Fescue vs Bluegrass: Differences and Which to Choose (2021)

Choosing a grass type for your yard can be a complicated and difficult choice. This is especially true given the wide range of grass types that are available for your lawn.

Between options for cool-season grasses and warm-season grasses, or turf types that are amenable to arid conditions or wet weather, the possibilities for your yard are nearly endless.

Some of the most popular grasses for a lush, green lawn available are tall fescue types and Kentucky bluegrasses—but what makes them such good choices for planting in your yard?

Let’s take a look at some of the aspects that make both fescue and bluegrass viable options for turfgrass in your yard, and the various maintenance needs and growing advantages that each offer.

Tall Fescue vs Kentucky Bluegrass


Fescue Vs Bluegrass: Appearance

Apart from the more active considerations of growth, seasonality, and maintenance requirements, it’s good to think about the physical appearance of your yard, depending on the type of grass you choose.

What Is Fescue Like?

Fescue has a very particular appearance when used in planting a yard. It is a tall turfgrass that gives dimension to a lawn. Dark green in color, with narrow blades, fescue is tolerant to foot traffic and tends to be somewhat stubbly underfoot.

What Is Bluegrass Like?

Bluegrass is known for its deep, almost emerald color, with blue undertones. As such, it makes for a very attractive yard. It is a coarsely bladed grass with thick stems, but is still soft when walking across it barefoot.

Fescue Vs Bluegrass: Growth

When it comes to their growth and how they cover your lawn, fescue and bluegrass are very different. It’s important to consider the way in which each one will sprout, germinate, and spread across the yard when making your decision on turfgrass.

Fescue Grass Growth

Fescue grasses are easy to establish from seed, and germinate very quickly. This also allows them to create an integrated root system that spreads around 2 – 3 feet down into the soil for a solid foundation.

Because of this deeper root system, fescue grass is able to source and retain more moisture than most other types of similar cool-season grasses. This also makes it an incredibly densely growing grass which thrives even in less than ideal soil conditions, including clay and sand.

However, due to its established and complex root systems, fescue is not a type of grass that spreads quickly across your yard. It tends to grow in clumps that extend laterally via “tillers”, growths from the base of the plant stalk that have limited reach capabilities.

Because of this, fescue grass tends to not be able to repair itself or regrow patches that are removed from the main plants, leaving it prone to bare patches and weed incursions.

Bluegrass Growth

Also sprouting easily from seed, bluegrass does tend to germinate at a slower rate than its fescue counterpart. Because of this, you need to plan ahead when planting bluegrass in your yard, as good coverage will take some time and patience to achieve.

But once bluegrass has sprouted and grown to a good height, it forms a tight sod and spreads very quickly across the rest of your lawn space. Bluegrass cultivates itself by sending out “rhizomes”—these lateral shoots sprout from the grass plant and continuously colonize the reaches of available soil.

Because of this ability to spread, bluegrass can easily repair itself and regrow patches of turf that have become damaged. However, this also means that the bluegrass can begin to grow into areas of the garden or other lawn spaces where it is unwelcome, so keep that in mind.

Fescue Vs Bluegrass: Maintenance And Tolerance

Maintaining your yard and the necessary steps involved with keeping grass healthy is another very important consideration when weighing the merits of fescue versus bluegrass.

Though both are cool-season grasses with heat tolerance, disease resistance, and the ability to withstand a decent amount of foot traffic, these two grass types still have some differences when it comes to maintenance needs.

fescue Maintenance And Tolerance

Fescue Maintenance

Because fescue’s root systems give it amplified access to the water and nutrients available in the soil, this grass is a low-maintenance variety that doesn’t need excessive watering routines to flourish, and even requires less mowing than other grasses.

When it comes to fertilizer, gardeners can adopt a fairly lenient schedule with a light nitrogen product. The key aspects of fescue maintenance come from its inability to repair itself when damaged, so routine overseeding may be necessary.

Fescue Tolerance

Fescue grass is well-known for its ability to withstand a variety of conditions, but is also known for its hardiness. This type of grass does not require excessive access to the sun’s rays, being able to thrive even in shady conditions. In fact, fescue only needs around 4 hours of sunlight a day to grow healthily, making it ideal for areas with low exposure.

But even though fescue is able to withstand moderate foot traffic, it can become damaged easily when the wear-and-tear becomes more significant. Fescue is ideal for medium-use lawns, and certainly not for situations where vehicles might drive on it.

Bluegrass Maintenance

In terms of maintenance needs, bluegrass needs a bit more attention. Frequent watering and fertilization are necessary to keep it healthy and green, along with supplements for keeping its high-nitrogen needs satisfied. It also needs to be mowed more often, as the higher water requirements cause it to grow faster.

But if your bluegrass gets damaged, it needs little intervention. In fact, bluegrass can easily regrow itself and repair patches where the grass has been hurt or even stripped completely.

Bluegrass Tolerance

While highly disease resistant, bluegrass is less tolerant to soil conditions that are less than ideal. Bluegrass also requires double the sun coverage per day that fescue does—if you want your bluegrass to thrive, it needs to spend about 8 hours a day in the sunshine.

However, bluegrass really shines when it comes to tolerance to foot traffic and use. Not only can a bluegrass lawn keep up with consistent activities and flow of people, but it can even withstand vehicles driving across it with very few negative effects.

Fescue Vs Bluegrass: The Key Differences

It can be difficult to decide which grass type to use in your yard, but after reviewing the main aspects of fescue and bluegrass, hopefully, your choice has been narrowed down.

Which grass ultimately fits your needs and yard conditions best? The following table highlights some key differences between fescue and bluegrass to help determine the best grass for you.

Specification Fescue Bluegrass
Dethatching Does not require routine dethatching procedures. Requires dethatching every 1 – 2 years to remove buildup.
Exposure Only needs about 4 hours of sunlight per day to thrive. Requires about 8 hours of sunlight per day to thrive.
Foot Traffic Tolerant of moderate levels of foot traffic. Tolerant of high levels of foot traffic, and even vehicles.
Maintenance Needs Requires less water and fertilizer, only around 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 sq. feet. Needs more moisture and fertilizer, including around 3 – 6 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 sq. feet.
Overseeding Benefits from routine overseeding to repair patchiness. Does not require routine overseeding.
Peak Planting Time Best planting times are in early spring or fall. Optimal planting takes place in early fall.
Self-Repairing Less capable of repairing itself when damaged. Highly capable of repairing itself when damaged.

FAQ

Gardeners face a plethora of grass options when searching for the perfect turf for their yards. And fescue versus bluegrass is just one of these dilemmas! Read on for some of the most common queries fellow gardeners have about these two competing grass types.

Which Is Better Fescue Or Bluegrass?

Both types of grass have their own advantages and disadvantages, so it is difficult to give a definitive answer on which is better—either fescue or bluegrass. Both are cool-season grasses that are highly tolerant to foot traffic. And with colors that range from dark green to a slight grey, your lawn hue will not differ terribly between the two.

Overall, determining which grass type is better comes down to your lawn’s location, the weather conditions nearby, and the sunlight exposure that your yard experiences. These considerations will help narrow down whether fescue or bluegrass is better for your specific needs and the circumstances of your yard.

Can You Mix Bluegrass And Fescue?

Gardeners can indeed mix bluegrass and fescue together in their yards. In fact, several grass seed mixes contain both types of grass, with differing distribution percentages.

The two kinds of grass actually work very well together, being similar cool-season, hardy turfs types. And because fescue is a low-maintenance grass that thrives in challenging conditions, it offsets the higher-maintenance bluegrass which is self-repairing and dense.

Both grass types used together can work to increase the resilience in your yard and create a lush, green space in your back or front yard. Mixing bluegrass and fescue in your lawn will reduce damage from use and only require moderate maintenance.

How Do You Remove Tall Fescue From Bluegrass?

In some yards, the appearance of tall fescue grass types can be seen as a weed incursion, including for lawns that are exclusively made up of bluegrass. However, you can remove tall fescue clumps from bluegrass without irrevocably harming the other turf on your lawn.

For isolated large fescue clumps, you can opt for digging out the offending grass, taking care to remove all the fescue roots as well to prevent re-growth. You can also spray fescue clumps with a variety of grass products for a chemical removal method.

Keep in mind that chemical products do run the risk of damaging the surrounding turf though. But if you apply such products as glyphosate Roundup in the spring when the invading fescue has just begun to appear and green up, the bluegrass around it should not be injured too much.

Make sure to swiftly re-sod or reseed any areas where the tall fescue has been removed to reintegrate bluegrass and smooth out the lawn. This is also important for preventing more fescue from immediately regrowing.

Does Kentucky Bluegrass Turn Brown In Winter?

Because bluegrass tends to go dormant during temperature conditions that sit on opposite sides of the spectrum, including in very hot weather as well as in colder months, Kentucky bluegrass is known to turn brown during the winter in North America.

This does not mean that your turfgrass is dead—on the contrary, Kentucky bluegrass is able to withstand harsher temperatures by turning its processes and growth rate dormant until more amenable conditions return.

However, Kentucky bluegrass is one of the grass types most likely to remain alive and healthy during the winter months, given that it is a cool-season turfgrass and can withstand such conditions.

kentucky bluegrass turning yellow


Final Thoughts

With all the options in grasses, planting your yard with the perfect turf can be a complicated decision to make. And it becomes even more fraught when faced with a choice between two very hardy and adaptable types of grass, namely fescue and bluegrass.

While both share various similarities, the better aspects of fescue versus bluegrass will ultimately depend on your location, exposure, and lawn use. And taking these into consideration will help you make the best choice of grass for your yard—either fescue or bluegrass!

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