The temperate grass species, red fescue (Festuca rubra ssp. litoralis), perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne) and Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis), are often sown in mixtures for turfgrass. Differences in germination response to environmental conditions often result in different establishment success. The three species were compared in a study of imbibition at reduced water potential (Ψ) and in a study of the effects of Ψ and temperature on germination. In all three species, imbibition rate and extent were reduced with decreasing Ψ, causing a prolonged lag-phase before germination, particularly in Kentucky bluegrass. In perennial ryegrass and Kentucky bluegrass, water content at radicle emergence decreased non-linearly with decreasing Ψ, with a lower asymptote expressing the critical water content for germination. Seeds were germinated in factorial combinations of two temperatures (10 and 25°C) and nine Ψ levels (–2 to 0 MPa). Kentucky bluegrass required a longer thermal time to germinate than the other species and exhibited conditional dormancy at 25°C, which affected the use of the thermal time model. The effects of Ψ were described by a hydrotime model. Kentucky bluegrass had higher base water potential (Ψb) and required a longer hydrotime for germination than the other species. However, Ψb increased with temperature in Kentucky bluegrass and red fescue, but decreased in perennial ryegrass, and the base temperatures also changed with Ψ. The interacting effects of Ψ and temperature affected the ability of the hydrothermal time model to predict germination performance across all temperature and Ψ conditions.