Redtop (Gigantea)

The Redtop (Gigantea) is generally described as a perennial graminoid. This is not native to the U.S. (United States) and has its most active growth period in the spring and summer . The greatest bloom is usually observed in the mid spring, with fruit and seed production starting in the summer and continuing until summer. Leaves are not retained year to year. The Redtop (Gigantea) has a short life span relative to most other plant species and a rapid growth rate. At maturity, the typical Redtop (Gigantea) will reach up to 2 feet high, with a maximum height at 20 years of 0 inches.

The Redtop (Gigantea) is easily found in nurseries, garden stores and other plant dealers and distributors. It can be propagated by seed. It has a slow ability to spread through seed production and the seedlings have high vigor. Note that cold stratification is not required for seed germination and the plant cannot survive exposure to temperatures below -38°F. has low tolerance to drought and restricted water conditions.

Uses of : Landscaping, Medicinal, Culinary, etc.

Redtop is used for erosion control, pastures, temporary grass in turf seedings and occasionally for hay. It is often used for stabilizing critical areas, such as ditch and channel banks, strip mine spoils, and grassed waterways because it germinates very rapidly. It may be our most widely adapted grass.

General Characteristics

Redtop is a rhizomatous perennial grass that makes a coarse but fairly dense turf. Leaves are narrow and sharp and about 3/8 inch wide. The stems are slender, growing to 30 or 40 inches tall. The inflorescence is pyramidal and reddish in color--hence the common name of redtop. There are approximately 4,990,000 seeds per pound.

Required Growing Conditions

Redtop is widespread in the Northeast. It has better growth in the humid North than in the warmer climates of the Southern portions. It will grow under a wide variety of soil and moisture conditions. It grows on very acid soils and poor clayey soils of low fertility. It is drought-resistant and also grows well on poorly drained soils.

Redtop is distributed throughout most of the United States.

Cultivation and Care

Because of its tiny seed, redtop should have a firm, well-prepared seedbed. It may be sown in early spring or late summer. Seeding depth is 1/4 inch. Redtop is seldom seeded alone, except for temporary cover. Rates of seeding will vary depending upon purpose, and whether seeded alone or in mixtures. In mixtures, rates of 1 to 2 pounds per acre are generally used. For pure stands, seeding rates are from 4 to 5 pounds per acre. The higher rates are used for temporary critical area stabilization. Redtop grows rapidly after seeding and excessive seeding rates are not recommended, particularly in mixtures. When used for erosion control on critical areas, fertilizing is essential to give rapid cover.

General Upkeep and Control

Redtop can be a significant forage producer in hay fields, particularly at the first cutting, but it is generally not highly regarded as a forage grass. It does not withstand continuous close grazing. It will persist longer on critical areas since the grass is not often harvested, but will disappear under frequent, close mowing. It will respond to fertilizer and lime.

Cultivars, Improved, and Selected Materials (and area of origin) One certified midwestern variety is currently available, named 'Streaker'. Common redtop seed is also available.

Plant Basics
Growth Rate Rapid
General Type Graminoid
Growth Period Spring, Summer
Growth Duration Perennial
Lifespan Short
Plant Nativity Introduced to U.S.
Commercial Availability Routinely Available
Physical Characteristics
Bloom Period Mid Spring
Displays Fall Colors No
Shape/Growth Form Rhizomatous
Drought Tolerance Low
Shade Tolerance Intolerant
Height When Mature 2
Vegetative Spread Rapid
Flower Color Yellow
Flower Conspicuousness No
Fruit/Seed Abundance High
Fruit/Seed Seasonality Summer Summer
Seed Spread Rate Slow
Gardening Characteristics
Propagations (Ways to Grow) Seed
Moisture Requirements Medium
Cold Stratification Required No
Minimum Temperature -38
Soil Depth for Roots 14
Toxic to Nearby Plants No
Toxic to Livestock No
After-Harvest Regrowth Rate Moderate
After-Harvest Resprout Ability No
Responds to Coppicing No
Growth Requirements
pH Range 4.5–8 pH
Precipitation Range 28–28 inches/yr
Planting Density 0–0 indiv./acre
Soil Textures Fine, Medium
Soil Depth for Roots 14
Minimum Frost-Free Days 90 day(s)
Salinity Tolerance Low
CaCO3 Tolerance Low
Sustainability & Use
Leaf Retention No
Palatability High
Fire Resistant No
Causes Livestock Bloating Low

Source: USDA, NRCS, PLANTS Database,
National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA