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Fescue, a family of blue grasses: planting and care


Fescue is a great contender for garden boxes and edges.

Key fescue facts:

Botanical nameFestuca sp.
Common name – fescue
Type – grass

Height – 4 in to 3 feet (4 cm to 1 m), depending on species
Planting density – 4 to 10 plants per sq. yard (m²), depending on species
Exposure – Full sun to part sun
Soil – Light and well-draining, all pH levels

Flowering: usually in summer
Foliage – evergreen

Nearly all fescue grasses have grayish-blue or greenish-gray leaves. Depending on the species, the summer blooms are either tall and slender, or short with arching stems. Such diversity is there that you can easily create an entire landscaping bed just with plants of this family, and it will still look stunning.

Planting fescue

This grass is excellent to decorate hard-to-plant areas. Indeed, it isn’t afraid of drought, and loves poor soil types: sandy and/or limestone.
Heavy soil, which usually have lots of clay, don’t suit it very well because they tend to retain too much water.

For this plant, it’s best to select a spot in full sun, but fescue will still adapt well to part shade.

Planting is best when done in spring or fall:

  • Dig a hole about 4 inches deep (ten centimeters).
  • To increase drainage, add sand and mix it into the soil well.
  • Tease the clump of Festuca from its pot and break the clump up a bit to release a few roots. These will have a head start to spread in all directions.
  • Place the fescue in the hole, and backfill it, pressing the soil down well.

Caring for fescue

Fescue care is perhaps the simplest task of all. At the beginning of winter, you can remove wilted flowers, it’ll make the clump look neater. In spring, cut the clump back to renew leaves.

After a few years, if you find the plant has lost its luster, feel free to divide and split the one plant into two or three new ones.

Watering isn’t ever necessary, because Festuca hates having too much water.


Though fescue will easily grow from seed, you’ll get larger plants quicker by dividing the clump.

Fescue propagationIn a nutshell, just pull the whole clump out of the ground in fall or spring and break it into several smaller clumps to create new plants.

It’s possible to tear them apart by hand, but some gardeners prefer to slice them in half with a sharp spade.

Transplant each portion as described above in the “planting” section.

Diseases and pests:

Fescue is a nearly invulnerable grass. Pests and diseases seem to never get a hold of it!

Landscaping and pairing

As is the case for many grasses, Festuca is at its best when planted in a group, either with other grasses, or with short perennials.

It’s very versatile and will match many settings: rocky terrain, alongside flower beds, or between stepping stones.

All kinds of fescue

You’ll soon discover that blue fescue (Festuca glauca) is clearly the easiest fescue to get your hands on, but there are a few other species that are worth their while.

Hedgehog fescue (Festuca punctoria)

It got its name from the straight, dense foliage that can indeed prick through skin. Leaves are greenish-gray. Summer blooms, rather rare, have a beautiful light yellow hue.

Spiky fescue (Festuca gautieri)

Fescue speciesThis one has long, thin green blades. Bearskin fescue, as it’s also called, is somewhat of an outlier in the family, since most other species are gray-green or blue-green. Note: you might see the former name for this plant in stores: F. scoparia.

It’s size never exceeds 4 inches (10 cm), and it grows to form a lush, soft cushion. Flowers appear in June-July, they’re the color of hay.

Giant fescue (Festuca gigantea)

This species can reach a height of 3 feet (1 meter). Its foliage is wider, flatter than that of smaller species, and it’s shiny, too. Definitely different from the narrow blades of its cousins. Flowers, for this species, appear in the middle or at the end of summer. They’ve got a softer, wider shape and arch over as they grow longer.

Images: CC BY-SA 2.0: Daryl Mitchell; Pixabay: Małgorzata Wójcik, Valentin Hintikka
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