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Annual vs. Perennial Ryegrass Seed

Annual and perennial ryegrass seeds are popular for overseeding golf courses, sports fields and home lawns, especially in the southern U.S., and for permanent turf in the northern U.S. and transitional zones. They are used to overseed warm season lawns such as bermuda and zoysia in winter.

Annual ryegrass provides temporary benefits like enhancing color, suppressing weeds and controlling erosion for one season. Perennial ryegrass, in contrast, offers durable erosion control and serves as grazing pasture for multiple seasons.

Annual Ryegrass Seed Versus Perennial Ryegrass Seed Comparison Chart

What is Annual Ryegrass?

Annual and perennial ryegrass are related but distinct sub-species, both displaying a bright green hue, with annual ryegrass being lighter and coarser. Annual ryegrass grows in a bunch pattern up to six inches tall, with a rolled vernation where new shoots emerge from rolled buds in the blade.

It thrives in USDA zones 4–9 and is best maintained at a mowed height of 1.5–2 inches.

Annual Ryegrass Close Up

Photo credit: North Carolina State University Extension.

The Benefits of Annual Ryegrass


Homeowners often prefer annual ryegrass over perennial because it germinates quickly within 5–7 days, competes effectively against weeds, offers shade protection and provides erosion control, all at a lower cost due to its single-season lifespan.

Although perennial ryegrass can match or exceed these traits in selectively bred varieties, annual ryegrass generally shows superior cold, wear and shade tolerance.

The Disadvantages of Annual Ryegrass


Annual ryegrass has several drawbacks compared to perennial ryegrass, including a one-year lifespan that necessitates annual replanting, which can be costly for larger lawns. It has low heat tolerance, becoming dormant below 50°F or above 90°F, a trait shared with perennial ryegrass.

Both types also have low drought tolerance and require significant watering.

Additionally, annual ryegrass is more susceptible to disease, although mixing it with seeds like bluegrass, fescue, or perennial ryegrass can improve disease resistance. Maintaining longer grass blades also helps combat disease.

The Best Annual Ryegrass Seed

If you’re considering annual ryegrass, start by determining the seed quantity based on your lawn’s square footage and find a competitive price. SOS 211 Ryegrass Seed, a 50-pound bag containing a 50-50 mix of perennial and annual seeds, is suitable for areas prone to disease.

SOS 211 is effective for late-season overseeding, germinating in mid-40s soil temperatures, and covers about 5,000 sq. ft. at a rate of 10-15 pounds per 1,000 sq. ft. This variety helps maintain a green lawn through winter.

SOS 211 Ryegrass Grass Seed – 50 lbs

SOS 211 Ryegrass Seed is a perfect seed to overseed fields and lawns that are going into dormancy.

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What is Perennial Ryegrass?

Annual and perennial ryegrass are similar as they both belong to the ryegrass family, but there are notable differences. Perennial ryegrass typically has a slightly darker, bright green color and a finer texture compared to the coarser annual ryegrass.

It grows up to one foot tall in bunch-like patterns and has a “folded” vernation where the grass blade buds expand through folded shoots.

Perennial ryegrass thrives in USDA growing zones 5–7 and should be maintained at a mowing height of 1.5–2.5 inches, slightly taller than annual ryegrass.

Perennial Ryegrass

Photo Credit: North Carolina State University Extension.

The Benefits of Perennial Ryegrass


Perennial ryegrass, though typically more expensive than annual ryegrass, provides long-term value. It shares the quick germination of 5–7 days, weed suppression, shade provision and erosion control with annual ryegrass.

However, it lasts longer, is more disease-resistant, and requires only one planting, making it more cost-effective over time compared to the annually replanted annual ryegrass.

The Disadvantages of Perennial Ryegrass


Perennial ryegrass, while costlier than annual ryegrass, has fewer cold and shade tolerance capabilities. However, both types exhibit similar wear tolerance.

The Best Perennial Ryegrass Seed

If you’re considering installing perennial ryegrass, first calculate the required seed quantity based on your lawn’s square footage and search for a good price. A popular option is Barenbrug’s Turf Star Ryegrass Seed, known for its high quality and suitability for cool to temperate climates.

It features a dark green color, robust genetics, and high mechanical purity, offering quick germination and strong traffic tolerance.

Turf Star Ryegrass Seed – 50 lbs

Turf Star Ryegrass is an excellent choice for fall interseeding of turf and is the standard in the golf industry for over a decade.

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When should I use annual vs. perennial ryegrass? – Answered

Choosing between annual and perennial ryegrass often depends on your climate, growing zone, and specific lawn conditions. Both types germinate quickly and display a similar bright green color, though perennial is typically darker.

If your yard is shaded, annual ryegrass might be slightly better. Perennial ryegrass, while more expensive initially, only requires ongoing maintenance without the need for annual replanting, unlike annual ryegrass.

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