Blue Fescue Grass (Fusarium oxysporum)
The name “blue” refers to its color and the fact that it looks like a blue sky. Blue fescue grass is one of the most common ornamental grasses found in lawns, gardens, parks, driveways and other areas where there are not many other options available. It grows well in sandy soils with good drainage conditions. It prefers full sun or partial shade.
It requires at least part shade during the winter months.
Blue fescue grass needs to have plenty of room between each blade so it does not become too crowded. If left unattended, it will spread out and eventually grow into a large clump. You may want to divide your blue fescue grass if you don’t see any improvement after several years of growth.
Blue fescue grass is drought tolerant and tolerates dry conditions. However, it does not tolerate extreme heat or cold well. It is best grown in locations where they do not get hot temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit year round. They are especially sensitive to frost damage when growing in soil that freezes over during the winter months.
Blue Fescue Care
When caring for your blue fescue grass, the following tips can help improve its health and appearance:
Soil – Blue fescue requires sandy or loamy soil that is not too rich in nutrients. This type of soil allows the plant to have good water drainage and helps prevent it from developing root rot or other fungal diseases. This grass tends to do better in raised beds where water will drain through more quickly.
Water – For the first few weeks, water your blue fescue grass daily to keep the soil consistently moist. Once it is established, reduce watering to 2-3 times a week during warm and dry spells. Always water deeply until the water comes out of the bottom of the plant container.
Mowing – During its active growth period (spring through early fall), blue fescue grass should be mowed on a regular basis to prevent it from growing too long. This can be anything from 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5 cm). It is a good idea to mow often because the tips of the blades turn brown when it gets too long.
Avoid cutting off more than one third of the blade at one time.
Weed Control – Blue fescue grass does not have very many natural enemies and it has a hard time competing with other plants for nutrients, water and sunlight. To help keep your blue fescue healthy, it is best to plan your garden so there are not a lot of other plants competing with it. You can also keep weeds from going to seed in your garden area. If you do have weeds, keep them pulled before they go to seed.
Other Care – Blue fescue grass does not require any special care other than what is mentioned in the previous sections of this article.
Blue Fescue Grasses for Specific Landscapes
Blue fescue grasses can be used to create an interesting landscape design in a variety of ways. Some of these are:
Emphasis Feature – Blue fescues can be used as the main feature of your yard. Large blocks of grass can be used to create a soft and natural looking area.
Ground Cover – Blue fescues can be used to cover large areas of difficult terrain such as rocky soil, steep hillsides or a large expanse of bare dirt. These types of grasses grow low to the ground and spread themselves through underground runners. They will grow right up against the base of larger trees and other plants without harming them.
Filler – Blue fescues can be used to fill in bare spots in your yard. These hardy grasses can take the place of weeds and will prevent other types of grass from growing in that area.
Edging – Blue fescues can be used as an edging for flower beds or around outdoor structures. The soft blue-green color of the blades look nice next to the flowers or around buildings that have a lot of wood.
Outer Border – A row of blue fescue grasses make a nice outer border for your flower and vegetable gardens. They can prevent the seeds from weeds in the neighboring area from blowing or flowing into your garden.
Small Shrubs – Lay small mounds of soil around small shrubs to help them keep moisture and to prevent weeds from stealing nutrients and water. After a few years the shrubs will send out roots through the soil mounds making them much more stable.
Perennial Flowers – Blue fescues can be used to carpet over areas where you would like to grow wildflowers or other low growing perennials. Depending on the area you live in, these wildflowers can include: Black-eyed Susan’s, Buttercup, daisies and many others. When the flowers bloom their seeds will fall on the grass and help it to spread.
Obstacles – Blue fescues can be grown in large blocks to help prevent erosion in steep hillside or along a shoreline. They can also be used in wet areas where other types of grass will not grow well.
Using Blue Fescue Grass with Other Plants
Blue fescue grass is used most often as a single plant in garden designs. It can be combined with other plants, but is most often used on its own. It does well with hostas and other shade loving plants.
To maintain a soft landscape look you may want to choose low growing flowers to place among the grasses. Some good choices for this type of area include: Lungwort, Toadflax, Lily Of The Valley, and Trout Lillies. These types of flowers will need to be planted on the edges or along the top of the grass where they will receive plenty of sunlight. Do not plant them under the shade of the blue fescues as they need at least 5 to 6 hours of direct sunlight a day.
If you are planting a wildflower garden blue fescue grass can be used as a carpet to help stabilize the soil and prevent weed growth. After a few years the wildflowers will take over and the blue fescues will blend in as they spread. At this point you can plant more wildflower seeds among the grass to give the impression of a meadow.
Pruning Requirements for Blue Fescue Grass
Pruning is not usually required for this type of grass. It has a nice compact shape and does not get out of hand even in areas where it is not mowed. You may want to remove flowering stems in mid to late summer just before they begin to bloom. This is so they will have energy to produce a nice full canopy the following year.
It is usually best to cut them back with scissors or a small pruning shear. If you have a large area to care for and feel that this is going to be too tedious a job you can also use a lawn mower. Set the height at about 2″ and mow across the top of the plants. Do not mow down into the plants or you may damage or kill them.
If done multiple times a year this method can keep the grasses short and full but it should only be used as a last resort.
Helpful Tips for Growing Blue Fescue Grass
Blue Fescue Grass is very easy to plant. You can plant it from seed or sod. If you are using seed you will need to stratify the seeds before planting. This can be done by placing the seed in some moist sand and refrigerating it for 30 days.
Plant the seed about ½ inch deep in a prepared bed in the early spring. Lightly water it in and keep the soil moist but not soggy until the seed has sprouted.
Sod is an easier way to go if you don’t want to bother with seeding. It is also quicker to establish and will help prevent weeds in the beginning. To plant sod lay it out in a straight line and lightly water it in. Cutting or tearing the sod before laying it can help with this process.
Keep the soil moist but not soggy for about a week until it is well rooted.
Companion Planting for Blue Fescue Grass
Blue fescue grass does well as a companion plant in most gardens. It can even be mixed in with other grass types such as Rye Grass. A good companion to mix in among the flowers and around the foundation of your home is Thyme. This will give it a nice cottage type look and repel common garden insects such as ants, ticks, and fleas.
Another great option to mix in with the flowers to reduce garden maintenance is Carpet Daisies. They look similar to the daisies you might have in a garden bed but they have a finer texture and do not grow as large. The common name for this plant comes from their tendency to spread quickly and easily and can become invasive in some areas. This spreading habit can be a problem in some gardens but it will help keep the grass shorter and prevent weeds from taking hold.
Things to Avoid when Growing Blue Fescue Grass
Blue Fescue Grass should not be grown near a garden that contains Beans, Peas, or members of the Lily Family (Lilies). These plants all contain certain substances that are toxic to blue fescue and can cause leaf spot or even death to these grasses. If you are not sure if a certain plant is in this family it would be best to not plant it near your fescue.
This grass also should not be planted where Kentucky Bluegrass or Hard Fescue resides. It will slowly replace the hardier types and make them weaker over time. This can actually help you get rid of the other types but they should really be replaced with another type of fescue anyway.
Companion planting can also help with keeping your blue fescue looking great and free of weeds. Marigolds actually have a natural tendency to keep most garden weeds from growing in their vicinity. Planting them among your grass can help repel the common weeds such as dandelions and plantain. This is a great way to reduce weeding and still have a lovely lawn.
Common Blue Fescue Grass Problems
Blue Fescue Grass is not prone to many diseases or insects but it can fall prey.
Aphids are tiny little insects that can transmit a virus causing your grass to turn a brownish color and die. Spider mites can also infest your lawn and cause the leaves of your fescue to curl up tightly and spin webs over them. This can also be caused by a fungus or even from dry soil.
All of these problems are usually caused by conditions and not diseases. Keeping your grass healthy and watered should prevent most problems.
Using Fertilizer and the Right Tools
Fertilizing blue fescue grass can help keep it green and lush looking all year. Nitrogen is a key factor in keeping the grass green so look for a fertilizer that has a high first number. A 20-10-20 is a good all purpose fertilizer that will work well.
Using the right tools when mowing also helps keep from damaging the grass. A sharp blade not only cuts the grass cleanly but also helps prevent the grass from absorbing moisture out of the clippings when you are done. This is very important with fescue since it easily gets thatch buildup if the clippings are left to sit and rot.
If you follow these tips for caring for your fescue grass it should thrive and look great. Just remember, when in doubt, ask an expert at your local garden center for their advice.
Thanks for reading and check out these other lawn care articles. How to Kill Crabgrass
Are You Keeping Up With Your Lawn Care?
What is the Best Way to Kill Grass in the Fall?
Sources & references used in this article:
Taylor’s Guide to Ornamental Grasses by R Holmes – 1997 – books.google.com
Ornamental Grasses for Western Gardens by M Raff – 2005 – books.google.com
Ornamental grasses by CC Burrell – Landscape Architecture, 2000 – ccolstonburrell.com