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How to Grow Fescue Grass in Your Yard

By: Julie Day
Fescue grass lawn

Fescue grass is a popular cool-season grass for home lawns.

Fescue is a common lawn grass throughout much of the U.S. and Canada. These types of grasses are generally known for their year-round green color, drought resistance, and shade tolerance. Here’s what you need to know about growing fescue grass in your lawn.

About Fescue Grass Lawns

Fescue is a cool-season grass; that means it grows best in the spring and fall when temperatures are cooler, and it struggles during the heat of summer. Under the right conditions, fescue is green year-round, but it can go dormant (brown) during severe heat and drought.

Because fescue is slightly more heat tolerant than other cool-season grasses, it’s a great choice for lawns located in the “transition zone,” where summers are too hot for other cool-season grasses, but winters may be too cold for warm-season grasses.

Map of the U.S. with growing region for most fescue grasses

Green area indicates the growing region for most fescue grasses in the United States.

Advantages of Fescue Grasses

There are over 30 different varieties of fescue grasses. In general, most fescues are:

  • Shade Tolerant: Though it varies by type, fescue grasses in general can tolerate more shade than other cool-season lawn grasses and are frequently included in shade-tolerant seed mixes.
  • Drought Tolerant: All grasses need water, but fescues are moderately drought tolerant and slower to go dormant than other cool-season grasses.
  • Erosion Resistant: Fescues – particularly coarse, clumping varieties – become established quickly and are great for slopes and erosion control.
  • Traffic Tolerant: Fescues hold up well in heavily trafficked areas and are often used for home lawns, playing fields, and other areas that get a lot of foot traffic.
  • Tolerant of Poor Soil: Many varieties of fescue are easy to grow even in compacted, clay-based soil and low-fertility, sandy soil.
Lawn mower on shaded, fescue grass yard

Fescue grasses should be mowed 2"- 4" high and tolerate light shade.

Types of Fescue Grasses

Fescue grasses are generally divided into tall and fine varieties.

Tall Fescue Grasses

This broad-leaved grass is the most heat and drought tolerant of all fescues, but it’s coarser in texture. Tall fescue is the type more often seen in common lawn seed blends.

Fine Fescue Grasses

These types of fescue have finer blades and a softer texture than tall fescue. Fine fescue tolerates cold and shade a little better than tall fescue. Popular types of fine fescue include:

  • Chewings Fescue: The fescue with the finest texture, chewings fescue also has an upright clumping growth habit. It’s a little less traffic tolerant than other fescues but tolerates poor and sandy soil, so it’s often mixed with other seed blends for shady and tough areas.
  • Creeping Red Fescue: This type of fescue is very fine textured and grows by rhizomes that creep underground. Its shade tolerance and ability to spread makes creeping red fescue a great choice for shady lawns.
  • Hard Fescue: This slow growing grass has a deep blue-green color and is the most heat tolerant of the fine fescues. It tolerates salt, drought, poor soil, and shade. Hard fescue is slow growing and is often used for unmown meadows, where it tops out at about 6” tall.
  • Sheep’s Fescue: This fescue grows in large clumps, up to 16” tall, and is often used for erosion control and naturalized areas.
New fescue grasses growing up through straw

Fescue grasses are easy to start growing from seed in the fall.

Fescue Grass Growing Tips

Here are some tips on how to grow fescue grass in your yard:

  • Planting: Fescues are most often grown from seed, though sod is also available. For best results, plant new fescue lawns in the fall and overseed thin spots in the spring or fall.
  • Soil Preparation: Aeration, topdressing, liming, and other types of soil improvements for fescue grass should be done in the fall.
  • Fertilizing: Fescue lawns should be fed three times a year; once in spring (around April) and twice in the fall (usually September and October). Do not fertilize during hot weather, or your lawn will risk drought damage and fungal disease. Use a fertilizer with a higher ratio of nitrogen, such as 3:1:2, or a starter fertilizer for newly seeded lawns.
  • Mowing: Most fescues should be mowed 2”- 3” high during spring and fall, and 3”- 4” high in summer. Fine fescues can be mowed a little shorter than tall fescues, especially of the blades have a tendency to flatten down and look trampled.
  • Watering: Fescues need less frequent watering than other types of lawn grasses, but the soil needs to be moist about 4”- 6” deep. Make sure your lawn gets at least 1” of water per week during spring and fall. If you have sandy soil, water more often. If you have compacted clay soil, water until it starts to run off, then stop and let it soak in before continuing. Keep watering during summer if desired, or allow the lawn to go dormant.
  • Summer Dormancy: In areas with hot summers, fescue lawns can be allowed to go dormant during the hottest season. They’ll turn somewhat brown and will almost stop growing until the weather cools. Even dormant lawns still need water, but it can be reduced to about once every three weeks.
  • Winter Care: Stop feeding fescue lawns when freezing weather approaches. Keep leaves and debris picked up, and keep mowing if needed.

Further Information



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11 Comments on “How to Grow Fescue Grass in Your Yard”

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  • Billy Petillo Says:
    May 8th, 2018 at 1:31 pm

    I tilled yard in February in Athens TX. then immediately fertilized sandy soil with 13.13.13 Waited 30 to 45 days planting fescue seed. Started coming up but now the first of May it all looks brown and dead. What did I do wrong ? Billy

  • Doug Barnes Says:
    April 10th, 2018 at 6:53 pm

    I have a hard clay soil only 2-3 inches on top of coarse sand. There are many oaks and cedar in the area which leaves the soil rather acid. It is south central Wisconsin with some erosion of the lawn due to grade. I can do fall seeding but prefer spring seeding. The lawn only gets 3-4 hrs of sun at most and everything I have planted seems to die off in the winter and not grow very full or hardy in the summer, What can you suggest?

  • Linda OLeary Says:
    August 21st, 2017 at 7:26 pm

    My fescue has always had brown patch in mid July
    Thru august but this year many spots irregular in
    Size and shape gray in color, dead spots and
    Bald spots. Can you tell me what you think
    Has happened.

  • William Davis Says:
    May 5th, 2017 at 4:10 pm

    Can someone tell me what is indo shade grass is it fescue grass

  • Gary Sandt Says:
    October 19th, 2016 at 9:01 am

    We live in Dallas, Tx. Will fescue grow and is it rabbit proof?

  • Mike d Says:
    September 7th, 2016 at 3:19 pm

    What would be the best time to plant fescue in Memphis tn. Thanks. Mike

  • Roy Schmelzer Says:
    March 31st, 2016 at 11:58 pm

    hi I am new to this lawn growing business and my problem is I live in the far southern part of Alberta, Canada only a few miles North of the Sweet Grass Hills of Montana. The land it purchased has a beautiful house but the yard was always neglected and it shows as the grass has grown in large clumps with bare patches everywhere. My question is can I drag a Diamond Harrow of these clumps to break them up and spread the fescue seed to help fill in the barren ground….. I would drag the harrows over the lawn during each rain as I do not have good water on site to water the new seed, the artesian well I have is very soft but also very high in Sodium. My lawn covers about 12 acres..



  • Doreen Moran Says:
    November 29th, 2015 at 11:07 am

    I have Tall red fescue self seeding,on a new lawn planted in may, grew in beautiful, on a shady hillside in Maryland. Now it is all brown and red? What did we do wrong?

  • Vince Says:
    October 5th, 2015 at 10:15 am

    Can I cover fescue grass with the weed control ground cover mesh to keep birds from eating the seeds? How long can I do that? Only dug up soil to clear root and weeds the topped soil with seeds covered and walked across to push soil down a little. I’m new.

    June 15th, 2015 at 10:31 am


  • Dick North Says:
    November 24th, 2014 at 12:02 am

    We have new fescue grass this year. This Fall we left a 6″ boundary forit to grow on a side. Will it take 2 or 3 mos. for the side of the yard to grow with the fescue grass
    enlargement/root system.

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How to Grow Fescue Grass in Your Yard