Bermuda Grass vs. Crab Grass: Key Differences

Written by Em Casalena
Published: June 8, 2023
Share on:


Are you planning a landscaping project that calls for a lawn or the use of grass? If so, you might be overwhelmed with all of the potential options and grass species available. But don’t worry; we’ll take a look at two popular types of grasses that have very different use cases. Perhaps Bermuda grass or crab grass will suit your needs!

Comparing Bermuda Grass and Crab Grass

Bermuda GrassCrab Grass
ClassificationCynodon dactylonDigitaria genus
Alternative NamesDevil’s Grass, Scutch, Wire Grass, Dog’s Tooth GrassGrowfoot Grass, Crabgrass, Watergrass, Summer Grass
DescriptionBermuda grass is a greyish-green grass that stays short and boasts a very deep root system.Crab grass is a fast-growing yellow-green genus of grass species with a fine texture.
UsesGolf courses, football fields, bowling greens, lawnsFood for grazing animals, composting, wildlife habitats
Growth TipsOnly sow in soil that has a pH of 6.0 to 6.5.Only water once per week and avoid watering too frequently.
OriginTropical AfricaEurope, Asia, or possibly Eurasia
Interesting FeaturesThis grass has an extremely fast growth rate for a warm-season grass.Just one crab grass plant can produce up to 150,000 seeds.

The Key Differences Between Bermuda Grass and Crab Grass

Warm-season grasses like crab grass and Bermuda grass are frequently seen in lawns and landscapes. But there are some significant distinctions between the two in terms of how they develop, look, and need to be managed.

The popular turfgrass known as Bermuda grass grows quickly and can sustain heavy foot activity. Its ability to spread by both above-ground stolons and underground rhizomes enables it to swiftly cover barren spots and produce a thick, even lawn.

An annual weed, crab grass grows from seeds every year. It has a prostrate growth habit and stems that branch out from a central spot. It is challenging to eliminate crabgrass because it produces countless seeds that can survive in the soil for years.

Bermuda grass has thin, wiry leaves with a fine to medium texture. During the growing season, it is renowned for its vivid green color and develops deep, rich grass. Compared to Bermuda grass, crabgrass has broader, coarser leaves. Its hue ranges from lighter green to purple, and its growth style is more spreading.

Due to its resilience and capacity to rebound from strain and wear, Bermuda grass is a common option for lawns, sports fields, and golf courses. To keep it growing and looking its best, it has to be fertilized, watered, and mowed regularly. Alternatively and in general, lawns should not have crab grass since it is regarded as a weed. It contends for water, nutrients, and space with favorable grasses. Crab grass can be managed by using pre-emergent herbicides and physically removing crabgrass plants as necessary are all examples of effective management strategies.

Bermuda grass is a perennial grass that grows best in warm environments and hibernates in the winter. When temperatures rise, it resumes its green hue and begins to actively develop again after entering a period of hibernation during which it goes brown. Crabgrass emerges in the spring or early summer, grows through the summer, and then with the onset of fall and winter dies. Within a year, its lifespan is over.


Crab grass (pictured) has a wilder-looking appearance compared to Bermuda grass.

© Sahin

Bermuda Grass vs. Crab Grass: Classification

Bermuda grass is classified as Cynodon dactylon. Crab grass, on the other hand, refers to the genus of plants known as Digitaria. There are many species of crab grass, including southern crabgrass, cotton panic grass, and Arizona cottontop.

Bermuda Grass vs. Crab Grass: Description

In warm and tropical climates, Bermuda grass is frequently used as turf. It is a popular choice for lawns, sports fields, golf courses, and parks because of its high heat tolerance, durability, and capacity to handle considerable foot activity. The capacity of Bermuda grass to bounce back fast from stresses like drought, foot traffic, and regular mowing is one of its main advantages. During the winter, it goes into hibernation and turns brown. But when the temperature rises, it regains its green color and begins to aggressively develop. Bermuda grass needs routine care to be healthy and attractive, which will include mowing, watering, fertilizing, and occasionally dethatching.

Crab grass is an annual plant. It is frequently seen on lawns, gardens, and other places. Crab grass, in contrast to good turf grasses, is seen as a weed because of its invasiveness. The capacity of crab grass to generate large numbers of seeds that may survive in the soil for a number of years is one of its distinguishing features. When soil temperatures warm up in the spring or early summer, these seeds germinate and the plants develop quickly throughout the summer.

Bermuda Grass vs. Crab Grass: Uses

Bermuda grass is a warm-season perennial grass that has a variety of uses because of its appealing qualities. This grass is a well-liked option for lawns in hot regions because of its high heat tolerance, toughness, and capacity to grow a dense, lush turf. For residential yards, parks, and recreational spaces, it provides a beautiful and useful ground cover that can sustain considerable foot activity.

Baseball diamonds, football fields, soccer fields, and golf courses are all popular choices for growing Bermuda grass. Because of its great tolerance for foot traffic and capacity to recover fast from damage, it is a good choice for sporting fields that get a lot of use. Just as well, golf courses often use Bermuda grass, especially in areas with warm weather. It offers a consistent playing surface, withstands regular mowing, and reacts favorably to the specific upkeep procedures necessary for golf course turf care.

Although it is more frequently regarded as a weed than a cultivated grass, crab grass does have a few possible benefits. Crab grass is sometimes used as a feed crop for animals including sheep, goats, and cows. Even though it doesn’t have as much nutritional value as certain cultivated forage grasses, it can still be useful for grazing when there aren’t many other alternatives.

To enhance soil health, crab grass can also be cultivated as a cover crop. It improves soil structure, provides organic matter, and aids in nutrient cycling when tilled beneath or applied as a mulch. Although it is sometimes seen as an annoyance, crabgrass may serve as a home and a source of food for a variety of insects, birds, and small animals. It can benefit local ecosystems and increase biodiversity.

It’s crucial to remember that despite the fact that crab grass has many functions, it is often thought of as a bad plant because of its invasiveness and capacity to outcompete good turf grasses and vegetation. To stop it from spreading, appropriate management and control techniques are required.

The primary use of crab grass is for animal or livestock grazing (pictured).


Bermuda Grass vs. Crab Grass: Origin

Bermuda grass is native to Africa, especially the tropical and subtropical parts of the continent. Its native range includes areas of Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. It is not, in fact, from Bermuda. The grass has a lengthy history, and because of its appealing qualities, it has been domesticated and dispersed around the world. 

During the colonial era, Bermuda grass was brought to the Americas. It is said to have been transported to the United States as pasture grass for animals from Africa or the Caribbean. The grass swiftly established itself as a popular turfgrass by adapting to the hot, humid weather of the southern states.

The origin of crab grass is said to have been in Europe or Asia. Given that crab grass is a very adaptable and common plant, its precise native range is not well known. Its origins are believed to have been in temperate and tropical areas of Eurasia, which include parts of Europe, Asia, and Africa.

Through human endeavors like agriculture, trade, and transportation, crabgrass has been dispersed around the globe. It often enters the environment accidentally as a contaminant in agricultural seeds, soil, or hay. Its capacity to generate a large number of seeds that may survive in the soil for several years also aids in its establishment and spread in diverse areas.

Bermuda Grass vs. Crab Grass: How to Grow

In general, crab grass should not be intentionally grown as a lawn. It is very invasive and can be difficult to control. So, we’ll focus on how to grow Bermuda grass.

Get rid of any existing rocks, plants, and waste to prepare the soil. To promote adequate root penetration, loosen the soil with a garden tiller or rake to a depth of four to six inches. Choose between sod or seedlings for Bermuda grass establishment. Sod offers immediate covering, but seeding is more economical. If sowing, pick Bermuda grass seed of the highest quality for your region’s climate.

Bermuda grass should be planted when the soil temperature is regularly between 65 and 70 degrees F. Typically, this occurs in the late spring or early summer. Bermuda grass needs the complete spectrum of sunlight to grow well. Make sure the planting area receives six to eight hours of direct sun each day.

Until the grass takes root, keep the seeded patch or sod wet. Water deeply and sparingly, letting the soil mostly dry in between applications. Water thoroughly but less often after establishment to promote deep root development. Apply a balanced fertilizer made especially for Bermuda grass as directed by the manufacturer. To encourage good development, fertilize your grass in the spring and early summer.

When the grass is between two and three inches high, start cutting it. For a well-kept Bermuda grass lawn, set the mower at a height of one to two inches. Maintaining a thick lawn via correct mowing, watering, and fertilizing will help to prevent weeds. To further prevent the development of weeds, use pre-emergent herbicides in the early spring. Bermuda grass’s health and density can be preserved through routine aeration and dethatching.

Bermuda grass lawn

Most types of Bermuda grass (pictured) is an excellent choice for yards or larger applications like baseball fields.


Bermuda Grass vs. Crab Grass: Interesting Features

Bermuda grass has a number of unique qualities that add to its appeal and flexibility as a turfgrass. The first thing to note about Bermuda grass is how well it tolerates heat. It is the perfect option for areas with hot summers since it flourishes in warm climes and can endure prolonged exposure to high temperatures.

Due to its vast root structure, Bermuda grass has great drought resistance. Bermuda grass has high resilience when the water supply is scarce and can go for long stretches without water. Bermuda grass has robust growing characteristics, as well. Its ability to grow by above-ground stolons and below-ground rhizomes enables it to rapidly cover empty spots and develop a thick turf. Bermuda grass is appropriate for lawns, sports fields, and recreational spaces because it can handle significant foot activity. It can swiftly bounce back from wear and compaction, keeping its general toughness.

Because of its invasiveness and capacity to outcompete desirable grasses, crab grass is sometimes regarded as a weed. It does, however, have a few noteworthy, intriguing characteristics. To start, crab grass grows prostrately, with stems that branch out from a central point and have a crab-like form. It may spread horizontally and flourish in locations with little competition from taller plants thanks to its low-growing nature.

Crab grass is renowned for germination and growth that happens quickly. It may swiftly develop from seeds, making use of favorable circumstances to colonize barren or disturbed regions. During its life cycle, crab grass also generates a significant quantity of seeds. Because of the tiny size and large number of seeds, it can survive and reproduce for a long time. Finally, crab grass competes with preferred grasses by taking advantage of bare soil and disturbed places. In especially in warm-season and transitional regions, it may flourish in lawns, gardens, and agricultural fields.

Bermuda grass and crab grass have a lot of differences and uses. Perhaps one will be perfect for whatever project you have in mind!

The photo featured at the top of this post is ©

Share on:
About the Author

Em Casalena is a writer at A-Z Animals where their primary focus is on plants, gardening, and sustainability. Em has been writing and researching about plants for nearly a decade and is a proud Southwest Institute of Healing Arts graduate and certified Urban Farming instructor. Em is a resident of Arizona and enjoys learning about eco-conscious living, thrifting at local shops, and caring for their Siamese cat Vladimir.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.