Crabgrass Vs Dallisgrass: A Comparative Guide

Are you tired of battling unwanted grass in your lawn? Look no further! Today, we dive into the age-old dilemma of crabgrass vs dallisgrass. If you’ve ever wondered how to tame these persistent intruders and maintain a pristine, green expanse, this article is for you. We’ll explore the characteristics, growth habits, and effective eradication methods for both crabgrass and dallisgrass. By the end, you’ll be armed with the knowledge you need to reclaim your lawn from these pesky grasses. So, let’s jump right in and uncover the secrets to achieving a weed-free oasis.

Crabgrass vs Dallisgrass: A Comparative Guide

Crabgrass vs Dallisgrass: A Battle for Lawn Supremacy


When it comes to maintaining a beautiful and healthy lawn, two common culprits often disrupt the harmony: crabgrass and dallisgrass. These invasive grasses can quickly take over your yard, leaving you frustrated and longing for a lush, weed-free lawn. In this article, we will delve into the key differences between crabgrass and dallisgrass, including their characteristics, growth habits, and control methods. By understanding these two grasses, you’ll be better equipped to combat their infestation, resulting in a vibrant and thriving lawn.

Characteristics of Crabgrass


Crabgrass (scientifically known as Digitaria genus) is an annual grass that thrives in warm-season areas, particularly in regions with hot summers. It gets its name from its low-growing, spreading stems that resemble the legs of a crab. Crabgrass has slender blades that can be light green to yellowish in color, depending on its stage of growth. Its seed heads are distinctive, forming in clusters that resemble crab’s claws.

Growth Habits

Crabgrass is a warm-season grass that germinates when soil temperatures reach around 55°F (13°C) and continues to grow throughout the summer months. It spreads through its extensive root system and produces copious amounts of seeds, ensuring its persistence in your yard year after year. Crabgrass has a prostrate growth habit, meaning it hugs the ground and forms dense, circular patches in the lawn.

Preferred Growing Conditions

Crabgrass thrives in areas with full sun exposure and can tolerate a wide range of soil conditions, although it prefers sandy or loamy soils. It is commonly found in lawns with poor soil fertility and inadequate moisture retention, as it is more adaptable to these conditions compared to desirable turfgrass varieties. Overwatering and improper mowing height can also create favorable conditions for crabgrass infestation.

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Impact on Lawns

The invasion of crabgrass can be unsightly and detrimental to the health of your lawn. Its vigorous growth habit allows it to outcompete desirable turfgrass species, leading to thinning and patchy areas. Furthermore, crabgrass dies once temperatures drop in late fall, leaving bare spots that can quickly become infested the following year.

Characteristics of Dallisgrass


Dallisgrass (botanically known as Paspalum dilatatum) is a perennial grass native to South America. It typically grows in clumps and stands out in the lawn due to its coarse-textured blades and upright seed heads. Dallisgrass leaves are broad and can reach up to 1 inch (2.5 cm) in width. The seed heads are tall, erect, and possess finger-like spikes, making them easily distinguishable.

Growth Habits

Dallisgrass is a warm-season perennial grass that spreads primarily through seed production. Once established, it forms extensive underground rhizomes, allowing it to persist year after year. The clumps created by dallisgrass can become large and unsightly, gradually taking over desirable turfgrass. While it can tolerate drought conditions, it tends to grow more vigorously in areas with sufficient moisture.

Preferred Growing Conditions

Dallisgrass thrives in warm and humid environments, making it common in the Southern United States. It prefers full sun but can tolerate some shade. Dallisgrass can adapt to a variety of soil types, including sandy, loamy, or clay soils. It is often found in lawns with poor drainage or areas where the soil has been compacted.

Impact on Lawns

The invasion of dallisgrass can quickly transform a well-maintained lawn into an eyesore. Its clumping growth habit creates an uneven and coarse appearance, making it challenging to achieve a uniformly lush lawn. Additionally, dallisgrass can be aggressive, competing with desirable turfgrasses for nutrients, water, and space.

Methods of Control

Crabgrass Control

To effectively control crabgrass, it is essential to implement a combination of cultural, mechanical, and chemical strategies. Here are some control methods you can employ:

  • Maintain a healthy turf: A dense and vigorous lawn can outcompete crabgrass. Proper fertilization, regular watering, and proper mowing practices can promote a strong turfgrass stand.
  • Pre-emergent herbicides: Applying pre-emergent herbicides before crabgrass germination can prevent its growth. Timing is crucial, as these herbicides should be applied before soil temperatures reach the threshold for germination.
  • Hand pulling: For smaller infestations, manually removing crabgrass plants before they produce seeds can help control its spread.
  • Post-emergent herbicides: If crabgrass has already emerged, post-emergent herbicides can be effective. However, care should be taken to ensure the herbicide is labeled for crabgrass and compatible with your turfgrass species.
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Dallisgrass Control

Controlling dallisgrass can be more challenging due to its perennial nature and extensive rhizome system. Here are some control methods to consider:

  • Manual removal: Hand digging or pulling dallisgrass clumps, including their root system, can be effective for small infestations.
  • Herbicides: Selective herbicides designed specifically for dallisgrass can provide control. However, cautious application is necessary to avoid damaging desirable turfgrass species.
  • Spot treatments: For isolated dallisgrass clumps, spot treatments with a non-selective herbicide can be employed. After applying the herbicide, reseeding or sodding the bare spots is recommended.
  • Improving lawn health: Maintaining a healthy lawn through proper watering, fertilization, and mowing practices can help inhibit dallisgrass growth.

Crabgrass and dallisgrass are formidable opponents that can mar the beauty of your lawn. Understanding their characteristics and employing effective control methods can help you regain control and promote a thriving turfgrass environment. Remember, prevention is key, so be proactive in implementing cultural practices that discourage their growth. By staying vigilant and employing proper control techniques, you can reclaim your lawn from the clutches of crabgrass and dallisgrass, ensuring a lush and inviting outdoor space for years to come.

How to Kill Crabgrass and Dallisgrass in the Lawn

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between crabgrass and dallisgrass?

Crabgrass and dallisgrass are both common weeds in lawns, but they have distinct characteristics that set them apart.

How can I identify crabgrass and dallisgrass?

Crabgrass is a low-growing weed, typically with wide leaves that have a pale green or yellowish color. It spreads with long, branching stems from a central root. On the other hand, dallisgrass is a bunch-type grass with coarse, upright leaves that can grow much taller than surrounding turf. Its seed heads are distinctive, forming clusters of flowers on tall stalks.

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When do crabgrass and dallisgrass typically emerge?

Crabgrass tends to germinate in the spring when soil temperatures reach around 55 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. It thrives in warm weather and can continue to grow throughout the summer. Dallisgrass, on the other hand, usually emerges in the late spring or early summer when soil temperatures rise above 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

How do I control crabgrass and dallisgrass in my lawn?

Prevention is key when it comes to controlling crabgrass. Applying pre-emergent herbicides in early spring can help prevent its germination. Regular mowing at the correct height for your grass type and maintaining a healthy lawn can also discourage crabgrass growth. As for dallisgrass, it is best controlled by physically removing the entire plant, including its extensive root system, and reseeding the area with suitable grass species.

Are crabgrass and dallisgrass harmful to my lawn?

Both crabgrass and dallisgrass can be detrimental to a healthy lawn. Crabgrass competes with desirable grasses for water, sunlight, and nutrients, leading to thinning of the turf. Dallisgrass can also crowd out desirable grass species due to its rapid growth and dense clumps. Furthermore, dallisgrass seeds can remain dormant in the soil for several years, making eradication more challenging.

Can I prevent crabgrass and dallisgrass from reoccurring in my lawn?

While complete prevention is difficult, maintaining a thick and healthy lawn through proper watering, mowing, and fertilization can help prevent crabgrass and dallisgrass from taking hold. Regularly monitoring your lawn for any signs of these weeds and taking prompt action can also significantly reduce their reoccurrence.

Final Thoughts

Crabgrass and dallisgrass are common weeds that can invade lawns and cause headaches for homeowners. While both are uninvited guests, they have distinct characteristics and behaviors. Crabgrass, with its low-growing habit and ability to thrive in compacted soil, is often found in thin or bare areas of the lawn. On the other hand, dallisgrass, with its tall and clumpy growth pattern, prefers moist and shady environments. These differences in appearance and preferences make it essential to identify and treat each weed appropriately. By understanding the traits of crabgrass vs dallisgrass, homeowners can implement targeted strategies to effectively combat these invaders.