The life expectancy of grass depends on the type of grass you have and how much care you put into it.
Some grass types are very hardy and will survive in hot or cold weather conditions.
Other grass types are more finicky and prone to parasites and disease.
With so many different variables, how long should you expect your grass to live?
Most lawn grasses are perennial, which means they will continue to grow year after year. There is not a specific life expectancy on a blade of grass. As long as you are properly fertilizing and irrigating your lawn, it will last for a lifetime.
Grasses are constantly going through a cycle of life and death.
However, since there is almost always new grass sprouting up to replace any dead grass, it is unlikely you will notice your grass dying off at all.
Read on to learn more about the differences in annual and perennial grasses, the lifecycle of cool- and warm-season grasses, and the comparisons between different types of popular lawn grasses.
Annual Grasses Vs. Perennial Grasses
Annual grasses only live for one growing season, and then they die.
You will have to plant more grass for the next growing season.
Perennial grasses will grow yearly as long as they are cared for properly through fertilization and adequate irrigation.
Annual grasses are usually planted as crops for food, such as corn, wheat, and sorghum.
Perennial grasses are the kinds used for growing a lush, green lawn.
These grasses are continually replenishing themselves.
Even though there are dying blades of grass, there are usually just as many new blades of grass growing in their place.
Most perennial grass species are dormant during the cold winter months, but once the growing season starts, the grass will become green and grow again.
Many perennial grass for lawn use requires minimal effort to maintain aside from keeping it mowed, fertilized, and watered during the growing season.
However, a couple of lawn grasses require very consistent maintenance schedules and pesticides to keep them alive and healthy.
Among the perennial lawn grass varieties, there are cool-season and warm-season grasses.
The Lifecycle Of Cool-Season And Warm-Season Grasses
The main difference between cool-season and warm-season grasses is when they peak during their growth cycle.
Cool-season grasses do most of their growing during the cooler spring and fall months.
Their growth slows down during the hottest summer months, and they are dormant during the winter.
Warm-season grasses grow more during the hot summer months, and then their growth tapers off during autumn.
These grasses also go dormant throughout the winter season.
Some cool-season types of grass are intolerant of extreme heat, and they will die quickly if temperatures reach 100° degrees Fahrenheit (38° C).
These grasses thrive in the cooler climates of New England and the Pacific Northwest.
Likewise, some warm-season grasses will not do well in areas where winter temperatures consistently drop below freezing.
These grasses require warmer temperatures throughout the year and tend to thrive in the climate of the Southeast and Gulf Coast states.
After both types of grasses go through a dormant period in the winter where they stop growing, they will return in the spring with fresh new growth.
Comparison Table for the Most Common Types of Lawn Grasses
The table below illustrates the differences between the most common types of lawn grasses mentioned above for easy reference.
|Kentucky Bluegrass||Cool-season, Perennial||2-2.5″ Inches|
|Perennial Ryegrass||Cool-season, Perennial||1.5-2.5″ Inches|
|Turf-type Tall Fescue||Cool-season, Perennial||2-3″ Inches|
|Bermudagrass||Warm-season, Perennial||1-1.5″ Inches|
|Centipede||Warm-season, Perennial||1.5-2″ Inches|
|St. Augustine||Warm-season, Perennial||3-4″ Inches|
|Zoysia||Warm-season, Perennial||1-1.5″ Inches|
The common types above are all perennial grass types but, if you’re unsure of the core differences between annual and perennial grasses we have a post on that.
Comparing Different Types Of Grasses
There are many things to consider when choosing which type of grass is best for your lawn.
You need to consider the climate, watering frequency, growth rate, and whether or not the grass is more susceptible to pests or disease.
This section will compare the most popular types of lawn grasses and provide the information you need to decide which one is best for you.
Kentucky bluegrass is a cool-season perennial type of lawn grass.
This grass is a deep green color, and it produces a dense and sturdy lawn.
Because of its beauty and durability, you will often see Kentucky bluegrass on athletic fields.
Kentucky bluegrass has the most excellent cold tolerance of all common cool-season grasses, making it the best choice for colder climates with mild summers.
However, Kentucky bluegrass requires a lot of maintenance to achieve its optimal beauty.
Kentucky bluegrass has a shallow root system, so it needs to be watered frequently.
The grass is also very intolerant to heat, and it may go dormant during periods of extreme heat or drought.
Kentucky bluegrass will naturally spread to form a dense lawn, and this ability allows the grass to recover from damage quickly even though it has a very slow growth rate.
The maximum recommended height for Kentucky bluegrass during the peak of the growing season is between 2-2.5″ inches.
- Pros: Beauty, durability, good cold tolerance
- Cons: High-maintenance, intolerant to heat, shallow root system
Perennial ryegrass is a cool-season perennial grass.
Perennial ryegrass has thin grass blades, creates a lush lawn, and is good for high-traffic areas due to its durability and ability to recover from damage.
Perennial ryegrass is said to have the best recovery ability of all cool-season species of grass, so it is frequently found at schools, parks, and athletic fields.
This grass is considered high maintenance depending on location, and it does not tolerate heat or drought very well.
The maximum recommended height for perennial ryegrass is between 1.5-2.5″ inches.
- Pros: Lush growth, durability, good recovery ability
- Cons: High-maintenance, heat, and drought intolerant
Turf-type Tall Fescue
Turf-type tall fescue is a cool-season perennial grass.
This grass has thin blades and grows in dense clusters.
Turf-type tall fescue grass is more heat and drought tolerant than other cool-season grasses due to its deep root system, and it is also disease-resistant and durable.
This grass has a slow growth rate, making it difficult to recover quickly from damage.
The turf-type tall fescue is used in high-traffic areas, and it stays green for 8-9 months out of the year.
The recommended height for turf-type tall fescue is 2-3″ inches.
- Pros: Durability, disease-resistant, heat and drought tolerant, deep root system
- Cons: Slow growth rate, difficulty recovering from damage
Bermudagrass is a warm-season perennial grass.
This grass is very drought tolerant and can live for 60-90 days without water.
Bermudagrass is also resilient against pests, heat, and salt, so it is excellent for warm coastal climates.
It has a complex root system, giving it the ability to withstand a harsh environment.
Bermudagrass does not tolerate cold very well, so it is better suited for moderate to warm climates.
This grass has the fastest growth rate of any other warm-season grasses, so it may be difficult to contain.
Bermudagrass also has a longer dormancy period than other grasses.
Bermudagrass grows very quickly during the hot summer months, so you may need to mow more often.
In our other post, we’ve covered how often you should mow your lawn in more detail if you’re looking for some cutting tips.
It’s a short grass, with a recommended height of only 1-1.5″ inches.
- Pros: Drought resistant, resistant to pests/heat/salt, fast growth rate
- Cons: Cold-intolerant, long dormancy period
Centipede grass is a warm-weather perennial grass.
This grass is very low maintenance, but it grows best in the Southeastern United States due to its climate and soil needs.
The soil type in the Southwest is too alkaline for centipede grass to thrive.
Because of its shallow root system, centipede grass is not very drought tolerant.
Centipede grass also doesn’t have the dormancy period of other grasses, and cold winter temperatures may be deadly for it.
Centipede has the slowest growth rate of the warm-season grass types, so it will not recover easily from damage.
The recommended height for centipede grass is 1.5-2″ inches.
- Pros: Low maintenance
- Cons: Drought intolerant, shallow root system, slow growth rate
St. Augustine grass is a warm-season perennial type of grass.
This grass is very finicky because it is not cold tolerant or disease resistant.
The recommended planting zone for St. Augustine is also very limited, with the grass only truly thriving in warm-weather Gulf Coast states.
St. Augustine grass creates a thick and lush lawn when planted in its ideal climate.
This grass is very high maintenance and requires a lot of irrigation and fertilizer to grow well.
St. Augustine is extremely susceptible to a destructive root fungus, and cold winter temperatures will easily kill it.
The recommended height for St. Augustine is between 3-4″ inches.
- Pros: Creates a thick, lush lawn
- Cons: Cold-intolerant, prone to disease, limited growing area, high maintenance
Zoysia grass is warm-season perennial grass.
This grass is often used as a substitute for St. Augustine grass because it is more cold-tolerant and resistant to diseases and pests.
Zoysia grass produces a dense lawn, and it is great to use in high-traffic areas.
This grass has a slow growth rate, with its peak growing period extending into late summer. Zoysia is very tolerant of heat and drought.
Because Zoysia is a clustered grass and creates such a dense growth, it is a great grass to have on your lawn because few weeds will be able to come through to the surface.
Zoysia grass stays green longer than bermudagrass, but it usually turns brown when it goes into its dormant state for the winter.
The recommended height for Zoysia grass is 1-1.5″ inches.
- Pros: Cold tolerant, disease/pest resistant, durability, dense growth, weed resistant, heat/drought tolerant
- Cons: Slow growth rate
Commonly Asked Questions
How long will grass survive without water?
Drought-tolerant grasses may survive for up to six weeks without water.
This survival depends on the condition of the lawn and soil.
Many types of grass will go dormant if they are not watered, and they may survive for 3-4 weeks in this state before signs of damage begin to appear.
In general, it will take around 2 weeks of steady irrigation for a grass to recover from being too dry.
How long does a natural grass field last?
Natural grass fields do not necessarily have a fixed life.
Most grass reseeds itself, so it is constantly growing new blades of grass.
A natural grass field may last for 20 years or more depending on the climate and soil conditions.
However, a natural grass athletic field may need a lot of maintenance to keep it looking its best.
Many athletic stadiums replace the grass after 30 years due to wear and tear.
How long does it take for grass roots to die?
If the grass is treated with an herbicide, it will take close to two weeks for the roots of the grass to die.
You will know the grass roots are dead if you pull on the grass, and it comes out of the ground easily.
Many perennial types of grass have roots that die back during dormancy.
This makes the grass more fragile at the beginning of the growing season because the plant will have to completely regrow its root system.
How does grass reproduce?
Grass reproduction occurs either sexually or asexually.
Some grasses have stems that grow sideways.
These stems will either go into the ground or just above it.
Stems growing above the ground are called stolons, and the stems below the ground are known as rhizomes.
Stolons and rhizomes sprout new grass culms, and it gives the plant nutrition until it can survive on its own.
There are also flowering grasses, and the flowers they produce are called florets.
These florets produce seeds that will eventually grow into new blades of grass.
How long does grass take to grow?
When growing from grass seeds, it will take between 7-21 days for the grass sprouts to appear after the seeds have been planted.
It usually takes another 3-4 weeks of growth before the grass is long enough to mow.
During this growth period, the grass will need to be watered very frequently.
Once the grass is established, avoid excessive water to prevent root rot.
Different grasses have different growth rates, and this grass growth increases at the peak of the growing season.
For example, the average growth rate for Kentucky bluegrass is one-third of the average growth rate for perennial ryegrass.