Maintaining Kikuyu the Water Wise Way

Lawn and other turf grasses are often seen as highwater users, especially in the spring and summer seasons before the rainy season has started. But can lawn be used in a water wise way? Water Wise explains the wise use of water with kikuyu.


Pennisetum clandestinum – commonly known as kikuyu – is the most widely used lawn grass in South Africa. It is native to east Africa and has an aggressive growth form, which means it can become invasive and take over indigenous grasses. Kikuyu is drought tolerant, inexpensive, and easy to maintain because it can grow in areas where most grasses cannot. However, it is sometimes considered the highest user of water in comparison to other commonly used turf grasses.

Kikuyu is mostly used as an instant lawn for sports fields, golf course construction, and rehabilitation. It has a mat root and a herbaceous growth habit. It doesn’t grow well in shaded areas.

Dormancy in lawn

Dormancy refers to a period where growth of the grass temporarily slows down, and grass goes into a resting state for one season. Kikuyu always goes dormant during winter, when the grass will turn brown. However, brown kikuyu grass does not mean it is dead; it has simply gone dormant.

Dormant kikuyu does not need to be watered. Lawn in a state of dormancy is simply ‘resting’ and conserving energy for the new growing season. Dormancy is a natural way for lawn to conserve moisture and nutrients in cold and dry seasons.

Water wise watering for kikuyu

  • Avoid watering kikuyu when it is dormant.
  • Wait for the rains to start before awakening your kikuyu from its dormant state.
  • Newly-installed kikuyu will only require more water during its settling or establishment period. Gradually decrease the frequency of watering after this phase.
  • In summer, water in the early morning or late afternoon as this reduces water lost to evaporation.
  • Use a trigger nozzle if watering kikuyu with a hose.

Advantages of kikuyu

  • Fast growing.
  • Grows in full sun and in most soils.
  • High-traffic resistant and persistent growth form.
  • Survives long dry periods and is drought tolerant.
  • Better frost tolerance than some warm season grasses.
  • Very effective for erosion control in ornamental landscapes.
  • Rapid summer growth rate with high yield potential.
  • Very competitive; suppresses weeds.

Disadvantages of kikuyu

  • Requires regular mowing.
  • High evapotranspiration rate.
  • Can become invasive and difficult to control.

There are many other simple ways you can save water. Visit the Water Wise website by going to the Rand Water website and clicking on the Water Wise logo for more information.

Always be #WaterWise!

The Gardener