Red Fescue (Rubra)

The Red Fescue (Rubra) is generally described as a perennial graminoid. This is native to the U.S. (United States) has its most active growth period in the spring and fall . The greatest bloom is usually observed in the mid spring, with fruit and seed production starting in the spring and continuing until summer. Leaves are not retained year to year. The Red Fescue (Rubra) has a long life span relative to most other plant species and a moderate growth rate. At maturity, the typical Red Fescue (Rubra) will reach up to 2 feet high, with a maximum height at 20 years of 0 inches.

The Red Fescue (Rubra) is easily found in nurseries, garden stores and other plant dealers and distributors. It can be propagated by seed, sod. It has a slow ability to spread through seed production and the seedlings have medium vigor. Note that cold stratification is not required for seed germination and the plant cannot survive exposure to temperatures below -43°F. has medium tolerance to drought and restricted water conditions.

Uses of : Landscaping, Medicinal, Culinary, etc.

Erosion control: Red fescue is an excellent soil binder and used extensively for stabilizing waterways, slopes, banks, cuts, and fills.

Recreation and beautification: This grass is used as a turf for lawns, athletic fields, golf courses, and playgrounds.

Crop: It is used as a cover crop in orchards.

General Characteristics

Festuca rubra L., red fescue, is a cool season, sod-forming grass. Leaves of red fescue are bright green, wiry, and narrow. They are pressed together in a “V” shape and appear nearly round. Stems are usually bent at the reddish or purplish base and grow about 2 feet tall. The panicle seedhead is contracted or narrow.

Required Growing Conditions

This grass is hardy, wear-resistant, and shade tolerant. It is drought resistant after

Cultivation and Care

Red fescue is rarely seeded in pure stands. Instead, it is used with grasses and legumes for specific purposes, such as lawns, erosion control, or recreational areas. Seedbed preparation, fertilizing, liming, rate and dates of seeding, and weed control requirements are generally governed by the companion grasses in the mixture. When red fescues are added to a mixture they usually constitute 25 to 60 % of the mixture by weight. In shaded areas, red fescue is often the key grass in the mixture.

General Upkeep and Control

To maintain stand vigor and density on lawns and recreational areas, apply fertilizers at the recommended rate annually. For critical erosion areas, less frequent use of fertilizers may be satisfactory. When red fescue dominates a stand, mowing consistently below 1-1/2 inches can cause severe damage to the stand.

Pests and Potential Problems There are no serious pests of red fescue.

Cultivars, Improved, and Selected Materials (and area of origin) ‘Illahee’ (England), ‘Pennlawn’ (Europe), ‘Rainier’, and ‘Trinity’. The common varieties are readily available from commercial sources.

Plant Basics
Growth Rate Moderate
General Type Graminoid
Growth Period Spring, Fall
Growth Duration Perennial
Lifespan Long
Plant Nativity Native to U.S.
Commercial Availability Routinely Available
Physical Characteristics
Bloom Period Mid Spring
Displays Fall Colors No
Shape/Growth Form Rhizomatous
Drought Tolerance Medium
Shade Tolerance Tolerant
Height When Mature 2
Vegetative Spread Rapid
Flower Color Yellow
Flower Conspicuousness No
Fruit/Seed Abundance High
Fruit/Seed Seasonality Spring Summer
Seed Spread Rate Slow
Gardening Characteristics
Propagations (Ways to Grow) Seed, Sod
Moisture Requirements Medium
Cold Stratification Required No
Minimum Temperature -43
Soil Depth for Roots 12
Toxic to Nearby Plants No
Toxic to Livestock No
After-Harvest Regrowth Rate Moderate
After-Harvest Resprout Ability No
Responds to Coppicing No
Growth Requirements
pH Range 5–7.5 pH
Precipitation Range 30–30 inches/yr
Planting Density 43560–43560 indiv./acre
Soil Textures Fine, Medium
Soil Depth for Roots 12
Minimum Frost-Free Days 90 day(s)
Salinity Tolerance Low
CaCO3 Tolerance High
Sustainability & Use
Leaf Retention No
Palatability Medium
Fire Resistant No
Causes Livestock Bloating None

Source: USDA, NRCS, PLANTS Database,
National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA