What Causes Brown Spots in the Lawn?

Discover the most common causes of brown patches in your yard and how to treat them.

It can be alarming  and frustrating to see brown spots ruining what would otherwise be a beautiful green stretch of grass, especially if you're not sure how they got there or what to do about them. Brown spots in the lawn can show up for many different reasons, so the first step toward treating them is to identify the cause of the problem. Below are the most common causes of brown spots in the lawn and how to treat them so you can get your lush green lawn back.


Brown spots due to fungal problems usually show up as irregular patches. If the disease has been active for a while, the inside of the patch may recover, leaving a ring of dead grass around it. Extremely rainy or humid weather can encourage fungal outbreaks, as can lack of sunlight and poor air circulation. Although you can't control the weather, there is something you can do to protect against fungus. Apply Scotts® DiseaseEx™ Lawn Fungicide according to the label directions to not only treat active diseases, but also to prevent future problems from listed fungi.


Grubs damage grass by eating the roots, leading to small brown patches that eventually widen in a relatively uniform way. Patches caused by grubs will feel sponge-like and roll up when raked because of the root damage. To kill existing grubs and prevent future grub damage, use Scotts®GrubEx®1 every spring. Damage can be repaired at any time, though fall is best. To repair existing brown spots, rake the affected area to remove the dead grass, then applying Scotts® EZ Seed® Patch & Repair for small areas or Scotts® Turf Builder® Grass Seed for larger areas. With all of these products, be sure to follow label directions.

Dog Urine Burns

One of the most common causes of brown spots in the lawn is Spot's trips outside to relieve herself. Dog urine burns, caused by the high amount of nitrogen in the urine, are recognizable by their brown centers and dark green outer rings. To fix them, use Scotts® EZ Seed® Dog Spot Repair Sun and Shade according to package instructions. For tall fescue lawns, try Scotts® EZ Seed® Dog Spot Repair Tall Fescue Lawns.

Weed Dieback

Dead spots can also occur in the lawn when annual weeds like crabgrass, annual bluegrass, and foxtail begin to die back. This is a natural cycle that can be avoided with proper lawn maintenance and quickly patched with Scotts® EZ Seed® Patch & Repair. As always, be sure to follow the directions on the label.

Foot Traffic and Forgotten Toys

While your lawn should be a place for you and your family to enjoy, leaving anything on the lawn over the weekend or even for a single sunny day can have consequences. When the birthday party bouncy castle deflates or the baby pool is picked up, you might be left with a dead patch underneath. Even leaving the hose out on the lawn can cause a brown spot. Not to worry, though. Simply clear away the dead grass and apply a Scotts® patching product, such as Scotts® EZ Seed® Patch & Repair, to the resulting bare spots. Choose the variety based on your grass type and follow label directions.


Thatch can build up when the lawn is not properly watered, fed, or mowed. It's an accumulation of dead and decaying plant material between the plant leaf blades and the root system that prevents water and food from getting to the roots. When thatch build-up is high, grass plants can actually start to grow roots up in the thatch layer. Because that layer won't hold water, the plants begin to dry out, causing brown spots in the lawn. To solve the problem, follow the steps in the article "How to Aerate & Dethatch Your Lawn."

If your lawn develops brown patches, don't panic. No matter what the culprit is, Scotts® has the solution.

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