Festuca

Festuca 'Elijah Blue'

A family of perennial grasses that form low, tufted mounds of fine blue or green leaves. Certain green fescues are often used with other grasses in high-quality lawns.

Family: Poaceae or Gramineae
Botanical Name: Festuca
Common Names: Fescue grass

Foliage: Deciduous or evergreen. Short fine, bluish grey or green grassy foliage.

Flowers: Short spikes of purple or brownish flowers.

Flowering Period: Early to mid summer.

Soil: Moist but well-drained soil (Chalk, sand or loam). Acid, alkaline or neutral pH.

Conditions: Full Sun or partial shade. Plant in any aspect.

Habit: Low growing, tufted.

Type: Perennial or annual.

Origin: Europe and Americas.

Hardiness: Hardy in the UK.

Planting and Growing Festuca

Plant any time from early autumn to mid spring in a sunny position. They prefer a light, moderately fertile, well-drained soil.

Best in full sun but light shade is tolerated. Blue forms may lose colour in shaded conditions.

Most varieties prefer a cool climate. They can tolerate dry conditions and severe frosts but dislike hot humid conditions.

Ornamental forms are useful for rockeries, containers or front of the border, providing good all-year-round foliage interest. Suitable as ground cover and weed control or as low edging. Alternatively they can be dotted among other low growing plants to good effect.

Taking Care of Festuca

In late spring the developing flower heads can be removed if the plants are being used for foliage interest.

Divide clumps every few years to rejuvenate and maintain vigour.

Pruning Festuca

Remove the dead flower spikes and comb through the plant in winter to remove dead foliage. They can also be cut back hard after flowering to tidy up the plant and encourage fresh new growth, if required.

Pests and Diseases

Generally pest free. Can be affected by rust disease.

Propagating Festuca

Divide and replant established clumps from early autumn to mid spring.

Alternatively, sow seeds in late summer in well-prepared light soil. Prick off the seedlings into small groups of three or four once large enough to handle.

Varieties of Festuca

Many good garden varieties are available, varying in size from low growing miniatures, less than 1ft (30cm) tall to medium-sized grasses achieving up to 3ft (90cm) in height.

Festuca amethystina is low-growing tufted ornamental grass with narrow blue-green to grey-blue foliage and purple-flushed summer flower spikes. Height to 2ft (60cm). For sale at Crocus.

Festuca californica (California Fescue) is a semi-evergreen, fountain-like perennial grass with pale green to blue-green leaves. Bears tall elegant flowering stems in spring and early summer. Height to 24in (60 cm).

Festuca glauca (blue fescue) is a popular perennial grass that forms small dense mounds of blue or grey foliage. Height and spread 1ft (30cm). For sale at Van Meuwen. Cultivars include:

  • 'Beyond Blue' is a compact, mound forming, semi-evergreen with intense powder blue foliage that retains its blue colour well over the summer.
  • 'Blue Fescue' is an evergreen, compact clump forming grass with silvery blue leaves. Height 10-12in, spread 12in.
  • 'Blue Fox' has brilliant silver-blue, densely tufted evergreen foliage that forms a neat mound topped by upright flower plumes in summer.
  • 'Elijah Blue' is an evergreen, low growing drought tolerant ground cover grass. Height 4-10in, spread 12in. For sale at Thompson & Morgan.
  • Intense Blue ('Casblue') (PBR) has superb bright blue foliage. Bluish green flower spikes in summer that age to straw. Best in full sun. For sale at Crocus.
  • 'Sunrise' a compact grass that provides a mound of blue-green, arching foliage, bearing attractive red-orange flower stems in summer. The tips of the leaves turn a lovely copper-orange in late autumn.

Festuca idahoensis (Idaho Fescue) is a small, evergreen clumping forming grass with stiff, short, narrow leaves, in attractive blue-green or silver-blue.

Festuca mairei (Atlas Fescue) is a tall evergreen clumping grass that forms fountain-like mounds with a rich khaki green foliage. Height 24-36in (60-90cm).

Festuca ovina 'Sheep's Fescue' evergreen, compact clump forming green grass. Tolerates dry conditions. Height and spread to 12in (30cm).

Festuca punctoria (hedgehog fescue) has rigid blue-green, narrow upward turning leaves.

Festuca rubra (red fescue) produces tufts of arching, narrow, dark green or bluish green leaves. Shade tolerant lawn grass. Height to 18in (45cm).