Last Updated on March 7, 2023 by Mattias
Most plants go into a state of dormancy during colder months. It is a period where they stop using their energy towards growth and focus solely on survival.
Bermuda grass is a warm-season turfgrass with several advantages, such as drought tolerance and the ability to establish a dense turf. Still, even this grass is vulnerable to fall retention.
It is important to remember that your grass’ needs change during dormancy, so if you’re wondering when does Bermuda grass go dormant and how to treat it, then keep reading this article to find out.
When Does Bermuda Grass Go Dormant?
Bermuda grass thrives in warm months but goes dormant in certain conditions to preserve its energy. In terms of temperature, it goes into a state of dormancy when the temperature drops below 55 degrees Fahrenheit (12C).
This time will usually last from mid-November all through march. All warm season grasses do it, and once spring arrives, they gradually come out again.
When the dormancy period begins, leaves and stem growth stops entirely, but stolons and rhizomes take their time. They may also go dormant in case of dry weather conditions, drought conditions, or nutrient shortage.
Now that you know when does Bermuda grass go dormant. You should also keep in mind that its needs change entirely during this period. Usually, this grass is high maintenance, but to what extent does the change in treatment go?
You need to adjust accordingly, but how will you know its dormancy has begun, and how long will it last? We are here to answer your questions, so let’s dive in.
Why Does Bermuda Grass Go Dormant?
If you’re new to the gardening world and want to learn more about your lawn, then you must know why your grass goes dormant in the first place. Bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon) is native to tropical and sub-tropical climates and needs plenty of sunlight to grow properly.
As soon as the cold temperature approaches, Bermuda grass faces environmental stress and enters a state of dormancy. It goes in this state to focus its full energy toward surviving rather than actively growing; hence, common dormancy signs will start surfacing.
Signs Bermuda Grass Has Gone Dormant?
You can tell whether the grass has gone dormant in several ways. The main sign would be the halt in its growth rate. Aside from that, you’ll need to see if the temperature has fallen enough for the dormancy period to begin.
A lack of sunlight triggers it, so the first frost is usually a clear signal for upcoming dormancy. If the below-listed signs occur regardless of the winter temperature, they may indicate underwatering or dead grass.
As mentioned above, the grass stops growing altogether and focuses on surviving instead. When this happens, the dark green leaves start turning into a brown color and form patches of brown grass on your lawn.
You can tell whether the grass is dead or dormant by noticing the browning patterns on your lawn. When dormancy begins, the entire lawn gradually turns brown, but dead grass will be in distinct patterns and dead spots.
Although the best way to distinguish between dead grass and dormant one is by performing a tug test. What you are going to do is pull a handful of dry-looking grass out.
Dormant bermudagrass still has strong anchored roots in the ground, so if the grass blades show resistance and you have difficulty pulling it out, then that’s a clear indication of dormancy. However, if the browning grass comes out easily, then it’s dead.
How To Treat Dormant Bermuda Grass?
When your grass enters its dormancy period, you should make it a point to remind yourself that it is not growing. Its normal needs change greatly, and if you wish to ensure its survival, you must also make some changes.
Can you water dormant Bermuda grass?
One of the main things that gardeners wonder about Bermuda’s dormancy period is whether it can be watered. To state it, when Bermuda grass is dormant, it’s still alive; hence, its roots need water and nutrients to aid its survival.
Dormant Bermuda grass is not the equivalent of dead grass, and just because it’s going through this natural phase doesn’t mean that you should stop lawn care altogether.
Now, normally your Bermuda grass needs an inch of water per week. As long as the temperature remains above 40F, you should keep watering your bermudagrass lawn weekly. Even though the frequency should stay the same during this temperature, you should reduce the quantity of water from 1 to 0.5 inches once a week. This can be estimated as 30 minutes from a sprinkler.
You must wonder why the grass needs water if it’s not actively growing. The answer is quite simple. You are basically encouraging its roots to be strong and form a vibrant and green lawn in the upcoming spring.
If you leave your grass completely unwatered during dry winter months, it can easily get damaged or even killed by harsh drought conditions. Rain showers are an exception because precipitation alone will fulfill your grass’ watering needs in some areas.
Another thing to remember while watering Bermuda grass in dormancy is to take extra care of the temperature. If it’s at a chilling point or the forecast shows breezy nighttime temperatures, water droplets can freeze on leaf blades and cause severe damage.
Can you cut dormant Bermuda grass?
As we all know, Bermuda grass is known for its aggressive growth and invasive tendencies. This grass is usually high maintenance, and if you don’t want it to overtake other species in your lawn, then constant mowing is necessary. The question here is, does that change during dormancy? Let’s find out.
No, you can not mow or scalp Bermuda grass during the dormancy period. As we have repeatedly mentioned above, the grass has completely stopped growing during this time, and it is totally incapable of recovering from mowing stress.
However, there is one exception. It is advisable to mow Bermuda grass one time before it comes out of dormancy. When the temperature rises above 60F(15C), you should mow the lawn down to 1 inch to ensure all dead material is cleaned off. This will lead to a vibrant, lush, and green year.
Can you fertilize dormant Bermuda grass?
Once again, even if these months are not growing seasons for Bermuda, that doesn’t mean that the grass has died. Your grass still needs to survive, meaning you must mow, water, and fertilize it (just not as often).
When it comes to fertilizers, potash is the best choice. Spreading it on your dormant bermuda grass lawn is a great way to boost its health. In case you didn’t know, potash is a manufactured slat that is well-known to aid plant growth.
It is naturally resistant to weeds and thus protects your grass from annual weeds and pests. It also contains potassium, one of the best nutrients for your lawn. When you spread it on your dormant lawn, the grass gets plenty of time to soak it in and enjoy its benefits gradually. Potassium is also good for your lawn because it feeds the roots and promotes thicker and more vigorous growth.
Remember that even though potassium benefits a bermudagrass turf, it may not be as suitable for other grass varieties. Unlike Bermuda grass, not every type of grass is salt resistant. Since potassium can lead to built-up salt deposits, its excessive use is not advisable.
Milorganite, on the other hand, is a salt-free solution that can be applied to your dormant lawn. It is a slow-release nitrogen fertilizer that will not burn off the lawn. This fertilizer is designed to stay at the surface of your lawn and only start working once the air and soil temperature is appropriate. It’s completely harmless to use during drought conditions.
If you want to avoid risks, the best time to fertilize your lawn is in early fall. This way, you won’t have to do it until late spring or even early summer.
How Long Does It Take For Bermuda Grass To Come Out Of Dormancy?
This will mainly depend on your location. Bermuda is a warm-season grass that thrives in the summer months and essentially heats. The dormancy period will end as soon as the temperature has risen. Southern states may find the dormancy period to be much shorter than northern ones,
As you know by now, the dormancy period starts when the temperature goes below 55F. Generally speaking, this time usually starts in mid-November and lasts through the entirety of march.
When early spring surfaces, the temperature will start rising, and the grass will slowly start turning a green color again. Remember to be patient during this transition zone because this process isn’t usually quick. Sometimes it can take days and weeks of constant warmer temperatures for common bermudagrass to return to its normal state.
The standard time can be estimated between 2-4 weeks, but a small guide is given below.
- Atlantic coast: mid-November – mid-march
- Florida: no dormancy
- Western Australia: no dormancy
- Gulf coast: December – January
- Eastern Australia: Mid-may – Mid-august
How To Revive Dormant Bermuda Grass
After the cold weather has passed and spring has arrived. You may find the need to awaken your Bermuda grass yourself. You most certainly cannot change its physical timeline, but there are some management practices and measures that can be taken to quicken the process.
Another good rule of thumb is to mow your grass down to 1-1.5 inches before the dormant period is over. This will ensure fresh and vibrant spring growth.
- Water it generously in case the drought has lasted more than 4 weeks.
- Avoid excess use of fertilizers during the dormant season
- Use weed control to protect the grass
- Make sure that the grass isn’t getting heavy foot traffic
- Mowing height should be kept to ⅓ of the turfgrass
- Rehydrate the landscape extensively to support the recovery process.
When Does Bermuda Grass Go Dormant Summary
Now that we have discussed all the main factors, it is safe to say that the winter dormancy period is inevitable whether you like it or not. Several lawn owners find brown lawns to be unattractive for their houses, but it is the best way for the grass to survive environmental stress.
You’ll need to adjust your schedule when Bermuda grass goes dormant and adapt to its needs. Knowing when does Bermuda grass go dormant saves you from misunderstandings. You can not treat your grass properly if you don’t even know whether it’s dead or simply in dormancy.
In this article, we discussed all the signs that indicate dormancy period, how long it lasts, why it happens, how it impacts your behavior, and how you can speed up the grass’ recovery. We hope it helped you understand your bermuda lawn better.
If you found this article useful, then share it with your friends and help them keep a healthy lawn as well.
Meet Mattias Jonsson, the head of content at RainSaucers. Passionate about gardening and water-related topics, he’s dedicated to providing expert information and resources to help improve your home, health, and wallet. Learn from his research and experience.