Kentucky bluegrass and fescue are types of perennial cool season grasses that grow in areas with moderate summers and cold winters. Both Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis) and fescue (Festuca spp.) have a distinct set of advantages and disadvantages that set them apart. Kentucky bluegrass and fescue also have certain similarities and differences.
Kentucky bluegrass propagates by rhizomes, tillers and seed to grow into dense grass with erect stems. Fescue propagates by sod or seed, and grows in clusters.
Kentucky bluegrass has a green-blue color, canoe shaped blades, shallow roots and a fine texture. It can grow 2 feet high. Fescues comprise 100 species of grass. Turf-type fescue is deep green with medium to fine texture and reaches a height of 4 feet when left to grow. Fescues are deep-rooted perennials.
Kentucky bluegrass grows in Northwest, Midwest, Northeast and the mountains of Canada and the United States. Fescue grows in Canada and almost all states in the U.S. with warm summers and cold winters, such as Tennessee, Missouri and Arkansas. Several varieties are also found in North America, Europe and North Africa.
Kentucky bluegrass is moderately durable and withstands medium amounts of foot traffic, along with extreme cold and winter conditions, full sunlight and certain degrees of moisture. It does not tolerate shade or drought well. Fescue grasses are extremely durable, wear and traffic-tolerant, which is why they form sports and athletic fields, golf courses, parks and home lawns. These grasses tolerate moderate sunlight and partial shade and some degrees of drought. Tall fescue commonly forms turf-type grass because other types of fescue grasses such as blue fescue are ornamental grasses that do not spread but grow in clusters.
According to the Texas Cooperative Extension, Kentucky bluegrass has a high water requirement. It requires 2 inches of water weekly during summer in transition zones (central United States), and an inch of water every other week during periods of dormancy. Fescue requires moderate water in dry weather conditions of the summer or during drought.
Diseases and Pests
Kentucky bluegrass is susceptible to diseases such as rust, powdery mildew, leaf spot and fusarium blight, and pests that include sod webworms, billbugs and white grubs. Weeds such as clover, dandelions, annual bluegrass and crabgrass cause problems for Kentucky bluegrass. Fescue is tolerant to most turf-type grasses but is vulnerable to diseases such as leaf spot, fusarium blight and brown spot. Pests such as white grubs, cutworms and armyworms cause severe damage to foliage.