Tall Fescue Grass: Types, Problems, How To Plant & Grow

Tall Fescue Grass

Tall fescue is a cool-season grass that grows well in the southern cool-season grass zone and throughout the transition zone. It is a popular choice all over the transition zone, as cool-season or warm-season grasses aren’t perfectly suited for that climate.

Tall fescue grass is the most common lawn grass in California and the Pacific Northwest to the southern states. This grass is native to Europe and was first introduced into the United States in the late 19th century. This grass has been widely planted for forage, turf, and erosion control.

Tall fescue grass is a popular choice for both residential and commercial landscaping. It grows well in many types of soil, requiring little maintenance and no need for extra fertilizer or water. In addition, tall fescue is resistant to certain pests and diseases that are problematic for other grasses, making it a low-maintenance option for those seeking a lawn of lush beauty with minimal work. Now increasingly common in many home gardens, tall fescue grass is an attractive option suited to those who prefer their lawns to look beautiful without constant efforts or high expense.

Its 2 to 3-feet-deep root system provides superior drought and heat tolerance. It is a tough grass that is a good choice for play areas, yet it may need reseeding once bare spots occur. Its tall blades remain resilient in high-wear areas. It has the highest heat tolerance among other cool-season lawn grasses.

Its rustic appearance makes it a great addition to any spring or summer lawn, adding texture and visual appeal. The coarse texture helps the blades stand up like a strong blade of straw after being mowed, offering superior quality for many different users.

In lawns, Tall Fescue forms a nice dense grass and cannot be mowed below 4 cm. or 1.5 inches. It has wide-bladed and dark green colored leaves. The color of its leaves is maintained even in winter. Its ribbed leaf blades are very coarse to the touch, with shiny topsides. The newest leaf blades emerge in a rolled-up form.

This grass is exclusively known for its upright, fast, clumping growth habit and is sometimes known as “bunchgrass.” It has small rhizomes but it spreads by tillers (vertical shoots) that grow from the base or by seed distribution instead of creeping. If wear or damage occurs in the tall fescue grass lawn, you will need to overseed to fill in the damaged spots.

With proper care and maintenance, tall fescue grass can be an easy and affordable way to add more life and color to your outdoor living area.

Tall Fescue Grass at a Glance

Scientific (Botanical) NameFestuca arundinacea
Plant typePerennial, grass
ClassificationCool-season grass
Grass TextureCoarse
Grass ColorDark green color
Spreads by (or growth habit)Bunch-forming growth habit
Average mature size (height)4 to 12 inches
Requirements for soil typeFertile, Well-drained, and can tolerate any type of soil from clay to sandy
Nutrition requirementsLow to moderate
Sun ExposureFull, partial
Capacity for self-repairLimited capacity
Drought ToleranceModerate
Hardiness zonesBetween 3 to 8
Average Mowing height2 – 4 inches
Wear ResistanceGood
Soil pH value5.5 to 6.5
Shade toleranceModerate
Root system2 to 3 feet deep
Heat toleranceGood
Foot traffic toleranceModerate (with low ability to recuperate from wear)
MaintenanceFast growth rate, so require often mowing
Growth RateFast
Disease ResistanceLow to moderate (with proper management conditions)
SuitabilityTransition zone
Native AreaEurope

What are the Types of Tall Fescue Grass?

Tall Fescue grass has the following types (varieties):

1. Compacta Turf-Type Tall Fescue Grass

Compacta is the shorter, darker-green variety of tall fescue. At maturity, it is considerably shorter than LF-200.

This variety produces a shorter, dense, and fine-textured turf with dense tiller counts per unit area. Further, it has a fine texture, low growth habit, and medium to late maturing type.

2. Dakota Turf-Type Tall Fescue Grass

This dark green-colored variety has mat-like density, making it a perfect fit for golf courses that want to provide a uniform look and feel to their greens.

The erect, vertical growth habit of this variety makes it an excellent choice for golf courses that need a more upright turfgrass.

3. Future Turf-Type Tall Fescue Grass

This is a very dark green grass with a fine leaf texture and high leaf density. It has an abundant heading and is resistant to drought.

Its resistance to stem rust, brown patch, Pythium, and heat stress makes this variety extremely durable.

It has an impressive breeding history. Also, the grass is very attractive and disease resistant as well.

4. Golconda Turf-Type Tall Fescue Grass

Golconda Turf-Type Tall Fescue is a wonderful choice for residential or commercial lawns. It has a dark-green color, dense growth, uniform growth habit, and fine blades.

Golconda has low fertilizer requirements, so it won’t require much maintenance to keep your lawn looking vibrant year after year.

5. Montana Turf-Type Tall Fescue Grass

Montana turf-type tall fescue grass is a great choice for your turf needs. It has fast germination, fewer fertilizer requirements, and a dark-green color. This turf has a fine leaf texture and will grow in any type of soil.

It has a Tight-Knit growth. All these features make it a good choice for your lawn.

6. Soft Blade Turf-Type Tall Fescue Grass

This type of Tall fescue grass has rich, beautiful, dark-green color. This is the softest to-touch tall fescue variety available today.

This variety has vastly improved tillering – you will get more turf density with better coverage of your lawn.

This is the first of a new generation of Black Beauty Tall Fescue Varieties that features superior disease resistance and drought tolerance. It also mixes great with Blue Panther Bluegrasses.

7. Taos Turf-Type Tall Fescue Grass

The Taos turf-type tall fescue is a natural dark-green colored grass that has high disease resistance.

It is an excellent choice for your lawns because of its very high heat tolerance and drought resistance. It has compact crowns and can grow at uniform heights.

This grass can be a good combination with Kentucky bluegrass and Perennial ryegrass.

8. Tara Turf-Type Tall Fescue Grass

Tara turf-type tall fescue grass is the top performer against the brown patch.

It has high heat and drought tolerance, which makes it an excellent choice for golf courses, sports fields, and other areas that need to maintain their quality turf through drought conditions.

It performs well in the transition zone of the United States.

9. Thunderbolt Turf-Type Tall Fescue Grass

It is a very dark green-colored variety that has been tested in a variety of conditions and has performed very well. It has an aggressively spreading crown and a fine leaf texture.

It produces a dense turf with more tiller counts per unit area. This variety will perform well in the transition zone of the USA.

This variety also performs well in heading date, plant height, and flag leaf length traits. It has a dark green color and has great turf quality.

10. Toltec Turf-Type Tall Fescue Grass

This dark green-colored variety is perfect for lawns and athletic fields.

It is a thick, high-density grass with the finest leaves of any other Black Beauty varieties.

It does not shred when mowed, so you won’t have to worry about your lawn being damaged by uneven cutting. It is also a high-performing variety for color, texture, turf quality, and density.

11. Tonto Turf-Type Tall Fescue Grass

Tonto turf-type tall fescue grass has an attractive leaf texture, deep roots, and a lower growth habit. It produces a dense canopy of high quality.

It has high drought and heat tolerance, and disease resistance. Furthermore, it is highly endophytic which makes it naturally insect resistant.

How And When To Plant Tall Fescue Grass?

Planting Tall Fescue Grass Through Seeds

To successfully plant tall fescue grass through seeds, the most important factor is to choose the right time for planting, which depends on your local climate.

The best time to plant tall fescue grass is from late summer to early fall or in early spring when the soil is cool and moist; and supports vigorous growth. For the best germination of tall fescue grass seed, the soil temperature should be around 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit.

The very first step before even starting the planting process is to choose the best quality seeds for germination to get the lush tall fescue lawn.

Testing the soil is also important before spreading the seeds as the lawn growth depends a lot upon the type of soil. So, you need to test the soil, whether or not it contains the right amount of nutrients, and to know its pH value, to germinate the seeds adequately. The ideal pH of soil for tall fescue grass is 5.5 to 7.5.

If required, depending on the results of your soil test, put nutrients in the soil to maintain the required pH level.

To prepare the soil for planting, till the soil to about 6 to 8 inches deep, and level it out. Now remove all the debris (like rocks, etc.) from the lawn area and break the large chunks of soil with the help of a rake. Ultimately, make the surface smooth.

Then evenly spread the seeds over the lawn using a spreader. Use 5 pounds of tall fescue seed per 1,000 square feet (or check your state for details, as some states recommend higher than this). Rake the seed into the soil for good soil contact, and if you wish then roll the seed in with a roller.

For the first 3 weeks or until the seeds germinate, water at least once per day. Keep the soil moist but not water-logged.  As the seeds germinate, decrease the frequency of watering, but increase the quantity of water. And as the seedlings mature, decrease this gradually.

Planting Tall Fescue Grass Through Sod

Sod provides the instant appearance of a well-established lawn, and prevents erosion instantaneously. It also needs less watchful initial irrigation than seed. Tall Fescue grass sod is comparatively easy to install after a little soil preparation.

First of all, measure your lawn area to calculate the number of Tall Fescue grass sod needed for your lawn.

The best time to install sod is usually in the spring or fall when temperatures are cool and the soil is moist. To ensure installation success, the area should be well-prepared before laying down sod. This includes removing all existing growth, amending the soil with nutrients, and tilling. Also, if your lawn doesn’t have enough topsoil, you can add the topsoil until your lawn has a topsoil depth of at least 4 inches.

If the lawn is totally dry, then you need to water the soil so that it gets slightly moist. Once the area is prepared, then lay the sod strips on the lawn in a way that the edges of each sod touch the edge of the other adjacent sod. 

You can use a hand roller for rolling the sod, as this will aid the grassroots to achieve contact with the soil below the sod.

After laying the Tall fescue sod, water it to a depth of 4 inches. Apply about an inch of water every two to three days for the next 2 weeks or until the sod becomes well-rooted. After that, it will require less frequent watering.            

What are the Diseases or Problems That Can Affect Tall Fescue Grass?

Following are the major diseases or problems that can affect Tall Fescue grass:

Diseases that can affect Tall Fescue Grass

1. Brown Patch Disease

Brown patch disease is a turfgrass disease caused by the fungus Rhizoctonia. Brown patch is most common in hot and humid weather. The disease causes brown irregular circular patches to form on the turf, which can range in size from a few inches to several feet in diameter.

This disease can also be aggravated by poor soil drainage, excessive nitrogen, compacted soil, and too much thatch.

The best way to control brown patch disease is to keep your lawn healthy and well-maintained. This means mowing regularly, watering appropriately, ensuring the soil is well drained, and fertilizing according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

If you do notice a brown patch developing in your lawn, treat it immediately by applying the appropriate fungicide. With quick action and regular care, you can keep brown patch disease from taking over your lawn. 

2. Leaf Spot Disease

Leaf spot disease is a common and widespread problem that could damage Tall fescue grass. It is caused by a group of fungal pathogens that are mainly active in humid conditions.

The leaf spot disease first appears as small purplish lesions on the grass leaves, forming irregular black or white patches on the turf; resulting in dieback of the grass.

Leaf spot disease can be prevented by following proper watering and mowing practices.

Its treatment is done by using appropriate fungicides.

3. Crown Rust Disease

Crown rust disease is a serious fungal disease of tall fescue grass. It can cause severe damage to the turf and can be difficult to control.

Crown rust spores are more active in warm and humid conditions, and are usually spread by rain and wind. The disease is characterized by the development of bright orange spots on the leaves, which gradually turn small and black spots. These spots are also known as pustules.

To prevent rust disease from damaging your tall fescue grass, proper watering and mowing practices should be followed.

Treatment of Crown rust is done by using appropriate fungicides.

4. Damping-Off

The disease damping-off, which causes seedlings to die off soon after germination, can also affect Tall Fescue. This means that Tall Fescue turfs that are planted through seeds are at risk of damping-off disease if sown in excessively moist conditions.

Major Pest Problems of Tall Fescue Grass

Tall Fescue grass is prone to the following main pest infestations that can obstruct its growth, and cause your turf to turn brown:

1. Army Worms

Tall fescue grass is also prone to armyworm infestation, which can cause significant damage to the turf. The armyworms are larvae of the Army Worm moth which is known by the scientific name Spodoptera Mauritia. It strips grass leaves and leaves patches of light-brown straw-like grass.

2. Cutworms

Cutworms are the damaging offspring of the Bogong Moth, Black Cutworm Moth, and Pink Cutworm Moth. These can cause major damage to Tall fescue grass.

The larvae are most active during the night and cut the seedlings at ground level before they feed on the fallen leaves.

3. White Curl Grubs

White Curl Grubs are the larvae of scarab beetles. They attack the roots of the grass and cause the grass to die back.

With this, we have discussed everything about one of the most popular cool-season grasses among lawn owners called Tall Fescue Grass. Hope you have liked reading this article.


1) Fungicide Management of Brown Patch of Tall Turf-type Fescue in the Residential Landscape in Oklahoma

2) Tall Fescue – College of agricultural sciences, Oregon State University

3) Tall Fescue – Texas Cooperative Extension

4) Tall Fescue – Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California

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