Bermuda grass (Cynodon spp.) is a commonly grown warm-season grass, while fescue (Festuca spp.) is a cool-season grass. Although both types of lawn grasses have several similarities such as dark green blade color, deep roots and drought-tolerance, they have certain strengths and weaknesses that separate them. Understanding these differences helps you to select the one appropriate for your climate and lawn conditions.
Bermuda grass propagates by rhizomes, stolons and seed. Stolons are low-lying stems that grow and spread close to the ground, resulting in new grass sprigs. Rhizomes resemble stolons but they grow underground. Gardeners do not establish Bermuda grass lawn by seed because it is unreliable. Fescue grass propagates by seed.
Bermuda grass has deep green blades with soft white puffs where the leaves and stems meet. It grows to a height of 2 inches. Turf-type fescue is also deep green, but reaches a height of 3 to 4 feet if left to grow.
Bermuda grass is a warm-season perennial grass that grows in India, Africa, South America, Australia and the southern Unites States. It grows in more than 100 tropical and subtropical countries. Fescue grass is a cool-season perennial grass that grows in almost all states in the United States with cold winters and warm summers, such as Arkansas, Tennessee and Missouri. Some varieties of fescue grass also grow in North Africa, North America and Europe.
Bermuda grass is extremely drought-tolerant and withstands high traffic, which makes it an excellent choice for golf courses, athletic fields, parks and lawns. Fescue tolerates lower temperatures than Bermuda grass, which is why it grows in cold areas with moderate to heavy traffic. Tall fescue is a variety of fescue grass that is commonly used as a turf grass because other varieties are mostly ornamental grasses (that grow in clusters and do not spread), such as blue fescue.
Bermuda grass does not tolerate poorly drained areas, and irrigation should be strictly controlled and monitored on compacted or heavy soils so the grass remains healthy. Fescue should be watered only when grass blades show signs of thirst, or when they begin to roll or wilt.
Diseases and Pests
Bermuda grass is susceptible to diseases such as brown patch, leaf spot, dollar spot, spring dead spot and phythium. Pests that damage Bermuda grass foliage include sod webworms, cutworms, Bermuda grass mites, armyworms and mealybugs. Although fescue grass is tolerant to many turf-type diseases, it is susceptible to brown patch, leaf spot and fusarium blight, and pests such as cutworms, armyworms and white grubs.