Is Kikuyu invading your lawn?

Author: Stefan Palm   Date Posted: 4 December 2019 

If there is one thing to be said about kikuyu, it would be that it is HIGHLY INVASIVE. For those trying to get rid of it, this can pose a significant problem.

If you have it in your grass and you don’t want it, the question we get asked regularly is, "can I successfully get rid of it?" The answer to that question is yes, and no….

How does kikuyu get into your lawn in the first place?

Kikuyu is more aggressive in nature than any other lawn so it’s potential to invade your lawn and take over is high. It spreads by both runners and by seed. It's also by far the most common lawn in South Australia meaning there is probably a kikuyu lawn near you ready to get its hooks into your lawn. There isn’t a variety of lawn available in Australia that can successfully compete with it so if you find it showing up in your lawn uninvited, eventually it can completely take over. The most common ways that it finds its way into your lawn are:

  • Seed germinating. Birds can drop it in and it can blow in from around the neighborhood. 
  • Contamination. Lawn mowing contractors can bring in stray runners and seed on their mowers which can fall on your lawn and grow
  • Invading runners. Underground runners can invade from your neighbors lawns or from nearby parks, gardens and nature strips

Why is it so hard to control?

Kikuyu has an underground network of runners called rhizomes which spread out where they can’t be seen.That means that what you can see on the top is the tip of the iceberg. What you see on the surface is only a small percentage of the overall plant. Hand pulling it out is no more successful at getting rid of it than trying to kill a daisy bush by picking the flowers off it. What you leave behind are the rhizomes which send up some more growth to the surface. Even if you dig the area completely out and replace the soil, there will probably still be runners under pathways and in garden beds that surround your lawn area ready to re-invade at the soonest opportunity. Then there is the seed – many kikuyu varieties produce a seed which blows around looking for a place to grow so even if you get rid of the runners, there's nothing to say that dormant seed won't germinate in the soil.

Aside from this, kikuyu has a very neat way of preserving itself when times are tough. If it doesn't get enough water or conditions are not favorable, it will go into whats called a drought induced dormancy. This means that while it may dry off on the surface and look like its completely dead, as soon as it rains again it can sprout up and start growing again at full tilt. This is frustrating when you're trying to kill it because just when you think you've got rid of it, it comes back. 

Sounds pretty bleak doesn’t it! The way I see it is that you have a choice – If you have kikuyu invading your lawn, either let take over learn to manage it (when maintained, kikuyu looks really good and has some great advantages) or take measures to control it. This usually involves chemical sprays, both selective and non selective.

What are the options to remove kikuyu from your lawn or at least slow it down?

Selective Chemical Control:

If you have kikuyu invading buffalo, fescue or rye, there is virtually nothing you can do stop it in a selective way. When it comes to couch (ie Santa Ana, Windsor Green, Tiff Tuff etc),  there are some selective herbicides that you can use to suppress kikuyu. That means you can spray them all over the couch and they will just target the kikuyu not the couch. The reality is that you will probably never get rid of it because it will most likely re-invade from its original source but you can certainly suppress it which means you won't see so much of it on the surface. The most notable chemical for the suppression of Kikuyu in Couch is Monument Liquid by Syngenta. Its one of the only chemicals registered for this purpose. It is a commercial group B herbicide so if your thinking about using it you’ll need to get a licensed sprayer to apply it for you. Other options for suppression of kikuyu in couch include selective herbicides that contain DSMA and MCPA. These are available off the shelf in hardware stores and usually have names like Paspalum killer or Paskill etc. Although not noted on the bottle for the control of kikuyu, they will burn back kikuyu on the surface without harming the couch. They also selectively control weeds like paspalum, crab grass and some broad leaf weeds. Once again, read the instructions and directions before applying. Because of Kikuyu’s aggressive nature, you will need to repeat applications of these chemicals as required to keep the kikuyu in check. The best time to spray is during the warmer months when the kikuyu is active and able to draw in the chemical.

Non Selective Control:

If you have kikuyu invading your buffalo, tall fescue, rye or bluegrass lawn then you can't use the selective herbicides mentioned above because they will harm the rest of your lawn. The only solution here is to spot spray with glyphossate (eg Roundup). Keep in mind though that glyphossate is non selective meaning it kills all types of lawns. You have to be careful to only apply it to the kikuyu, not the lawn you are trying to preserve. 

No Control at all:

If your lawn is more than 20% kikuyu, then there is a fair chance that it will be so entrenched in your lawn that it will be impossible to remove. You can spend a lot of time and money trying to remove it only to find that you have been largely unsuccessful. In these circumstances, my advice is to learn to live with it. When treated well, kikuyu is an attractive, drought tolerant, hard wearing grass. It has excellent colour year round and is virtually indestructible. If you water, feed and mow it as required you may even come to appreciate it!

I hope this helps – feel free to leave comments on your success stories and tips on controlling kikuyu in your lawn.


Comments (1)

Kikuya or Buffalo

By: on 11 December 2019
What is the difference between Kikuya and Buffalo lawn/grass

Paul Munns Instant Lawn Response
The difference between Kikuyu and Buffalo is that Kikuyu has above and below ground runners and Buffalo only has above ground runners So therefore Kikuyu is more drought tolerant and can self-repair easier than Buffalo

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