Tall fescue vs fine fescue is a challenging comparison as they are similar grasses. You will be surprised to find major differences in the appearance and lawn care for both these grasses.

Comparing Tall Fescue and Fine Fescue

This article aims to highlight all these major differences and discuss the pros and cons of each grass.

Please go through it to make an informed decision for your lawn regarding the fescues.

Tall Fescue Fine Fescue
Scientific Name Festuca arundinacea
The Leaf Blade Looks Like
  • Darker green colored grass
  • Elongate leaf blades that are board and flat
  • The leaf blades are a little smooth on one side and rough on the other.
  • Dark gray-green in color
  • Narrower and spikier leaf blades
Leaf Texture It is coarse-textured It is fine-textured
Ability To Withstand Foot Traffic It has the best traffic tolerance Can tolerate only a moderate level of foot traffic
Water Requirements At least one-inch per week.

Can tolerate moist soil

Less than one inch per week

Cannot tolerate moist soil

Soil Requirements Rich in nutrients, higher clay content, compact, moist Nutrient-poor, sandy, loose, well-aerated
Soil pH 5.5 to 7.5 6.0 to 6.5

What Are The Key Differences Between Tall Fescue vs Fine Fescue?

Tall fescue lawns need compact, rich, and moist soil, while fine-type fescues like sandy and well-draining soil. On the other hand, tall fescue is also rough in texture and has broader leaf blades. There are four subtypes of fine fescue, all of which have a lower tolerance for foot traffic.

Defining Characteristics of Tall Fescue

The characteristic that defines tall fescue is that it has darker foliage and extensive watering requirements. Moreover, it can tolerate both cool and hot weathers, in addition, it has an excellent foot trafficking tolerance, but it has a weakness when competing with weeds. 

On another note, it is simple to say that this variety is one that has excellent tolerance for shade, foot traffic, and drought. This grass cannot be grown in the hotter and southern states of the US and does not require frequent mowing sessions.

– Extensive Watering

Lawn and turf-type tall fescue grass establish an extensive system of roots soon after germination. It has minimum water requirements of about one inch per week and can successfully tolerate conditions of both overwatering and drought.

– Darker Foliage

The tall type has a darker green shade and long, flat-leaf blades. It is coarse grass that feels prickly when touched or walked upon, which is why it has a harder covering, but it is not fragile, which why stepping on it is often recommended. On a closer look at the leaf blades, one side is always uncreased than the others would have, which means that the texture is smooth.

– A Cool-Season Grass That Can Tolerate Hot Weather

Tall fescue grows best in the northern, colder states as cool-season grass, and this where it is mostly used. It faces two growth spurts throughout the year; one in spring and one in late fall. However, it can tolerate temperatures up to 75 degrees as well. 

This means the lawn stays green all through moderate summers, provided the temperatures do not exceed 75 degrees. It owes this property to its long and extensive root system and drought resistance. 

– Excellent Foot Traffic Tolerance

This lawn grass will spring back without damage even after extensive use. That is why you see it growing everywhere in the northern states. It is the best grass for highly used areas like playgrounds, parks, sports grounds, and residential lawns. 

It was named tall because this is one of the few types of grass that can be mowed taller than three inches. Even then, it can withstand foot traffic and repair bent blades rapidly.

Tall fescue lawns are best for families with kids and pets, as they would spend time and have fun, whether they would be running or even have a picnic this is a great place where thee grass will not be fragile.

If you like spending time with friends on the lawn playing football and barbecuing, this is the ideal grass for you. It has one of the best traffic tolerance among most cold-season grasses and does not get damaged easily.

– Poor At Competing With Weed

This grass is not good at protecting against invasive weed species. It has a climbing growth habit whereby it grows in clumps that tend to grow taller. This is not one of those spreading types of grasses, and it is natural for empty patches to form within it. Which means that you cannot have weeds shooting next to it, because simply, it is not tolerant of them. 

Poor At Competing With Weed

Weeds are quick to take this opportunity and establish themselves in the spots. Continual weed eradication is important to growing this grass on the lawn. You will also have to overseed the lawn every fall with fresh fescue grass seeds to fill up the bare patches growing in the middle of it.

Defining Characteristics of Fine Fescue

The fine fescue has been defined by having several types of varieties, and it is one that needs low fertilization. Moreover, the leaves that tit shoots are narrow, and it doesn’t require much watering. However, remember that it is easy to catch a disease, and not tolerant to foot traffic. 

These four types of grasses are very fine in texture with excellent drought and shade tolerance. These are economical grass varieties for colder regions to plant and maintain.

– There Are Several Types Of Fine Fescue

There are a lot of subtypes of the good type of fine fescue grasses. All of these look more or less the same but differ slightly in their care requirements. Which means that the variety that this grass has broadened their group. 

For instance, there are the hard fescue which are a sub-type that prefers growing in the cold but drier climates and cannot tolerate moist soils. Its color leans towards gray-green rather than dark green. Refrain from being confused by its name; this variety is soft and fine on the touch.

In addition, the chewings fescue is more prevalent among the northern and central US states. It has the characteristic appearance and texture of fine-type fescue. Its relatively lower tolerance for shade daily and a preference for drier soil sets it apart.

At the same time you also have the creeping red fescue which is known to be one of the most popular finer fescue and has the best tolerance for cold. It is an exception in several ways, as it has a creeping growth habit and prefers growing under shade conditions. It is better suited to the north-eastern US near Canada because its heat tolerance is very low.

Lastly, there even exists the sheep fescue which is the most low-maintenance sub-type that can grow successfully anywhere. It is a very densely growing, blue-green tufted fescue that is often grown as fodder for livestock.

– Low Fertilization Needs

This is one of those rare grasses that do well with being fertilized just once per year. You can only fertilize this grass in spring or fall with a nitrogen-rich fertilizer. Which means that you must complete the step where you dilute the liquid fertilizer to half its original concentration, or else it will be subjects to different types of hardships. 

– Narrow Leaves

A fine type of fescue has several varieties that all differ from each other in minute aspects. Generally, its grass blades are narrower and stiffer than tall types, and this is what makes it unique. Still, the overall texture of this grass is finer to the touch, just like its name suggests.

Although grass is usually known to be light green but the fine types appear slightly darker due to their leaf shape, which makes it seem a bit darker in shade.

– Low Water Needs

Fine fescue lawn care demands that it be given the minimum possible amount of water. Just half an inch of water every seven to ten days suffice. Remember that it is a cool-season grass, and the water takes time to evaporate. This is a grass that prefers conditions of drought over being overwatered.

Take care that its soil is sandy and stays dry most of the time, especially when grown under shade.

Low Water Needs for Grass

Basically the fine fescues have slightly different water requirements comparatively, because they would survive better when their irrigation is not overly done, neither is it lacking.

This shows how they are more drought-tolerant and will stay green for longer periods without water. Their tolerance for overwatering and moist soils could be better, though. They are easily susceptible to rot and other diseases when overwatered which means that you have to dry the overwatered soil out.

– Succumbs Easily To Diseases

These are rather fine types of fescues and succumb easily to infections and pest attacks, and this is one of their characteristics. When overwatered for several weeks, they will start suffering from root rot, which is a common disease where the roots start to develop fungi. Other common grass diseases to look out for are leaf spots, powdery mildew, and dollar spot. 

– Not That Tolerant Of Traffic

Being so fine in nature means that this grass is not forgiving of being trampled upon. Only a moderate amount of foot traffic is suitable for all fine types of fescues. Do not worry; you can plant this grass in your yard and turf. Keep it mowed to the perfect height, and do not drag heavy objects over it. 

The fine types of fescue grasses have slightly lesser tolerance for constant traffic. They are better suited to lawns and turfs that are used only moderately. You can plant them in shaded areas where they survive better than the taller variety.


We have discussed all the important aspects in which these two fescue varieties differ. You now know how to distinguish them by their texture and blade shape. You can try and invest in the tall version of it, if you have a house that is more prone to sunlight, in addition to having pets or even children and you would wish to set a playground for them to play on. 

On the other hand, if your lawn is made of sandy soil that is mostly shaded, then any fine fescue will suit it best. If you want tougher grass that can withstand foot traffic, go for tall fescue instead. However, as mentioned, be mindful about its watering schedule, because you do not wish to cause any root rot. 

5/5 - (5 votes)