Blue fescue grass (Festuca glauca) is a colorful ornamental grass with silvery blue foliage and pale green flowers that turn buff-colored as they mature. It is drought tolerant and grows in USDA plant hardiness zones 4 to 8. Gardeners like its ease of care and its fine texture, which makes it a good companion plant for heavier or more dramatic plantings. Unlike some other plants grown as ornamental grasses, F. glauca is a fast-growing, true perennial, a member of the Poaceae family.
Growing to heights of up to 12 inches, blue fescue is a showy grass that's different, however, from the tall fescues typically used in turf lawn mixtures. It's best to plant blue fescue seed in the early spring or late summer.
|Botanical Name||Festuca glauca|
|Common Name||Blue fescue, blue fescue grass|
|Plant Type||Perennial, grass|
|Mature Size||6-12 in. in high, 6-18 in. spread|
|Sun Exposure||Full, part|
|Soil Type||Moist, well-draining|
|Soil pH||Neutral, acidic, alkaline|
|Flower Color||Green, yellow|
|Hardiness Zones||4-8 (USDA)|
Blue Fescue Care
Blue fescue can be relatively maintenance-free by following a few key steps. Mulching with a 3-inch layer of bark mulch or other organic material is advisable, especially when fostering the growth of young plants. Mulch helps to conserve moisture in the soil and suppress weed growth. It eventually decomposes and releases nutrients into the soil (at which time you can replace the old mulch with a new batch).
There are few pest and disease problems with blue fescue. You will need to divide the plant every two to three years, as the plant will die in the center within a few years if it is not lifted and divided. Division helps keep the plant healthy, while providing more plants for your garden.
Blue fescue thrives in full sunlight; it tolerates part-shade but will not flower as well in it, and the foliage tends toward green instead of slate-blue. The more sun this ornamental grass receives, the more likely it is to achieve its famous blue-gray hue.
This plant prefers relatively consistently moist soil that is well-draining. It does not tolerate wet, soggy conditions. However, mature plants can withstand drought conditions.
This plant has average moisture needs. Water weekly during hot summer months to keep it green and growing; short periods of drought will stunt, but not kill the plant.
Temperature and Humidity
Blue fescue is a cool-season plant and prefers the cool temperatures of spring and fall. It grows fine in summers with moderately warm conditions, but blistering heat and high humidity will cause the foliage to die back and may shorten the lifespan of this perennial.
Compost applied around the plant as mulch provides all the feeding that blue fescue requires.
Types of Blue Fescue
- 'Elijah Blue' has light blue foliage and is the most popular cultivar.
- 'Golden Toupee' features chartreuse leaves.
- 'Boulder Blue' boasts a silver-blue hue and tolerates higher heat and humidity.
- 'Blaufink' offers compact features and a fine texture.
- 'Tom Thumb' grows to be only about 4 inches tall.
- 'Harz' displays an olive-green color, with a hint of purple at times.
Cut back the foliage in early spring to within a few inches of the ground. This will help make room for the new grass blades and will improve the look of the plant.
To keep the foliage looking good, remove dead blades of grass. The flowers add movement to the garden, and the seed heads provide winter interest. Leaving the seed heads may cause the plant to self-seed; this can be fine if it's located where you want it to spread but will require culling if you want to keep it confined.
Propagating Blue Fescue
One of the best ways to propagate blue fescue is through division. (Blue fescue rarely lives past three to five years unless it is divided, so this is a must-do.) Here's how:
- Pry the plant up out of the ground with a shovel or a garden trowel.
- Cut the clump in half using a spade or pruners. Remove any brown sections. While tempting, do not pull apart the clump with your hands as this may damage the root structure.
- Replant the clump sections as new plants, spacing them 8 to 10 inches apart.
- Cover the roots with soil. Water deeply right after planting and continue to water regularly until you see new growth.
How to Grow Blue Fescue From Seed
It's easy to grow blue fescue from seed. Start seeds indoors in late winter, in peat pots filled with seed-starting mix. Three seeds per pot are all you need, lightly covering with the selected soil and keeping them moist till they're ready to go outside. Make sure to harden off seedlings before planting in the garden. Blue fescue seeds can also be sown outdoors, directly into the soil, either once the chance of frost has passed or in late summer.
Fescue is a cool-season grass that is hardy to USDA zone 4. No special steps are required for overwintering. In cold climates, the grass turns brown in the winter, which is part of the natural dormancy process.
Aphids can be a problem with blue fescue. A blast of water can wash them away, but tougher infestations can be remedied with horticultural oil or insecticidal soaps.
Common Problems With Blue Fescue
Gardeners in warm climates may experience a different problem with blue fescue: above-ground growth may die back during the summer, due to excessive heat and humidity. When this happens, give the plant a "haircut," since its appearance is temporarily spoiled anyway. In many cases, the plant will recover when more moderate weather returns.
What are alternatives to blue fescue?
Though blue fescue is famous for that silvery-blue hue, other ornamental grasses can add pizzazz to your landscape. Some of the common grasses include Japanese forest grass, zebra grass, purple fountain grass, and blue oat grass.
Can blue fescue grow indoors?
Though it can be started indoors, it will eventually need to move to an outdoor space, as it needs a lot of space to grow properly.
What is the difference between blue fescue and Kentucky bluegrass?
Blue fescue is an ornamental grass. Fescue is the grass most often mistaken for Kentucky bluegrass. The difference lies in the root system. While fescue grows with clumping roots, Kentucky bluegrass grows via rhizomes.
Ornamental Grasses. University of Illinois Extension.