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What Is Tall Fescue Grass?

By Faith McGee ; Updated September 21, 2017

Tall fescue is a cool season turf that can be used in sunny or partially shaded areas of the yard. Because this grass is sensitive to warm temperatures, it is typically only grown in the northern United States. Knowing more about tall fescue will help gardeners employ proper cultural practices for a lush, green lawn.


Tall fescue is part of a larger genus of fescue grasses. Because tall fescue has an extensive root system, the grass can tolerate drought conditions. In fact, this grass type does not need to be irrigated unless it wilts or shows signs of water stress. The grass grows in bunches and has erect tillers that stand above the grass blades. Tillers can reach heights of 3 to 4 feet when the grass isn't mowed.

Where to Grow Tall Fescue

You can grow tall fescue in parks, lawns and golf courses, as long as you keep the grass above 1 1/2 inches. Tall fescue will develop weak root systems when cut too short. In fact, Clemson University recommends keeping the grass within heights of 2 1/2 to 3 1/2. Mowing heights change depending on the time of year. Spring grass can be kept around 2 inches, but grass grown in the summer or in shade should be kept at 3 inches.


Tall fescue is generally seeded in the spring or fall months. Seeding rates for tall fescue are 6 to 8 lb. per 1,000 square feet. Gardeners living in areas with warm summers may notice their lawn succumbing to heat or fungal diseases if they seed in the spring. Spring seedlings are more likely to contract diseases such as fusarium blight. Moreover, seeds should be kept moist but not wet for proper germination and reduced risk of fungal diseases.


Gardeners must apply fertilizers and maintain their soil's pH range for tall fescue to survive. Tall fescue need a pH range of 5.8 to 6.5 in order to access the soil's nutrients. You can conduct a soil pH test and apply soil amendments to alter the range. For example, you can apply lime to acidic soils and sulfur on alkaline soil. Nitrogen should be applied to your tall fescue grass in the fall and late spring. Avoid fertilizing the grass in the summer or it could burn up your tall fescue.