All You Need to Know About Stolons & Rhizomes

If you have moved from a different part of the country, warm weather grasses may be a bit of a mystery to you. Here in the deep South, warm-season grasses grow actively from mid-April to mid-October. Although these grasses tend to struggle a little bit during our coolest months, Floridians do sometimes over-seed with annual ryegrass to keep their lawn looking full during January and February.

Some of the most popular warm weather grasses used in the Sarasota and Tampa area include Bahia grass, Bermuda grass, Centipede grass, Saint Augustine grass and Zoysia grass. Warm season grasses propagate themselves via the growth of stolons and/or rhizomes.

Defining Stolons & Rhizomes

Warm weather creeping grasses grow, propagate and recover via stolons or rhizomes. Understanding the difference between these two terms will educate you as to how different types of creeping grasses propagate, spread, and recover from trauma. Understanding the traits of each of these grasses will help you in determining which type of grass is best for your lawn, as well as if different parts of your lawn require different types of grass.

What are Stolons? Stolons are stems which that creep above-ground along the surface. Each stolon will eventually grow a clone of itself at the end of the stem. This replicate stem sends roots down to establish itself as a permanent part of the lawn, and then begins its own creeping movement, continually extending the grass field.
Examples of warm season grasses which propagate via stolons – known as stoloniferous grass – include Centipede, St. Augustine, Zoysia, and Bermuda grass.

What are Rhizomes? Rhizomes are also known as rootstalks, or “creeping rootstalks.” They are described as modified stems that run horizontally, but just under the surface (as opposed to stolons which run across the surface). Rhizomes establish themselves by sending roots down, while simultaneously shooting new stems up through the soil. Examples of warm season grasses with rhizomes – known as rhizomatous grass – include Bermuda and Zoysia grass.

Did You Know? Zoysia and Bermuda grasses use both stolons and rhizomes to propagate.

Invasive Grasses?

Creeping grasses of this type may easily spread into other areas of the landscape, flower beds, or into your neighbor’s yard. Because of this, they are considered “invasive species”, and will need to be managed should you choose to utilize them.

Because they can be seen aboveground, warm weather grasses which spread via stolons only are more easily managed. The most effective way to keep these grasses in the areas which they belong is with a weed eater which can cut off stolon stems. For those looking for this type of grass, St. Augustine grass is a popular Florida choice.

Zoysia and Bermuda grass take a little bit more effort to control and remove. Effective control mechanisms include installing hard edging and borders -such as concrete or metal- as well as the periodic application of herbicides, and diligent hand pulling. The rhizome becomes evident when the upward shoot breaks through the soil. Landscapers can identify the rhizome when it breaks to the surface, then dig out the creeping stem.

Sarasota and Tampa area homeowners may have no choice as to the type of grass they utilize on their lawn if they live in a deed restricted community. Be sure to check with your community for any restrictions or guidelines they may have in place.

If you have any questions regarding which type of warm weather grass is the best choice for you, ask the experts at Big Earth Landscape SupplyBig Earth Landscape SupplyBig Earth Landscape Supply. We are happy to assist, and can help you to choose the best sod for every part of your landscape.