When does Bermuda Grass go Dormant (For how long?)

It’s that time of the year when ground temperature is constantly dropping and you’re not sure when your lawn grass will go dormant. So, when does Bermuda grass go dormant?

Bermuda grass will definitely go dormant when temperature of the soil drops below 55 degrees Fahrenheit (12.8 degrees Celsius) consistently for an extended period of time. This phenomenon usually happen during colder months of the year. However, a single drop in temperature will not make your grass go dormant.

When does Bermuda Grass go Dormant?

Grass dormancy is a gradual process that is triggered by cooler temperatures, shorter daylight hours and overnights of frost. It normally start happen in the fall in areas that receive cooler temperatures. Bermuda grass will start to change color from green to brown as it enters winter dormancy.

This usually happen when daytime ground temperature are below 55 degrees Fahrenheit (12.8 degrees Celsius) consistently for an extended period of time. The cool temperatures are normally accompanied by shorter daylight hours and overnight showers of frost.

Bermuda grass is a warm-season grass that is among USDA zone 8 to 10 plants. For instance, if you live in areas like Southern California, Colorado, Maryland, Georgia, Arizona or Delaware, your grass may not go dormant unless under extra ordinary conditions. These areas receive warm temperatures throughout the year.

Temperatures are cooler on the Gulf Coat in the month of December and January. Bermuda grass will go dormant during this period. The dormancy period may set in between November and march on the Atlantic coast.  

In the early fall, Bermuda grass will prepare itself for dormant winter season ahead. It will store energy in the roots to help it go through the stresses of cold winter season.

Bermuda grass can also go into a semi-dormant state when weather conditions are too dry. The grass will maintain the green color but stop growing. The rhizome on the roots can also lose 50% of their weight when they are not receiving enough water. Be sure to water your grass in an extended dry conditions.

How to know if Bermuda grass is Dormant

It is essential to know if Bermuda grass is dormant. It helps in adjusting the lawn’s maintenance schedule. How to care for an actively growing grass may vary as to when it’s dormant. Here are the tell-tale signs that indicate Bermuda grass is dormant:

1. Bermuda grass begin to change color to brown

Gradual change of color from lush green to brown is a first indication to show Bermuda grass is entering dormancy. Bermuda grass will enter dormancy when the soil temperatures are below 55 degrees Fahrenheit (12.8 degrees Celsius) consistently for a long period of time.

The grass will brown gradually from the top of blades downwards. The upper half of leaves may change the color to brown while the rest of the plant is still green. The lower leaves that are insulated may also maintain the green color during the initial dormancy process.

The whole grass plant will change the color to brown when fully dormant. During this period it may appear dead. However, you should not worry if the change in color is as a result of low temperatures and not lack of water. The grass will come back to life when temperature warms up.

2. The grass stop growing

Bermuda grass will stop growing when the ground temperature is around 60 degrees Fahrenheit (15 degrees Celsius). The grass will start to conserve its energy in the roots as it prepare to enter dormancy. During this period the grass will only use little energy to survive and not to thrive.

3. Try the tug test

Pulling of a section of Bermuda grass can determine if it’s dormant or dead. If the grass resist being pulled from the ground simply means it’s dormant. The roots are still active and anchored strongly into the soil. On the other hand, if the grass feels spongy to touch and pulls out of soil with easy, it’s unfortunate that it may be dead.

How long does Bermuda Stay in Dormancy?

Bermuda grass will start to come out of dormancy when ground temperature rises above 65 degrees Fahrenheit (18 degrees Celsius) consistently and when there is no more frost overnight. The dormancy period may vary from a few weeks to several month depending on your region.

Bermuda grass dormancy in frost-free climate regions may take only a few weeks. The grass will maintain the green color although with a reduced growth rate due to cooler nights in the autumn and shorter daylight in winter.

Bermuda grass roots, stolon and rhizomes will return to vigorous growth rate when ground temperature rises above 65 degree Fahrenheit. However, Bermuda being a warm-season grass, it require soil temperatures of about 80 degrees Fahrenheit (27 degrees Celsius) for best growth.

In cooler climate regions with long winter periods, Bermuda grass will take a few month to come out of dormancy. The grass will remain dormant until spring when average day and night temperature rises above 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius) consistently for several days.

Bermuda grass will start to regain its green color as soon as it begin to sprout in the early spring. It usually take 2 to 4 weeks for green grass color to cover your lawn again. The increasing temperature and daytime light encourages vigorous grass growth.

Most warm-season grass like Bermuda goes through 3 stages to recover fully from dormancy. They include: revival, emergence and fully regrown. The revival stage is triggered by warm temperatures, sufficient light and absence of frost. The roots emerges to direct energy into blade production. Within a few weeks, the grass will be fully regrown.

Should you cut Dormant Bermuda Grass?

Mowing grass appropriately help to develop deep root growth and promote increased density. In the long run, it help the grass to overcome environmental stresses such as tough weather conditions, weeds, pests and diseases attack.

When winter season is offing, prepare your grass for dormancy. Give it a final mow and allow to grow to the recommended height prior to dormancy. Bag the grass clipping and rake your lawn before it enter dormancy. The grass should be tall enough prior to dormancy.

Avoid mowing your grass once it has entered into a dormant state. The grass is already stressed up due to bad weather conditions. Mowing will add more stress that can damage roots and cause the grass to die.

Early in the spring, your grass will begin to revive when temperatures are warming up to encourage a green growth. The grass will require fertilizer and frequent watering to grow healthy into the season. If the grass has completely recovered from the dormancy and looks healthy, you can now mow it to a suitable height.

Final thoughts

Bermuda grass will start to prepare for dormancy in the fall when the soil temperature begin to drop. The grass will store energy in the roots to help it go through stresses of winter. It will enter into dormancy when the ground temperature is below 55 degrees Fahrenheit. The grass will remain dormant until when the temperature will warm up again.

References:

  1. Clemson University Cooperative Extension: BERMUDAGRASS YEARLY MAINTENANCE PROGRAM
  2. Texas Cooperative Extension: Spring Transition in Bermuda grass
  3. Dougherty County Cooperative Extension: Bermuda

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