Blue fescue grass (Festuca glauca) is a colorful ornamental grass with icy blue foliage and pale yellow flowers. It is drought-tolerant and grows in USDA plant hardiness zones 4-8. 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||9-12 in. in high, 6-9 in. spread|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun|
|Soil Type||Dry to medium soils that are well-draining|
|Bloom Time||Early summer|
|Flower Color||Greenish to yellow|
|Hardiness Zones||4-8 (USDA)|
|Native Area||Center and southern Europe|
Blue Fescue Care
The more sun this ornamental grass receives, the more likely it is to achieve its famous blue-gray hue.
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. Also, the plant will die within a few years if it is not lifted and divided.
Blue fescue thrives in full sunlight; it tolerates shade, but will not flower as well in it.
This plant prefers relatively dry soil that is well-draining. It does not tolerate wet, soggy 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 prefers cool summers but does fine in moderately warm conditions, yet 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.
Blue Fescue Varieties
- 'Elijah Blue' has light blue foliage and is the most popular cultivar.
- 'Golden Toupee' features chartreuse leaves.
- 'Boulder Blue' boasts a silver-blue hue.
- '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 and flower heads to encourage a dense, mounded shape. Leaving the flowers 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.
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.
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.)
Pry the plant up out of the ground with a shovel or a garden trowel. Cut the clump in half, prying away any brown sections of each smaller clump. While tempting, do not pull apart the clumps with your hands as this may damage the root structure. Replant the new clumps as new plants, spacing them 8- to 10-inches apart. Cover the root sections with soil. Water regularly.
How to Grow Blue Fescue From Seed
It's easy to grow blue fescue from seed. Start them 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. Blue fescue seeds can also be sown outdoors, directly into the soil, either once the chance of frost has passed or in late summer.
In cold climates, blue fescue grass often turns brown in winter, but many growers leave it standing to help protect the roots from cold. Unless your blue fescue is in a container, you can cover it with a frost blanket or bring it inside; there's really no good way to overwinter this plant.