Plan the perfect garden with our interactive tool →

Fescue Characteristics

grass image by Thomas Quinlan from

Fescue grass varieties are all cool season grasses that are easy to establish from seed and are used mostly for lawns, playing fields or pastures. The two subspecies of fescue are called tall and fine, and there are a couple varieties that stem from each of these. Fescue grass has several characteristics that distinguish it from other grass varieties, such as blade shape, growth pattern and texture.

Tall Fescue

This fescue variety has a coarse blade with a dense clumping growth pattern. Tall fescue is very shade tolerant and is ideal for turf lawns.

Slender Creeping Red Fescue

Red fescue is in the fine fescue family and has very thin fine blades with an emerald green hue. It is desirable because it needs low levels of fertilization and water. It spreads by rhizomes or creeping stems that grow underneath the soil, hence the name "creeping." Red fescue thrives when planted in cool, shaded areas. This variety is used often in seed mixtures.

Hard Fescue

As one of the hardiest varieties in the fescue family, hard fescue grows best in high elevation areas, particularly the North. Like red fescue, it needs little fertilization and water and is quite shade tolerant. This blue-green grass grows dense but slowly and forms clumps easily. It grows most commonly on highway medians, on sloping hills, on golf courses and in parks. Hard fescue is also one of the only varieties that is salt tolerant.

Chewings Fescue

This variety bunches easily and has an upright growth pattern. It looks similar to tall fescue but has thin blades like fine fescues. Chewings is used often to overseed shady lawns. This variety is known for being very versatile and can adapt to sandy, acidic or poorer quality soils. It grows well in Northern and Coastal regions.This fescue germinates within two weeks so it is easy to establish.

Sheep's Fescue

This fescue grass is used mostly for meadows and areas that need erosion control or improved soil. It is often used as an ornamental grass and is drought tolerant. With a blue green color, the densely tufted sheep's fescue can grow up to 1 1/2 feet tall.

Garden Guides