Grasses like Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis) and fescue (Festuca spp.) prefer temperatures between 65 and 75°F. Tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea), red fescue (Festuca Rubra), and hard fescue (Festuca longifolia) are turf-type tall fescue that is foot traffic tolerant better than other common grasses.
Heat-tolerant Kentucky Bluegrass goes dormant in hot weather. As a result, it requires more nitrogen fertilizer than Tall fescue. In hot weather, it is prone to weed development. Tall fescue is excellent, but it does not fill in bare patches and requires overseeding.
Tall Fescue and Bluegrass are preferred lawn grasses in cooler climates. In our guide, you can learn more about the differences between Kentucky Bluegrass and Tall Fescue.
By the end, you’ll have enough information on how to choose between Tall Fescue, Kentucky Bluegrass, or even if either isn’t suitable for your area. If you live in the right USDA zones, you can find either grass, a suitable choice for a fantastic cool-season grass lawn.
Differences For Kentucky Bluegrass Vs. Tall Fescue?
Tall fescue and Kentucky bluegrass have a few distinct characteristics. Therefore, it’s crucial to understand how these two grass varieties are similar and how they differ before making your decision. (Learn How To Get Bermuda Grass To Spread)
Tall Fescue Grass
Although newer forms have improved heat tolerance, tall fescue is a cool-season grass. Therefore, it thrives in the northern and transitional zones.
Tall fescue is one of the best cool-season grasses for lawns. Festuca arundinacea is its scientific name. Its origins are in Asia, but it has now spread to Europe and North America. It has a gritty texture and is medium to dark green in hue. It has an extensive fibrous root system and produces sods via rhizomes. It forms bunches as it grows. It thrives in shaded places and damp soil.
It has rolling vernation and pointy tips, which are its distinguishing characteristics. The underside of its leaves is smooth and lustrous, while the upper surface features ribs that give it a drab appearance. It has a 3 to 4-inch tall stem with a nodding panicle.
The transition zone stretches over North America’s center. This is the meeting point of the northern and southern regions.
Tall fescue grass forms clumps. Because it lacks self-repair, it must be handled more tenderly than other grass kinds. Tall fescue thrives in the shadow because it is cool-weather grass.
Tall fescue thrives in the weather months of the year, such as the spring and fall.
Turf-type tall fescue is popular among gardeners because it is simple to grow and has deep roots that can reach depths of 2-3 feet!
This helps the grass be more drought-tolerant and thrive in the mild heat of summer. In addition, tall fescue requires little water to keep a lush green lawn because of its deep roots.
Tall fescue grass is a European grass that became popular in America when it was trendy to have a lush green lawn.
Kentucky bluegrass is a cool-season grass that thrives in the Central and northern parts of the country. It is a favorite among northern homeowners because of its capacity to tolerate cold weather.
Some cultivars of the grass species are more resistant to heat and drought tolerant than others. Although it can cope with a certain amount, Kentucky bluegrass prefers the sun and does not possess too much shade tolerance.
Kentucky bluegrass did not originate in Kentucky and was introduced from Europe and Northern Asia to spread to the United States. Kentucky bluegrass, often known as KBG, was predominantly used as a pasture grass in states such as Kentucky.
Kentucky bluegrass can withstand heavy foot traffic and self-repairs, and because of this, KBG is frequently often used in a seed mix for athletic grounds.
Kentucky bluegrass has a shallow root system, and the Kentucky Bluegrass rhizomes spread across the soil’s surface.
It has 6 to 12 inches long, velvety, boat-shaped leaves. If not mowed regularly, the stems can grow 12 to 24 inches long; however, they usually only reach 4 to 6 inches. (Find the Fastest Growing Grass Seed)
Comparison of Kentucky Bluegrass & Turf Type Tall Fescue
The turf-type Tall fescue vs. Kentucky Bluegrass, and you’ll see they are very different grasses, even though they appear to be identical. The only thing they have in common is that they are both cool-season grasses that thrive in the northern areas of the United States.
Here are some more distinctions between tall fescue and
Kentucky Bluegrass turf types.
The fertilizer requirements of both Tall fescue and Bluegrass are different.
Tall fescue usually requires less fertilizer than Kentucky Bluegrass. One pound of nitrogen fertilizer is needed per 1000 square feet of lawn. However, a soil test using a soil test kit is strongly suggested to determine which nutrient is low in the soil.
For 1000 square feet of lawn, Kentucky Bluegrass requires 3 to 6 lbs. of nitrogen fertilizer.
Tall fescue and Kentucky Bluegrass are cool-season grasses, but their weather preferences vary slightly.
Tall fescue thrives in the shade, and not that it won’t suffer in the heat. To thrive, it requires 4 hours of direct sunlight per day. So, it thrives in regions with plenty of shade from trees but can resist heat and drought.
In the winter, the Kentucky Bluegrass prefers full sun. It requires 8 hours of direct sunlight to grow. It’s not the best grass suited to hot summer months because the season encourages dormancy. However, with adequate watering, thick Kentucky Bluegrass regains its strength.
Kentucky Bluegrass takes on an emerald, blue, and richly green in full growth. Even when walking on bare feet, its fine texture provides a sense of freshness thanks to the smooth blades with pointy ends.
Tall fescue is medium to dark green grass. It has a rough roughness to it. It’s a grass that grows vertically and in bunches. Its leaves feature-length veins on the upper side and a shiny flat surface on the underside, giving it a drab appearance.
Kentucky Bluegrass and Tall Fescue require different amounts of water depending on the weather in the transition zones where these grass types thrive.
Both varieties of grasses require 1 to 1 1/4 inches of water per week to thrive. However, tall fescue has an extensive fibrous root system that absorbs water from the soil. This trait allows it to thrive even during extreme heat.
The Kentucky Bluegrass requires two inches of water every week to thrive. However, it requires 2 1/2 inches of water and goes dormant in hot weather during the summer. But, with enough water, it comes back to life. If your lawn’s soil is sandy, it requires 1/2 inches of water every third day.
Tall fescue grows as a bunch type grass with deep roots, which is why it can withstand a lot of foot activity. However, it can not fill bare patches due to bunch-type growth. Reseeding is essential for this reason. Ideally, it should be planted in parks and sports patches where frequent mowing is unnecessary.
While Kentucky Bluegrass sod can endure a lot of traffic, its growth habit means it spreads quickly with horizontal stems and fills bare patches on its own.
The Kentucky Bluegrass thrives in well-drained soil and can thrive in sandy conditions. It has a shallow root system extending across the ground in a network. To avoid thatch, it requires mowing, and, unlike tall fescue, Kentucky Bluegrass is sensitive to fungus attacks because of the growth of sod. (Learn How To Reseed A Patchy Lawn)
Tall fescue grass type thrives in clay and alkaline soils with its extensive root system. The deep root system accesses water and nutrients from deeper soil layers as the grass species grows.
Weed and Disease Resistance
A Kentucky Bluegrass lawn thrives in cooler climates in the northern United States. It prefers full sun and shows peak growth in the spring and fall. It is, however, more susceptible to illnesses and weed invasion during the hot summer months. Kentucky Bluegrass grows, needing at least 8 hours of direct sunlight to thrive.
The turf-type Tall Fescue is a shade-loving grass and thrives in the north and south of the United States. To survive, it requires 4 hours of direct sunlight per day, and you’ll find the turf type Tall Fescue is a disease and weed-resistant.
Can You Mix Tall Fescue And Bluegrass?
Many gardeners want to know if both Kentucky Bluegrass and Tall fescue can be mixed. You can mix the grass seed to get a uniform grass establishment at the following ratio.
Mix Kentucky Bluegrass seeds at 5 to 10% and tall fescue grass seed at 90 to 95%.
The rationale for this blend ratio is that it will not blend correctly if mixed in a half-and-half ratio, or you can add perennial ryegrass to the mix because of the wide blades and vertical growth.
If you need to cover bare patches, you can’t choose Tall Fescue. Kentucky Bluegrass spreads and thus can take care of this. Besides this, Kentucky Bluegrass spreads swiftly and can encroach on your flower beds and thus needs more maintenance.
Now, you might wonder which is better, and the short answer is, the Kentucky Bluegrass and Tall fescue grows as cool-season grasses in the northern regions of the United States.
Pros of Kentucky Bluegrass
- Spreads using rhizomes and covers bare patches
- Thrives in extremely cold areas of the United States.
- It tolerates foot traffic.
Cons Of Kentucky Bluegrass
- Needs more nitrogen fertilizer compared to Tall fescue.
- Due to sod formation, it even spreads in areas where it is not intended to reach.
- In hot summers, it goes dormant.
- It is susceptible to diseases and weeds invasion in hot weather.
Pros Of Tall Fescue
- It thrives well in the northern and southern regions of the United States.
- It tolerates foot traffic more than Bluegrass.
- It is shade tolerant.
- It is heat tolerant, plus weeds, and disease resistant.
- It doesn’t go dormant in the hot weather.
- It need 1 lb. nitrogen fertilizer per 1000 sq ft of lawn.
Cons Of Tall Fescue
Tall fescue’s only drawback is that its vertical bunched-type growth and strong roots prevent it from filling in barren parts of your lawn.
Which Is Better, Kentucky Bluegrass Or Fescue?
It all relies on your surroundings, local soil, and how you use your grass. Because of its extensive root structure, tall fescue, for example, is more heat resistant in a hot, dry climate.
Fescue grows well in both the shade and the sun, but Kentucky bluegrass prefers full sun.
Because of its shallow root structure, Kentucky bluegrass will require more irrigation, and tall fescue and Kentucky bluegrass have distinct fertilizer requirements.
Kentucky bluegrass needs 3 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet, which equals more frequent mowing.