What Is Fescue Grass? When, Where, and How to Plant It

Gemma Johnstone
Written by Gemma Johnstone
Updated February 23, 2023
fall garden with fescue grass
Photo: David Madison / Stone / Getty Images


  • Fescue grasses include many highly resilient cool-season grasses.

  • They grow in the northern and transitional zones on their own or with other grasses.

  • Fescues are typically drought, pest, weed, and disease-resistant.

  • They remain green throughout the winter and require minimal maintenance.

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Fescue grasses have worked hard to earn their popularity, especially with homeowners looking for a low-maintenance, year-round green lawn. These highly resilient cool-season grasses thrive both in the humid, cold North and deep into the transitional zone of the United States. 

Tough against heat, drought, disease, and even pests, the many types of fescue grass make an excellent addition to nearly any northern or central lawn.

Common nameFescue grass
Botanical nameFestuca spp.
Plant typePerennial turf grass
Recommended heightUp to 6 feet
Sun exposureFull sun, partial shade
Soil typeVarious, including clay
Soil pHAcidic, neutral, alkaline
Hardiness zones5–10 (USDA)

What Is Fescue Grass?

Fescue is a common perennial grass used everywhere, from front lawns to golf courses. It got its start in the United States in the 19th century when it came from Europe to be used as pasture grasses and in early household lawns, according to PennState Extension. While the benefits of each type of fescue grass vary slightly, they share similar qualities. 

What Is Fescue Grass Good For?

This type of grass is revered for its ability to adapt to and tolerate various climates, including drought, cold, shade, and heat. It’s known for being low maintenance and requiring less fertilizer than other cool-season grasses. 

Tall fescue grass is a tough variety, so it’s great to plant in play areas, lawns or areas with high-foot traffic, baseball fields, or golf courses. 

Fescue Grass Pros and Cons

Wondering whether to plant fescue grass in your yard? Consider these advantages and disadvantages first.


  • Thrives in both partial shade and direct sun

  • Emits an amino acid that fights against weeds

  • Handles drought and high humidity

  • Requires very little winter maintenance

  • Stays green in the winter

  • Maintains deep roots to draw soil nutrients

  • Requires less fertilizer than other varieties

  • Naturally disease- and pest-resistant

  • Requires less dethatching due to its resiliency


The only downsides to fescue grass—depending on the type—are its susceptibility to damage during long periods of high humidity or drought. Brown patches on your lawn can form during long stretches of extreme heat and humidity, for example.

What Does Fescue Grass Look Like?

It can be tricky to differentiate between the many types of grasses, but fescue grass, specifically the tall variety, has a few defining characteristics. You can spot tall fescue grass by its wide leaf blades, medium- to dark-green color, and coarse texture. Keep in mind that modern turf varieties can be more dense and have a finer texture.

Types of Fescue Grass

You'll find hundreds of fescue grass varieties, but there are a few standouts that make it into lawns across the U.S. Here's a quick look at the major players:

Tall Fescue

As one of the best types of grass to grow on your lawn, tall fescue grows in dense and deep-rooted clumps, making it ideal for high-traffic lawns.

Hard Fescue

Hard fescue thrives in full shade, low temperatures, and areas with low soil fertility. It also requires infrequent mowings, making it ideal for a hard-to-access spot.

Creeping Red Fescue

This fine fescue variety does best when combined with other popular grass varieties such as Kentucky Bluegrass. Its finer blades do not indicate its weakness; however, you can add it to a lawn for better heat and shade resilience.

Chewings Fescue 

Homeowners will also mix chewings fescue with other seed varieties, particularly in dry, rocky soil, and acidic soil where others can't thrive.

How to Plant Fescue Grass

close up shot of a a meadow of fescue grass
Photo: David Madison / Stone / Getty Images

Planting grass seed on your own is a very doable DIY project, especially with such adaptable grass as fescue. Start by ensuring you have the right seed variety for your hardiness zone, soil pH, and how you plan to use the lawn. 

Then, prepare the seed site by using a homemade weed killer to eliminate any pesky weeds in your yard. Continue prepping by raking the area and filling in any low-level spots to create a level planting surface. 

Next, follow your fescue grass seed packet instructions for the proper seeding rates. For example, some brands may recommend using more seeds on a new lawn than an established one. Consider using tools like a drop spreader or a rotary spreader to ensure you spread the seeds evenly throughout your yard.

To finish up, rake soil over the seeds so there’s about ¼ inch over top of them, and use a lawn roller to press the elements together. 

When to Plant Fescue Grass

Till your soil and plant fescue seed in the early fall or late spring to avoid stressing out the early seedlings. Wait several weeks before mowing it for the first time, typically when it reaches at least 4 inches high.

Fescue Grass Care Tips

Fescue grasses come with many low-maintenance benefits, but you'll still need to stick with a lawn care seasonal schedule to keep it healthy from season to season. 


Fescue grass can thrive in full sun or shade, but it prefers full or partial sun exposure. It’s the Goldilocks of grasses: Consider planting it in an area that’s too warm for cool-grass varieties but too cold for warm-grasses.


This low-maintenance grass type can grow in nearly every soil variety thanks to its deep roots. That means you can skip the soil research before planting.


Cool-season grasses like fescues thrive best in temperatures between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Fescue will survive and maintain its color in most other temperatures, but it's best to stay within this prime zone when starting them from seed.

Fertilizing Fescue Grass

Opt for a slow-release fertilizer high in nitrogen to stimulate blade growth. Early spring is the best time to fertilize fescue grass and may be the only application necessary if your soil remains stable and nutrient. Otherwise, wait until mid-fall to fertilize again, avoiding the hottest months.

Mowing Fescue Grass

Keep your fescue grass between 2 and 3 inches high from late spring through late fall. Avoid cutting more than an inch off at a time to support healthy growth. You will likely need to mow until the ground consistently dips below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Otherwise, stick to the 2- to 3-inch rule.

Watering Fescue Grass

Fescue grass will need the typical 1 to 1½ inches of water a week, depending on natural precipitation. It may also need extra water in the hottest summer months, particularly if you're experiencing a long stretch without rain. Only cut down on watering your fescue grass if you live in a northern zone where your lawn goes dormant.

Seeding and Aerating

Since tall fescue grows in thick clumps, you may need to reseed empty patches once a year or after a difficult season. Aerate your lawn and reseed if necessary around the same time you would plan fresh fescue seed—early fall or mid-spring.

Insect Control

There are a few pesky insects that like to reside in fescue grass, causing issues like brown patches. The most common intruders include white grubs, billbulbs, armyworms, and chinch bugs. Luckily, you can control the amount of pests in your lawn using soil insecticide, which is best applied during the late months of summer. 

Common Weeds

The best way to prevent and control weed growth in fescue grass is keeping up with regular lawn maintenance and soil, sunlight, and watering preferences. However, some tricky weed types like crabgrass and dallisgrass can creep in and wreak havoc on your yard. Choose a weed control spray that fits your infestation to remove weeds quickly.

Disease Control

As mentioned above, brown patch is the most common (and frustrating) lawn disease for fescue grasses. To prevent and suppress brown patches, apply a slow-release fertilizer on your lawn during the spring.

Fescue Grass Yearly Schedule 

If you want to lock in a lush lawn, it’s not enough to just mow and feed your fescue during the summer. Make your neighbors green with envy and help prevent disease, weed, or pest invasions by creating a year-round care calendar. 

Here’s a helpful seasonal guide, but the type of fescue and individual yard conditions mean it may need tweaking.


  • Mowing: Once your fescue grass comes out of dormancy, regularly cut it down to around 3–3.5 inches. Remove no more than 1/2 an inch of grass blade during each session for optimum health.

  • Watering: Depends on weather and soil type, but around 1 inch every week should do the trick. Sandy soils might need a top-up midweek, especially in periods of drought.

  • Weed control: Pre-emergence herbicides prevent wayward weed seedlings from establishing. Apply between late March and mid-May.

  • Fertilization: Pencil in an early spring application (before the end of March) of slow-release, high-nitrogen fertilizer. One pound of nitrogen per square foot is a good guide.


  • Mowing: Stick with a mower height of 3.5 inches during the summer and continue removing no more than ½ inch of the grass blade during each trimming session.

  • Clipping: Fescue grass loves a bit of grass-cycling—so leave the clippings on the lawn to add moisture, nutrients, and save yourself an extra job.

  • Watering: Keep the same regular irrigation schedule you had going in spring to dodge early dormancy. 

  • Weed control: Don’t smother your sod in herbicides in the summer months—these chemicals aren’t a good match with grass already stressed by hot weather and drought.

  • Fertilization: Don’t feed your fescue during this season.

  • Disease control: Watch out for the warm weather fungal disease brown patch on your lawn. It’s tricky to identify and treat, so call in the pros if in doubt.


  • Mowing: Keep the grass length between 2.5–3.5 inches, still aiming to remove no more than 1/2 of grass blade height at a time.

  • Watering: Don’t let your irrigation schedule slip after the summer. Unless you're in a region with high rainfall, aim to provide around 1 inch of water every week to 10 days.

  • Weed control: Another dose of herbicides can help minimize fall and early spring invaders from emerging.

  • Fertilization: Fertilize as per spring in September if your fescue needs a pick-me-up to revitalize color or reverse footfall damage. 

  • Aerating: To keep your lawn lush, perforate the soil with small holes in September or October, especially if the grass experiences heavy footfall or the soil is a dense clay.

  • Overseeding: To repair thinning grass after a busy summer, overseed your lawn by adding around 4 to 8 pounds of seed per 1,000 square foot (depending on how patchy the lawn is). Do this job in September or early October, while the temperatures are still mild, after applying fall fertilizer.


  • Mowing: If your cool-season fescue continues to grow in the winter, mow as needed to keep it around 3 inches high.

  • Watering: Only needs additional irrigation if rainfall levels aren’t enough to prevent prolonged dry conditions.

  • Clear up: If you let leaves or other debris linger on your lawn over winter, it can lead to disease and patchiness. Take the time to rake leaves regularly.

Even though fescue grasses are comparatively easy to care for, local lawn care teams can ensure your lawn looks its greenest year-round. Set up an ongoing contract with a local expert to cut out the guesswork.

Fescue Grass vs Common Grass Types

It’s essential to pick the right grass type for your yard, so how does fescue grass compare to its relatives? Take a look at other common grass types and how they stack up against fescue grass.

  • Kentucky bluegrass: This fellow cool-season grass grows best in cool, northern climates. Unlike fescue grass, Kentucky bluegrass only tolerates light to medium foot traffic.

  • Zoysia grass: This grass type is a bit more high maintenance than fescue grass and it requires more sunlight. However, zoysia grass is drought-tolerant and very tough.

  • Buffalo grass: Compared to fescue grass, buffalo grass cannot tolerate foot traffic. However, it works well in warm regions.

Frequently Asked Questions

This type of grass in USDA hardiness zones 5–10, specifically areas with partial shade and direct sun. While it’s a cool-season grass, it has the unique ability to adapt and thrive in many different types of climates.

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