Tall fescue thrives in cold, heat, drought, and shade. Tall fescue offers excellent grass resilience and durability choices in its chosen growth zones. Depending on your lawn objectives and location, this flexible grass may be a good option.
- Tall Fescue at a Glance
- Tall Fescue Basics
- Additional Tall Fescue Characteristics
- Tall Fescue Lawn Care Calendar
Tall Fescue at a Glance
- Cool-season grass with improved heat tolerance.
- Northern and southern transition areas.
- Tolerant of heat, drought and shade.
- Disease resistant.
- Bunch-forming growth habit.
- Limited capacity for self-repair.
Tall Fescue Basics
Like many common U.S. lawn grasses, tall fescue originated in Europe. It was introduced to the United States in the early 1800s1 around the time that lawns became fashionable with early Americans. Even so, tall fescue remained relegated to agricultural use as a pasture grass until the mid- to late 1900s. Then a tall fescue variety known as Kentucky 31 made the leap from pasture to turf — and became an important part of Pennington Seed’s history in the process.
In recent years, research and breeding programs have developed many new tall fescue lawn grass varieties known as turf-type and dwarf-type tall fescues. These modern tall fescue varieties, such as those in Pennington The Rebels Tall Fescue Grass Seed Blend and Pennington Smart Seed Southern Sun and Shade Grass Seed and Fertilizer Mix, offer darker green color, narrower blades and improved tolerances to heat, cold and drought. Pennington Kentucky 31 Tall Fescue Grass Seed remains a leading choice for lawn owners seeking economical, low-maintenance, heat- and drought-tolerant lawns.
As a cool-season grass, tall fescue is well-suited to northern lawns. But it also has added value in southern transitional turf grass regions where cool-season and warm-season grasses meet their climate limits. Tall fescue offers greater heat tolerance than other cool-season grasses and greater cold tolerance than warm-season grass options for these lawn owners. The result is beautiful year-round lawns in this challenging transition area.
Additional Tall Fescue Characteristics
Tall fescue tolerates shade better than other cool-season lawn grasses except fine fescue. It germinates faster than Kentucky bluegrass. Tall fescue’s deep roots may reach 2 to 3 feet.3 Heat and drought tolerance improves.
Compared to ordinary grasses, tall fescue varieties from Pennington The Rebels Brand have 40% more roots. In addition, water-conserving Pennington Smart Seed tall fescues require up to 30% less water year after year than ordinary grasses do.
Tall fescue, a bunch-type grass, does not spread horizontally. It spreads by vertical “tillers” from the grass plant’s root in clusters. Tall fescue is simple to manage and keep out of flower beds, but it cannot heal turf damage.
Tall Fescue Lawn Care Calendar
As with other cool-season grasses, tall fescue grasses hit their peak growth periods during the cool fall and spring seasons. The best time to plant tall fescue or perform other major lawn tasks is during this peak growth period in fall and spring. To keep your northern or southern tall fescue lawn looking its best, time your lawn care tasks accordingly.
Remember, southern lawns develop sooner in spring. Watch your yard and calendar as weather changes. Ask your county extension agent about spring and autumn frost. Follow this tall fescue lawn care schedule for a flexible, resilient lawn.
MARCH THROUGH MAY
As spring growth starts, mow your tall fescue grass. Maintain tall fescue’s 2–3-inch height by mowing as required. Bag the season’s early clippings to prevent snow mold and other fungal grass problems.
Weed Prevention and Fertilization
Prevent crabgrass and feed your established tall fescue lawn in early spring. Apply Pennington UltraGreen Crabgrass Preventer Plus Fertilizer III 30-0-4 before soil temperatures hit 55 degrees Fahrenheit and crabgrass begins germinating. Do not treat newly seeded or overseeded areas until at least 60 days after seeding.
Seeding and Overseeding
Spring seeding and overseeding help tall fescue lawns stay dense and avoid a clumpy look. For optimal germination, plant tall fescue when soil temperatures are between 50°F and 65°F. Most lawn and garden stores carry inexpensive soil thermometers to help you get timing right.
Bare Spot Repair
Pennington One Step Complete Tall Fescue repairs tall fescue lawns. Premium Smart Seed grass seed, professional-grade fertilizer, and mulch restore dry patches in two weeks or less under ideal growth circumstances.
Weed Control and Fertilization
Late spring broadleaf weed control and tall fescue grass feeding. Apply Pennington UltraGreen Weed & Feed 30-0-4 after grass and weeds are grown. Apply after three mowings of freshly sown grass. Wait three weeks before overseeing after applying.
Water your established grass 1 inch every week, including rainfall. Tall fescue’s deep roots absorb soil moisture. Irrigation deepens roots.
JUNE THROUGH AUGUST
Summer heat and reduced rainfall raise tall fescue’s mowing height to 3–4 inches. Never remove more than one-third of the blade.
Pennington UltraGreen Lawn Fertilizer 30-0-4 feeds tall fescue. Tall fescue uses soil and fertilizers well.
Water as needed so your established lawn gets 1 to 1 1/4 inches of weekly water from irrigation and rainfall combined. To stay green during hot summer months in transition regions, tall fescue lawns require more water than warm-season grasses, such as Bermudagrass and Zoysia grass.
Treat insect pests such as grubs with Sevin Lawn Insect Killer Granules while they’re young and close to the soil surface, before extensive grass damage occurs.
Soil testing determines your lawn’s soil type, pH, and nutrient demands for fertilization. Tall fescue likes pH 5.5–7.5.2. Tests may prescribe lime or other soil amendments for soil pH outside that range.
SEPTEMBER THROUGH NOVEMBER
As temperatures drop, gradually lower tall fescue’s mowing height to 2–3 inches. Keep going north until growth ceases. One last low-setting mow before winter. Continue southern mowing.
Weed Control and Fertilization
Treat broadleaf weeds and prepare your established tall fescue lawn for winter. Apply Pennington UltraGreen Winterizer Plus Weed & Feed Fertilizer 22-0-14 six to eight weeks before your typical first fall frost. If you’re seeding or overseeding thin tall fescue, avoid weed and feed products until spring. Instead, spot-treat lawn weeds and fertilize with Pennington UltraGreen Lawn Fertilizer 30-0-4.
Seeding and Overseeding
Northern and southern tall fescue lawns should be seeded or overseeded early autumn. Plant Pennington Rebels Tall Fescue Grass Seed Blend or Pennington Smart Seed Southern Sun and Shade Seed and Fertilizer. Mix 45 days before the first autumn frost. This establishes tall fescue before winter.
Reduce northern lawn watering to 1 inch every 10–14 days for tall fescue. Keep watering southern tall fescue lawns 1 inch each week.
Aeration and Dethatching
Core-aerate lawns to decrease soil compaction. Aerating tall fescue at peak autumn growth speeds recovery. Bunch-forming tall fescue lawns seldom require dethatching.
Manage fallen leaves by raking or mulching to reduce the risk of winter lawn disease.
DECEMBER THROUGH FEBRUARY
Southern Tall Fescue Lawns
Maintain your tall fescue grass through winter. Mow 2–3 inches. As required, irrigate your tall fescue grass at least 1 inch every week.
Northern Tall Fescue Lawns
Remove winter debris from tall fescue lawns. When soil thaws, clean pet urine and de-icing salts. This makes grass repairs easier.
By giving your lawn a foundation of premium Pennington tall fescue varieties, you can enjoy thicker, lusher, more resilient grass from northern regions to southern transition zones. Pennington has been cultivating the trust of homeowners and lawn professionals for three generations with the finest grass seed possible. With Pennington tall fescue grasses, you benefit from better research, better seed and better results — guaranteed.
What are the cons of tall fescue grass?
Tall fescue has minimal downsides. It’s drought-tolerant but declines after 100 days without water. Brown patch disease affects tall fescue in hot, humid climates.
How hot is too hot for tall fescue?
Root development stops at 77°F. At 90 degrees, grasses cease growing and become dormant, becoming brown.
What type of season is tall fescue?
Established tall fescue thrives at colder soil and air temperatures in late summer through early autumn and early spring. Turf-type tall fescue grows optimally when sown.
Will fescue grow in hot weather?
Cool season grasses like Tall Fescue prefer cooler seasons. Summer requires more care and water.
Why do people not like tall fescue?
It kills dairy cows, beef cows, horses, sheep, goats, birds, grasshoppers, ants, and nematodes. Its aggressiveness and utilization of native biota’s space reduce biodiversity. Cattle consuming tall fescue in summer will become overheated.
What is the problem with tall fescue?
Toxicosis plagues tall fescue. Ergot-alkaloid chemicals from endophyte-infected tall fescue may kill. Cattle are most affected by the toxin in summer.