Fescue is a cool-season grass tolerant of the shade, cold weather and dry conditions. Because it can tolerate poor soil and requires little nitrogen to grow, this grass is also low-maintenance. Fescue establishes very slowly with deep, spreading root systems similar to cacti (which is why it is drought-tolerant). Once fully matured though, fescue provides a thick carpet of grass. Landscapers commonly mixed fescue with other cool-season grass varieties to balance out aesthetic appeal, but fescue can turn brown and go dormant in winter. The most common varieties of fescue are fine, red, tall, hard and chewings.
Known for easy establishment more than quality, fine fescue thrives in some of the harshest environments--arid, cold, shady or windy areas. It is the lowest quality of all the fescue varieties, but can grow in conditions many varieties cannot. It has fine tall grass blades that are delicate, so it will not tolerate high amounts of foot traffic or matting. It is most often grown in northern and central United States.
This variety of fescue is less common and grows best in cooler mountainous areas, like northern U.S. resorts, campsites and cabins. It has long, fine, narrow blades with deep root systems, and can be established without irrigation and fertilization easier than any of the other fescue varieties. On the other hand, it also needs the most shade and cool air compared with the other varieties. Landscapers regularly seed red fescue with bluegrass to provide grass for areas that do not need to be mowed, like roadsides. This grass is ideal for homeowners who want lawns requiring minimal maintenance.
As the hardiest variety of fescue (hence the name) and one of the two varieties that are salt-tolerant, hard fescue is drought and disease-resistant. Although it requires little maintenance, hard fescue grows very slowly and cannot tolerate foot traffic. With its attractive blue-green color, this variety most commonly grows in the northern regions of the United States, and is used in low-fertility soils or shaded areas. It requires very little mowing, and grows in clumping formations at a height of about 3 inches or can be left unmowed for a carpet of grass that is ideal for slopes, parks, golf course roughs and highway medians.
Tall fescue flourishes in spring and fall, and is the most common variety of fescue for home landscapes, lawns and areas with a lot of foot traffic. This fescue tolerates foot traffic the best out of all the varieties. Although susceptible to weeds because of its bunch-like growth with tall thick blades, it grows quickly and thickly. It is ideal to plant in partial shade or sun, and grows well underneath trees.
This variety is the other salt-tolerant fescue, and is ideal for shores or landscape by the ocean. The chewings fescue tolerates acidic and sandy soils, growing in thick clusters with fine blades with an upright growth pattern. The downside is that this grass does not spread out evenly, so it is usually seeded with other varieties such as rye grass to make a consistently filled-in lawn. Chewings fescue is often grown in in Northwest and Northeast.