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Kentucky bluegrass vs. Tall Fescue

by Jackson White

You are likely thinking about getting a good grass for your lawn, but might be unsure of where to start. There are many grasses to choose from when you want a good grass for your lawn space, and the most common choices tend to lean towards getting Tall Fescue or Kentucky bluegrass – but what is the difference between the two?

When it comes to comparing Kentucky bluegrass and Tall fescue, these are among the most common choices for lawns throughout the U.S. In many ways, they prove to be among the best grasses for this purpose, as they are hardy and can tolerate a variety of conditions while remaining attractive. Compared to other grasses that are more sensitive, these two types prove to be a true investment for many homeowners today.

However, it is easy to confuse both of them, because they seem to be very similar on the surface – even though they are quite different. Both of them are cool season grasses, which mean that they will grow best when the temperatures are between 65 to 75OF.

What is Kentucky bluegrass?

This grass type was once seen as the most popular grass in neighborhood lawns, mainly because it has a cool green color, and creates a thick, soft turf that feels like a carpet. They are slower in their growth time compared to fescue, although they create a very thick layer on the ground.

They spread through rhizomes, which are underground stems. These rhizomes are very flexible, and they will move into areas where heavy traffic has damaged the grass cover, which will remove the cost of reseeding the grass. This means they are higher in resistance to foot traffic compared to certain fescue types, especially red and hard fescues.

Despite its many advantages, it does have some problems that are associated with it.

  • Bluegrass generally does not perform well in the shade, so you need to remember this as you plant it. It will also need some extra water supply, about 1 to 1.5 inches every week, aside from rainfall.
  • The grass is quite sensitive to environmental conditions, and requires frequent fertilization with potassium and nitrogen in order to thrive. In fact, you will need to ‘feed’ the grass every 5 or 6 weeks during the growing season, either through the use of fertilizer or the grass clippings.
  • You also need to keep in mind that Kentucky bluegrass is vulnerable to a variety of turf diseases, especially those that occur during the summer and spring months. These diseases include brown patch, dollar spots, and leaf spots. These diseases can result in major damage to the turf, and you cannot control them easily because of their fungal nature.

These factors make Kentucky bluegrass to be a risky choice, unless you commit closely to its upkeep and making sure that you do not neglect it.

What are fescue grasses?

The fescue grasses are distinctly different from bluegrass grasses. Also known as TTTF (Turf-Type Tall Fescue), they might not have the distinct hues of Kentucky bluegrass, they have many more advantages. They will work for you if you are willing to sacrifice the density and color of bluegrass, and if you are willing to do reseeding work when you want to repair any damaged areas.

Fescue grasses do not need nitrogen fertilizer as much, which makes them a good choice if you have a large turf. They will also not need as much water in order to maintain their original color, and they are not as vulnerable to as many diseases as the bluegrass is.

Generally in terms of foot traffic, fescue grasses can tolerate it, although you will need to reseed them after they suffer damage because they cannot spread on their own. The tall fescue grass is better at handling traffic compared to other fescue grasses, but you will need to monitor them over time due to their fine blades.

The major advantage of tall fescue is its tolerance to both summer heat and winter conditions, and has better resistance to environmental conditions compared to bluegrass. As a general rule, it is the best grass for shady conditions. It also establishes quite fast, and this leads many lawn owners to plant it around camps, resorts, and cabins that are located in cool sites such as the mountains.

Its resistance to various conditions does not mean it does not have any vulnerability though. Its strength mostly comes from its beneficial fungi, which live in its structures, and increase its resistance to insects. However, it is still vulnerable to brown patch, which is a fungal disease that affects both fescue and bluegrass grasses.


What are the differences between tall fescue and Kentucky bluegrass?

Kentucky bluegrass
  • Recovers from damage very fast
  • Can create thick carpets of turf
  • Needs more upkeep in terms of watering and general maintenance
  • Vulnerable to diseases and tough environmental conditions
Tall fescue
  • Resistant to traffic, most insects, pests and diseases
  • Does not need as much water or sunlight
  • Very easy to maintain
  • Vulnerable to brown patch
  • Has issues when recovering from damage



According to the comparison of the two, the fescue grasses are the best choice overall due to their resistance to diseases and environmental changes, as well as not being very intensive to maintain.

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