Is Kikuyu Grass Good as a Lawn?

kikuyugrass (Pennisetum clandestinum)

Kikuyu grass is good as a lawn grass if you live in a climate with mild winters and regions with dry, hot weather, like parts of California, Australia, and Hawaii. It is also a good lawn grass if it is already growing in your yard. 

However, it is not a practical choice to seed Kikuyu grass if you do not live in certain areas. Kikuyu grass is a noxious weed, meaning it can be controlled by the government because it is considered a danger to the environment, wildlife, and humans. For example, the turfgrass company West Coast Turf states that Kikuyu grass is produced and sold under certain limitations in Texas, Arizona, and California. 

In this article, we discuss more reasons Kikuyu may or may not be a good lawn grass, how to establish and get rid of it, and more.

What is Kikuyu grass?

kikuyugrass (Pennisetum clandestinum)
Photo Credit: Steve Dewey, Utah State University, | Ipmimages

Kikuyu grass belongs to the Poaceae plant family and is native to East Africa. It was imported to the US from Kenya around 1915. This turfgrass is well-suited for golf courses, especially in areas requiring low maintenance. The grass is also ideal for erosion control.

Kikuyu grass is a warm-season perennial grass that grows best in mild temperatures. Like Bermudagrass, Kikuyu grows rapidly in warm temperatures. It thrives when it is between 60 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit and can even tolerate heat as intense as 100 degrees. Unlike Bermudagrass, Kikuyu maintains its ability to consistently grow at cooler temperatures.

Kikuyu’s deep root system enables it to be drought-tolerant and recover quickly from injury. It does well in both moist and dry, hot environments, making it a popular lawn grass for areas like Australia, California, and Hawaii.

Because of its vigorous growth habit and tendency to invade other areas, it is a Federal noxious weed. So, it is only available in certain areas of the country.

The basics of Kikuyu grass

Kikuyu grass (Pennisetum clandestinum) works well if you are located in the coastal and inland areas of Central and Southern California, which is the region the grass is best adapted to. The grass is also good as a lawn grass if you live in a climate with mild winters and the grass is already growing in your yard.

If Kikuyu has popped up as a weed and taken over about 40% of your lawn, it is usually easier to maintain it than get rid of it. Although the grass is considered a weed in some areas, like coastal and inland regions of California, it has advantages and is easily maintained. As a result, many homeowners have embraced it as their lawn grass of choice.

You may have Kikuyu grass growing and not know it. It has a coarse texture and noticeable seed heads. Kikuyu looks a lot like St. Augustine grass. However, Kikuyu grass can be distinguished from St. Augustine by its flatter, pointed, and somewhat hairy leaf blades. St. Augustine’s leaf blades are smooth and creased with rounded tips. 

Here are some basic facts about Kikuyu grass:

  • Classification: Warm-season grass 
  • Spreads by:  Rhizomes and stolons (runners) 
  • Soil type: Adapts to many soil types, but prefers fertile, moderately-drained soil. Grows best on red basalt soil; also grows on moist, fertilized sandy soil  
  • Soil pH: 5.5 – 7.0, but can withstand levels as low as 4.5
  • Mowing height: 1 – 1.5 inches; needs frequent mowing 
  • Shade tolerance: Moderate 
  • Drought resistance: High  
  • Foot traffic tolerance: High foot traffic and wear tolerance 
  • Maintenance needs: Low  
  • Potential for disease: Low 
  • Insect pest tolerance: High 

Kikuyu grass varieties

Some varieties have been improved to have finer, less coarse leaf blades and seed heads less noticeable than those commonly found on Kikuyu grass. Some cultivars were developed to grow well in a specific area. For example, the Australian variety, Village Green Kikuyu, is popular for its color and ability to provide lush winter coverage. 

Here are some more strains popular in Australia and the US.

  • Kabete
  • Breakwell
  • Kenda
  • Whittet
  • Hosaka

Why Kikuyu is a good lawn grass

photo of kikuyu grass
Photo Credit: Harry Rose, Macleay Grass Man | Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 2.0

Even if you live in a climate with the ideal conditions for Kikuyu grass, planting the grass as a lawn may not be practical for you. The grass is a Federal noxious weed; plants under this category are considered a danger to the environment, wildlife, and humans, and the government can control these plants. For example, Stover Seed, a Kikuyu grass seller, states that shipments of Kikuyu grass are legally restricted to Hawaii, Arizona, and southern counties of California. 

Here are some reasons Kikuyu may be a good lawn choice if you live in the areas where the seeds can be shipped: 

  • Grows well in cooler and higher temperatures: It survives temperatures as high as 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Kikuyu grass tolerates intense light. It is an excellent option for a property that gets full sun.
  • Adjusts to moderate shade: It has moderate shade tolerance, so it can survive on properties with some shade.
  • Adjusts to your yard’s acidity or alkalinity: It adapts to a wide range of soil pH levels.
  • Requires little fertilizer: Kikuyu needs minimal fertilization applications, especially when it is warm. Limited fertilization is needed when it is hottest in the summer.
  • Survives in drought and wet conditions. The grass is a good choice for drought-prone areas and coastal environments. 
  • Retains its color year-round in certain conditions: In some areas, like inland valleys and coastal regions of California, Kikuyu may not go into winter dormancy. It typically remains green year-round in warmer areas.
  • Recovers quickly from moderate wear and serious injury: It is perfect for homeowners who want to avoid putting in a lot of time repairing grass that has been injured by children or pets trampling across the lawn.
  • It provides a dense, lush ground covering
  • High disease and insect pest tolerance: If you have better things to do with your time than treat your lawn with herbicides, you’ll love that this grass has a high disease and insect pest tolerance. In California, Kikuyu grass has no major disease or insect problems.

Why Kikuyu may not be a good lawn grass

kikuyu grass growing on the road
Photo Credit: Forest & Kim Starr | Wikimedia Commons | CC BY 3.0

Kikuyu is not for you if you live in regions where it gets very cold. After all, it is a warm-season grass, so it thrives best in the Southern United States. It has low cold tolerance. Needless to say, Kikuyu is not a good lawn choice if you live in an area where seeds cannot be shipped. 

Here are more reasons Kikuyu may not be a good lawn grass:

  • Kikuyu is hard to contain: It spreads vigorously to other areas, like flower gardens and garden beds, and is considered a weed because of its vigorous growth. If you have concerns about other areas being invaded, Kikuyu may not be best for your yard. 

    Kikuyu crowds out desired grass species as it spreads and develops into thick mats. Flowers, grass, and other plants are unable to get the needed water, light, and nutrients to thrive.
  • Kikuyu yellows in insufficient sunlight: If you want a grass that does not turn yellow, Kikuyu may not be a good choice for your property. The turfgrass yellows when it is in a lot of shade. It needs sufficient sunlight to maintain its beautiful light green color. The shorter days in the winter can also cause the plant to produce less chlorophyll, resulting in a yellow color. 
  • Mowing requirements and thatch build-up: Kikuyu needs to be monitored for appropriate mowing. Although Kikuyu grows well under neglect, its vigorous growth habit requires it to be cut regularly to prevent overgrowth and thatch accumulation. 

    On the other hand, it scalps when mowed too infrequently or too short. Furthermore, Kikuyu’s coarse leaf blades and extensive thatch build-up can make the grass difficult to mow. The grass develops significant thatch build-up, requiring routine dethatching.
  • Coarse leaf blades: Kikuyu is coarse, so it is not the best choice if you prefer soft grass. 

How do you establish Kikuyu grass?

Follow these steps to establish a new Kikuyu lawn by seeding:

  • Since this grass spreads so vigorously, prepare to plant it by installing edging next to areas you don’t want Kikuyu to invade. Edging will help stop the grass roots from extending too far underground. 
  • Get rid of any weeds. 
  • Level the soil to make the surface even. 
  • Wet the area and spread the seeds consistently over the soil. 
  • Irrigate after laying the seeds. Seeds should be kept moist until they are established. It takes about two weeks or less for Kikuyu grass seeds to germinate. 

Propagate by cutting or transplanting. Find an area where Kikuyu is growing. In the spring, dig out some of the rhizomes and replant them in the desired location. Irrigate generously to establish the lawn grass.

Start a Kikuyu lawn by placing runners on the soil. Push the grass nodes slightly into the soil to ensure the plant makes proper contact to establish.

Estimated cost: As stated earlier, Kikuyu grass seeds may be difficult to find or not available in your area. Costs depend on variety, quantity, and where purchased. You can find a pack of about 20 to 40 seeds for as little as $7.00 on Amazon. A package of 100 seeds from Amazon costs about $15.50. Expect to spread about two handfuls of seed for every square meter. Your local garden center or nursery may carry runners.

Shop for Kikuyu grass seeds here:

When to plant Kikuyu grass

A Kikuyu lawn can be established at any time of the year. The optimal time to seed a Kikuyu lawn is from early spring to early fall when the soil temperature is more than 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Kikuyu grass thrives in moisture and temperatures ranging from 60 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

Tip: Kikuyu is typically mixed with annual ryegrass, with ryegrass being 85 to 90% of the combination. The good news is that, if you want Kikuyu as the primary grass, ryegrass goes dormant and dies at the end of summer, leaving Kikuyu as the main ground covering. Here are some reasons you may want to combine your Kikuyu grass with annual ryegrass:

  • Kikuyu grass is expensive.
  • Kikuyu causes weed problems when used alone.
  • Annual ryegrass gives Kikuyu the added support needed to manage the weed problem.

How to maintain a Kikuyu grass lawn

kikuyugrass (Pennisetum clandestinum)
Photo Credit: Steve Dewey, Utah State University, | Ipmimages

Here are some things to keep in mind when maintaining Kikuyu grass:


This grass does not need frequent mowing. However, Kikuyu grass can grow up to 4 to 6 inches and forms a dense mat when not mowed. To prevent overgrowth and decrease the risk of thatch accumulation, it needs mowing at 1 to 1.5 inches. When the grass reaches about 6 inches, it becomes more vulnerable to diseases, pests, and thatch build-up. Optimally, cut the grass before it is 3 to 4 inches. 


Although Kikuyu is drought tolerant, it needs a lot of water to establish. Irrigate the lawn regularly for a few weeks after the seeds sprout. To encourage drought resistance in established Kikuyu, water deeply and infrequently. This will help the roots grow deeper in the soil. 

Do not water too much. Overwatering increases the risk of shallow root growth and disease development.

Watering early in the morning or late in the afternoon will reduce evaporation and help the grass get the moisture it needs. You can read our guide on the best time to water your grass to learn more helpful lawn irrigation tips.


Use 2 pounds of nitrogen for every 1,000 square feet. Fertilize the grass lightly when it is actively growing in the early spring and late summer into the fall. Applying fertilizer in the fall and winter helps the grass maintain its color in cooler temperatures. 

Choose a balanced fertilizer with nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (NPK). This combination provides the lawn with the required nourishment to develop a healthy root system and produce vibrant green grass. 

Need help choosing a fertilizer? Check out our guide on the best lawn fertilizers.

Dethatching and aeration

The stems of Kikuyu grass produce significant thatch, so dethatching regularly is required. Aerating helps the grass roots absorb air, water, and other nutrients. The best time to aerate is in the spring or in the fall when the grass is actively growing. Aerate once or twice a year. Use a mechanical aerator or aerate manually.

Treating diseases and insects 

Although Kikuyu grass typically has no serious disease and pest problems, there are some ailments and insects homeowners should look out for. Treat problems with insecticides labeled for use on Kikuyu grass.



Controlling weeds 

Regularly check the grass for weeds and use effective manual methods or herbicides to get rid of them. For example, the weed Paspalum can be eliminated manually with a screwdriver, and the area can be re-seeded if it is too thin once the weed is removed.

Be sure to apply pre-emergent herbicides sparingly to reduce the risk of injury to the grass. Administer herbicides as per package instructions.

A broadleaf herbicide can be used 3 to 5 weeks after the grass has been actively growing. Applying too much of the herbicide may harm immature seeds, so apply sparingly. Use the herbicide on the grass as needed in the spring, summer, and fall.

How to control Kikuyu grass

closeup of kikuyu grass stem
Photo Credit: Harry Rose, Macleay Grass Man | Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 2.0

Kikuyu grass proliferates by stem sections and seeds. It is predominantly spread by cultivation and on equipment like lawnmowers and renovation tools. The best way to manage Kikuyu as a weed is to stop it from spreading into new areas. Regularly check your lawn for Kikuyu grass so that you can manage it as soon as possible.

Mechanical methods

Option 1: Dig up patches of Kikuyu grass and dispose of them. 

Option 2: Solarize infected areas by covering them with clear plastic when areas are in full sun. Do this for about four to six weeks during the hottest part of the year. It is best to wet the soil before solarizing, as dry soil does not conduct heat as well as wet soil. The high heat will kill Kikuyu grass. Solarization may not be effective in coastal areas because of overcast skies and fog. 

Chemical treatments

Option 1: Spot-treat Kikuyu grass with post-emergent herbicides. Fluazifop and sethoxydim are options available for homeowners to use. If you use glyphosate, apply it directly to infected areas and make sure not to overspray; otherwise, it will kill surrounding turfgrass and plants.

Option 2: Limit the growth of Kikuyugrass seeds by applying pre-emergent herbicides in March. Products containing these chemicals are available for use on home lawns: prodiamine, benefin, dithiopyr, bensulide, and pendimethalin.

How to suppress Kikuyu grass

Properly maintaining turfgrass and other desired plants will help them be vigorous enough to compete against Kikuyu and possibly dampen encroachment by the grass. Here are some things that can help suppress Kikuyu grass: 

  • Clean all equipment that has been used in areas containing Kikuyu before moving equipment out of the area.
  • Kikuyu grass is also spread by incoming sod and soil. Make sure these materials are free of contamination.
  • Overseed and fertilize the lawn to keep it strong enough to outcompete Kikuyu and decrease seed establishment. 
  • Keep turfgrass and decorative plantings dense. The dense plantings will shade the soil surface and make it harder for Kikuyu grass seeds and sprigs to establish, although they may still take root.
  • Kikuyu grass invasion can be reduced by vigorous tall fescue cultivars, but these varieties are not enough to be an effective control method. If you have about 40% of your lawn encroached by Kikuyu, it is easier to maintain it as your predominant lawn turfgrass than to inhibit it.

FAQ about Kikuyu grass

Are there Kikuyugrass varieties that do not grow as fast?

New sterile cultivars do not grow as quickly as varieties with fertile seed heads. Kenda Kikuyu is an example of a sterile variety. It grows more slowly than other strands, and therefore, requires less upkeep. Because it does not grow as quickly, it needs infrequent mowing.

Does Kikuyu grass stay yellow if it turns that color in the winter? 

No. When the days are longer again, the grass will recover and retain its green color.

What is solarization?

Solarization is the process of sterilizing the soil using solar energy. It involves covering the soil with a transparent plastic sheet during hot and sunny times to harness solar radiation. In solarization, the soil is heated by the trapped sunlight, raising the ground’s temperature to levels that can kill soilborne pathogens, pests, and weed seeds.

Get help with lawn care 

Do you consider Kikuyu a welcome addition to your yard? It doesn’t matter whether Kikuyu grass is your preferred lawn grass or a weed: Lawn Love can connect you with local lawn care professionals who can give you a hand. They can help you start and maintain a Kikuyu lawn, or help you get rid of it and start the lawn you desire.

Main Photo Credit: Forest and Kim Starr, Starr Environmental, | Ipmimages

LaShonda Tucker

LaShonda Tucker’s passion for maintaining a healthy lifestyle through organic herbs, fruits, and veggies leads her to research and learn about plants and insects. She loves sharing her knowledge to help others achieve their lawn care and landscaping goals.