dormant grass

Are you curious about the subtle transformations of lawns during different seasons? Grass undergoes fascinating changes, often shifting from vibrant green to a dry, straw-like appearance. In this article, we’ll define what dormant grass is. Explore the factors behind this natural phenomenon—temperature, water availability, daylight changes, and more—that trigger grass to slow its growth. 

Uncover the delicate balance between dormancy and resilience, learning how to identify and care for dormant grass as it conserves energy, awaiting the perfect conditions to burst back to life.

Definition of Dormant Grass

Dormant grass refers to a state where grass appears brown or straw-like due to reduced growth and activity during specific seasons or adverse conditions. This period is natural for many grass types during colder months or drought, where grass conserves energy by slowing down growth. Dormant grass isn’t dead; it’s a survival mechanism. When environmental conditions improve, such as with warmer temperatures or increased moisture, grass dormancy can revive, returning to its green and active state as it resumes growth and vitality.

Factors Influencing  Grass Dormancy

Grass dormancy, the temporary suspension of growth in grass, can be influenced by various factors, both internal and external. Some of the key factors affecting grass dormancy include:

  • Temperature: Cold temperatures can induce dormancy in warm-season grasses, while high temperatures or drought conditions might induce dormancy in cool-season grasses. Extremes in temperature can signal grass to enter a dormant state to conserve energy and survive harsh conditions.
  • Water availability: Lack of water, either due to drought or excessive dryness, can lead to dormancy in grass. Grasses may become dormant as a survival mechanism to preserve moisture during periods of water scarcity.
  • Daylight length (photoperiod): Changes in daylight hours can affect the growth patterns of grass. Shorter days in autumn signal to some grasses that winter is approaching, prompting dormancy.
  • Nutrient availability: Grass requires essential nutrients for growth. Inadequate nutrient availability, particularly nitrogen, can lead to dormancy as the grass conserves energy until conditions improve.
  • Soil conditions: Soil compaction, poor drainage, or unsuitable pH levels can stress the grass, leading to dormancy as a survival strategy.
  • Grass species and cultivar: Different grass species and cultivars have varying tolerances to environmental stressors, influencing their propensity to enter dormancy. Some grass types are more adapted to withstand harsh conditions without becoming dormant.
  • Biological factors: Certain diseases, pests, or damage caused by excessive foot traffic or improper mowing can stress the grass, potentially triggering dormancy as a protective response.

How To Tell The Difference Between Dead & Dormant Grass

dormant grass

Distinguishing between dead and dormant grass involves several cues. During dormancy, grass appears brown and dry but retains its root system, allowing it to revive with adequate water and warmth. Dead grass, however, lacks root structure and is typically brittle, easily uprooted, and shows no signs of recovery. 

To confirm dormancy, lightly tug on the grass; if it resists, it’s likely dormant. Conversely, if it pulls out effortlessly, it’s probably dead. Observing the base of the grass for signs of new growth or green shoots also helps differentiate between the two states.

Best Practices for Reviving Dormant Grass

Reviving dormant grass involves a combination of proper watering, fertilizing, aeration, and overall lawn care practices. Here are some best practices for restoring grass dormancy:


Gradual rehydration is crucial for grass dormancy revival. Deep watering, aiming for approximately 1 inch per week, fosters root growth. Applying water slowly prevents runoff, allowing better absorption. Early morning watering reduces evaporation, optimizing water intake for the grass to flourish.


Aerating the soil enhances water and nutrient absorption. Utilizing a core aerator perforates the soil, facilitating deeper root access to air, water, and nutrients. This process invigorates the lawn by improving soil structure, fostering healthier roots, and enabling essential elements to penetrate deeper for sustained growth.


Employ a balanced fertilizer tailored to your grass type, emphasizing higher nitrogen content to stimulate lush, green growth. However, exercise caution when fertilizing awakening dormant grass to prevent undue stress. A balanced approach ensures nutrient enrichment without overwhelming the recovering lawn.


Gradually reintroduce mowing as the grass resumes growth. Start with higher mower settings to mitigate stress on the grass. Adhering to the one-third rule during mowing maintains grass health, encouraging a fuller and healthier lawn.

Weed Control

Manage weeds through manual removal or selective herbicide application. Eliminating weeds curtails nutrient competition, allowing the grass to thrive and recover without impediment.

Soil Testing

Conduct a comprehensive soil test to evaluate pH levels and nutrient content. This analysis guides precise fertilizer application, ensuring the right balance for optimal grass nourishment.

Disease and Pest Control

Vigilantly monitor and quickly address signs of disease or pest infestation in your lawn, seeking guidance from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Prompt intervention, following EPA guidelines, ensures the preservation of grass recovery and sustained health.

Avoid Heavy Traffic

Minimize foot traffic and the use of heavy equipment on recovering grass dormancy to prevent stress and damage. This approach safeguards the emerging grass and supports its resurgence.

Seasonal Adjustments

Adapt lawn care practices according to seasonal variations. Adjust watering and mowing frequency in colder months to accommodate slowed grass growth, promoting overall health and resilience.

Consistent Maintenance

Whether you choose to handle lawn care personally or opt for professional lawn care services, regular upkeep remains crucial. Proper watering, mowing, and comprehensive care year-round are essential for a healthy, vibrant lawn that can endure various environmental conditions.


Understanding the nuances of dormant grass is key to nurturing a vibrant lawn year-round. Recognizing its natural cycles and responding with proper care—via watering, aeration, fertilization, and vigilant maintenance—facilitates a successful revival. By acknowledging the factors influencing dormancy and implementing best practices, one can revive grass effectively, ensuring its resilience and lush vitality.

If you’re in the Bradenton area and seeking professional lawn care services, contact us at MP Lawn Maintenance. Our expert team is here to assist you, offering comprehensive lawn care services to ensure your grass stays vibrant and healthy year-round.