegrass plant for your landscape, below, we have reviewed the most popular types and their purposes with additional tips on how to take care of each plant.

Perennial Ryegrass

Perennial ryegrass (Loliumperenne L.) is a cool-season grass native to Europe, Asia, and North Africa. It’s widely planted throughout the States, especially on the northeast and pacific coast, spreading across a land of about 250,000 acres. It can serve as both high-quality pasture land for livestock and lush-green turf grass for your lawn, depending on the region and climate. When grown in temperate climates, it forms the most perfect green and velvety lawn that maintains its hue and texture from fall through spring, making it the top choice of lawn care experts.

Perennial ryegrass is best known for its fast germination rate and high yield with a lengthy active growth period. It can easily fill bald spots; it establishes quickly, growing from seed to mature turf in just twenty days of the plantation. This type is also highly resilient as it can withstand heavy foot traffic and resist pests. It is cold-tolerant, flourishing in regions where winters and summers are both moderate. Moreover, it is also packed with nutrition and recovers rapidly from grazing. All these attributes make perennial ryegrass not only the best quality cool-season pasture grass but also valuable as forage.

Perennial ryegrass is best adapted to cool, temperate climates, thriving in coastal regions that experience moderate temperatures all year round. It can tolerate partial shade but grows to its peak only in full sun. It cannot withstand drought or prolonged exposure to extreme heat either.

How to Care:

  • To achieve the highest yield, sow it in a nitrogen-rich and well-drained soil. Fertilize at least once or twice a month.
  • To survive winters, it requires a thick snow cover.
  • Plant it in sunlight-rich areas but keep it away from extreme heat.
  • Water regularly to keep them wet but not soaked.
  • Mow your lawns regularly.
  • Reseed when necessary.

Annual Ryegrass

Also known as Italian ryegrass, annual ryegrass (Loliummultiflorum Lam.) occupies a land of about 1.2 million acres in the United States of America, the majority of which lies in the south-eastern region. This annual grass is native to southern Europe and grows best in moderate to warm climates. Despite the name, it does not behave as a real annual instead acts as a biennial or short-term perennial. Its lush green leaves make for an exquisite turfgrass that adds color and vivacity to your lawn. It is often used together with perennial legumes and other grass seeds for cool-season cover. It serves primarily as winter pasture in the south-east.

The seeds are planted in, tilled in early spring, and grazed during winter when it reaches the brightest shade of green. It is easy to establish and has a rapid growth rate, with germination occurring in seven to ten days. Thanks to its extensive root system, it is useful for preventing erosions and ridding weeds.

Though it is more persistent than perennial ryegrass, it still has a low drought and heat tolerance. It requires moderate maintenance; you need to provide nutrient-rich and well-drained soil. It has better yield and productivity than most cool-season grasses. The plant attains a height of about 4 to 16 inches with some little spikelets and bunched leaves. It also serves as a high-quality grazing grass for dairy cattle and an annual forage crop.

How to care:

  • Fertilize with rich soil during the fall and spring seasons every year.
  • It is best to fertilize annual ryegrass every four to six weeks.
  • Annual ryegrass cannot withstand cold and requires a rich snow cover in winters.
  • Remove weeds at the preliminary stage of lawn preparations.
  • Mow and water in timed and consistent cycles.
  • Protect from extreme heat.

Intermediate Ryegrass

Intermediate ryegrass, also known as the Italian ryegrass, is the result of the cross between perennial and annual ryegrass. It is short-rotation ryegrass that possesses a mixture of all the mentioned traits above, as suggested by its name. It is less tolerant of cold temperatures than perennial ryegrass yet produces a higher yield. Intermediate ryegrass has high protein levels and excellent digestibility.

It is a cool-season grass that establishes itself quickly, germinating in only seven to ten days. It flourishes in mild and temperate climates but can survive in the chilly season as well. Its uses are somewhat similar to those of perennial ryegrass. Its primary use is in mixtures for overseeding warm-season grasses and as luscious turfgrass.

You may also use intermediate ryegrass in pastures for grazing and hay production when a quick establishment is needed. However, we do not recommend it for horse pastures as it is rich in fructans, which, according to some studies, can lead to laminitis. It also shows a wide range of characteristics and performance according to the variety used.

How to Care:

  • Take extreme care when selecting varieties. You may use professional help via guides or gardeners.
  • Use winter covers during cold temperatures.
  • Patch the bald spots when needed.
  • Do not heavily soak in water.
  • Use natural and artificial pest controls


Darnel (Loliumtemulentum L.), more commonly known as poison ryegrass or tare, originated from countries in the Mediterranean region. It is now widely naturalized in the subtropics and temperate areas of various countries around the world. It is considered a noxious weed that infests wheat fields and other small grain cereals. It can also appear in waste grounds and orchids during winters. Darnel can be used as forage and proves useful in erosion control. However, it can cause trouble for every crop during the winter season. The seeds of Loliumtemulentum resemble those of wheat and other small grain crops as they have similar size and weight.

The plant stem of this annual weedy grass can grow up to a height of 1 meter. It characterizes large panicle flowers, which are light and upright. The flowers ripen to black color. It also hosts various crop pests and diseases: a poisonous fungus (Neotyphodium species) usually infects this plant, making the plant hazardous for the grazing livestock.

How to Care:

  • Apply pesticides.
  • Look out for any signs of weed infestation. Through early detection and rapid response, you can control and prevent it. Use hand weeding and clean seeds as crucial management and preventative measures.
  • Mow, water, ventilate, and sun-drench them regularly.
  • Try avoiding it for your lawns

The Takeaway

Though ryegrass is a highly-functional grass family, its characteristics and usefulness differ from variety to variety. We recommend choosing the one that is well-suited to your purpose and well-adapted to the climate and landscape of your region.

If you wish for a luscious lawn that will catch the gaze of every neighbor to adorn your home, perennial ryegrass is the top choice for you. However, if you are looking for nutrition-rich grazing land that is high in proteins, there is no better option than annual ryegrass.