Plan the perfect garden with our interactive tool →

What Is Fescue?

grass image by Thomas Quinlan from

Fescue grass has been in the United States since the early 1800s and is also found in Europe and North Africa. There are more than 100 varieties of fescue, some invasive weed grasses and others ornamental grasses suitable for a landscape garden.


Generally, fescue grasses prefer a cooler climate that is moist, but they have good drought and heat tolerance and will survive in dry environments by going into hibernation. Tall fescue does well in areas that have a transitional environment, where winters are too cold for warm-season grasses and summers too hot for cold-season grasses.


Fescue grass does well in a variety of soil types but grows best in clay soils that have a high occurrence of organic matter. The clay is best mixed in with other soils that help it drain during wet seasons. Fescue can be planted in shady or sunny areas.


Fescues have a wide variety of appearances, as there are 100 different varieties, but the most common is the tall fescue, or Festuca arundinacea. Tall fescue, like many other fescues, has a deep root system and is a perennial grass well adapted to cool seasons. Fescue grows in bunches, growing tall rather than spreading out. Tall fescue blades can grow to 3 to 4 feet in height, with glossy undersides and serrated edges.


Soil needs to be well prepared before the planting of fescue. The soil should be tilled to a depth of 3 to 4 inches with an all-purpose starter fertilizer blended into it. The area should be well drained, so attention should be paid to the grading of the lawn.


Fescue grasses need a small amount of fertilizer during the year and respond fairly well to fertilizers heavy in nitrogen. As opposed to other grasses that need 1 lb. of fertilizer per 1,000 square feet, fescue prefers 3 lbs. per 1,000 square feet. Fescue should be mowed to 2 inches during the fall and left to 3 inches during the summer heat or if it is thriving in shade. This prevents the grass from burning. Fescue also enjoys a lawn watered to a depth of 3 to 4 inches.

Garden Guides