Fescue is a cool-season grass primarily used in lawns, although some varieties are also grown as ornamental grasses. These fine-textured grasses are very hardy and are especially desirable for their ability to grow in almost any type of soil, from hard and rocky to clay soils. Fescues are also tolerant of salt, cold temperatures and shade, making them an excellent choice for homeowners who live in temperate regions in the mountains or along the coast.
Hard Fescue (Festuca longifolia or duriscula)
Hard fescue is a species of fescue cultivated to tolerate warmer conditions than most other types of fescue. Hard fescue grows well in dry conditions. This type of fescue can develop "bald spots" because it tends to grow in bunches, so careful seeding is necessary to make sure all parts of the lawn are covered evenly, and established grass could need over-seeding.
Chewings Fescue (Festuca rubra subp. commutata)
Chewings fescue is a classic fescue first cultivated in the 1880s, according to Tony Koski, a horticulturist with Colorado State University. This fescue is very shade-tolerant, so it grows well under trees or other dark locations. The texture is very fine, with a deep, dark-green color, but the grass will not spread to fill bare areas so proper seeding is crucial for complete coverage.
Creeping Red Fescue (Festuca rubra subp. rubra)
Creeping red fescue is a rhizome grass, which means it puts out horizontal roots that spread underground. For that reason, this type of fescue is an excellent choice as a turfgrass that will fill in bare areas. This fescue is also tolerant of shade. It is not red, as the name implies, but is, instead, a dark green. Creeping red fescue is somewhat coarse and does not stand up to foot traffic as well as other fescues.
Slender Creeping Red (Festuca rubra subp. litoralis)
Slender creeping red is similar to creeping red in that it produces rhizomes, but it is not as vigorous a grower. It is of finer texture than creeping red and can handle foot traffic better. In fact, slender creeping red is often used in golf courses, especially in coastal areas, because this type of fescue is also extremely tolerant of salt.
Sheep Fescue (Festuca ovina)
Sheep fescue is commonly found in low-maintenance lawns or meadows. It is often used for naturalizing purposes and is attractive when grown as an ornamental grass with wildflowers or flowering perennial shrubs. Often called "blue sheep fescue" for its slightly bluish-green hue, this fescue is very hardy and long-lived.