Everyone longs for a green, luscious lawn, so it can be alarming when homeowners notice their yard turning red, purple, and/or brown. What do these colors mean? How do you treat it? All your answers are below:
If you see red or pink tendrils within areas of your lawn, it is most likely a sign of a fungal problem known as red thread disease. Red thread is most common in fescue lawns in the spring and early summer. While it isn’t technically the grass itself that is turning red, the name of this disease is quite literal in describing the red threads that develop within patches of browning turf. While some lawn diseases like brown patch can be damaging to the fescue turf they infest, red thread is mostly a cosmetic issue and very rarely does any long term harm. It turns patches of turf a light brown color intermixed with the titular red threads, which is why these areas usually appear red or pink overall. Rather than being dead, this turf is just sick and will gradually grow itself out, returning to its normal green as the disease dissipates.
Even though there are some types of ornamental grass that are intentionally purple, fescue is never one of them. A purple lawn should be considered a red flag by homeowners that their turf is experiencing a lot of distress and is on the edge of a total meltdown. This is because a purple or blue tint to a lawn is the first sign of heat stress.
Because fescue is a cool-season grass, it is at its lowest and most unhappy point during the summer when air and soil temperatures exceed the ideal range for it. This is quickly exacerbated by a lack of shade, the development of drought conditions, and improper watering by the homeowner. By the time that daytime highs are in the 80s and 90s, many fescue lawns begin to struggle and shut down, which is commonly referred to as heat stress.
However, before a green lawn becomes a brown lawn, it goes through a period of looking more like a purple lawn. Purple is most often the color of stress in a lawn no matter what, but in fescue, this is most commonly associated with heat. If you see your fescue turning into a purple lawn, it is time to turn up the water! There is not anything that you can do about the air temperature, but you can take the edge off by keeping your lawn properly hydrated.
Of all the different colors of grass, brown should be considered the most alarming. Where most plants are concerned, brown is the color of death. A lawn should only be brown if it is a warm-season lawn that has gone dormant for the winter. Otherwise, an investigation needs to be done as quickly as possible to identify the cause and begin a restorative solution.
As we discussed above, a lawn may have gone from purple to brown if it has succumbed to prolonged heat stress. When fescue goes brown from the heat, it enters a state of dormancy as a last-ditch effort to outlast the extreme conditions. If things improve quickly with a break in the weather and improved watering from the homeowner, the lawn is able to recover, at least partially. However, without intervention, it is possible for whole sections of turf to die off completely.
Another common cause of browning in a lawn is the development of fungal disease. Problems like brown patch, gray leaf spot, and more are the result of overactive fungi doing damage to the tissue of the grass plants in a lawn. As these diseases take hold, they most often manifest as blotches, patches, or rings of brown within the otherwise green lawn. Many of these diseases can be devastating, which is why it is vital for a turf management professional to intervene quickly with an appropriate fungicide.