Fescue is a cool-season grass that grows best in regions where winters are cold and summers are not very hot or humid. Fescue is becoming one of the more popular cold-region lawn grasses, even rivaling the traditional Kentucky bluegrass. Fescues are best known for their drought and shade tolerance, as well as their darker green blades that keep their color all year round. Several major types of fescue grass exist, with many new engineered varieties being cultivated each year.
Tall fescues are perennial bunch-type grasses that grow mostly during the spring and fall. Used for lawns, athletic fields and other areas, tall fescue is best for high-traffic and shadier areas. Tall fescue grass needs watering only during prolonged dry spells or droughts and can establish a lawn from either seed or sod. Turf-type tall fescue is the specific variety used for residential lawns, with a coarser texture than other cool-season grasses but a finer texture than traditional tall fescue. Offering a medium to dark-green grass, tall fescues are best planted from seed in September or October.
Creeping Red Fescue
Creeping red fescue is a fine-textured grass that does well in shady, cool, moist areas. This type of fescue has the trademark deep-green color and the leaves are folded. Creeping red fescue spreads slowly by short rhizomes and is low-maintenance. Demanding little watering and fertilizing, you can mow creeping red fescue less frequently than other types of cool-season grasses. Red fescue has a moderate drought tolerance and withstands medium foot traffic.
Hard fescue is the most shade- and drought-tolerant of the fescue grasses. Hard fescue grows well in higher elevations and colder regions, with increased disease tolerance. Hard fescue has a bluish-green color and has a clumping growth form. Hard fescue has little tolerance for hot conditions, high foot traffic and close mowing, but it's the most salt-tolerant of the fescues. This fescue is usually planted on slopes, highway medians and less frequented areas of public parks, but it's also mixed with other fescues for use on lawns to withstand shaded areas.
Chewings fescue is also a bunch type of fine fescue, with a more aggressive spreading habit. Chewings fescue can easily invade and choke out other grasses, but this characteristic also makes it a weed-free grass. This fescue is also highly shade-tolerant and is often used in lawn-grass mixtures with perennial ryegrasses. Chewings fescue looks a lot like tall fescue with its upright growth habit and it grows best in regions where summers are cooler, in sandy, acidic and infertile soils. Chewings fescue doesn't withstand lots of foot traffic, but it's drought-tolerant and requires less frequent mowing than many other cool-season grasses.
Sheep fescue is a bunching grass that's most often used as meadow or pasture grass, to control erosion and as an ornamental grass. Like hard fescue, sheep fescue has a bluish-green color and fine texture. Sheep fescue can grow into dense tufts that are nearly 1 ½ feet tall if left uncut. As its name implies, this fescue is often used as a grazing grass for sheep.