Tall Fescue vs Kentucky Bluegrass

When it comes to creating your dream garden, choosing the correct species of grass is paramount.

With many types available you will need to consider the environment and climate where you live to assess which grass type is more suited to the space that you have available.

Tall fescue and Kentucky bluegrass are commonly sought after due to their commercial availability and ability to cope well in different climates.

However, many distinguishable factors make each species better suited to different gardens and yards.

What is Tall Fescue?

Tall fescue as it is most commonly known is a cool-season perennial species of grass that is found throughout Europe in particular. It is commonly sought after as a decorative grass that is used for lawns in gardens.

This species of grass has greater resistance towards the heat than many other species of cool grass and is tolerant to colder temperatures too. Ultimately, tall fescue is a great year-round option.


Now when it comes to the appearance of tall fescue, it is known to grow in bunches with a thin blade.

Taking one to three weeks maximum to germinate, tall fescue grows best when it is planted in the shade, although it copes in the heat and is highly likely to withstand the conditions following a period of drought.

What is Kentucky Bluegrass?

Kentucky bluegrass is a smooth meadow, cool-season species of grass that can be found throughout Europe, North Asia, and the mountains of Morocco and Algeria in particular. 

Kentucky bluegrass has seedhead stems that resemble the shape of a pyramid. These seed head stems are known to produce millions of seeds per pound.

Soft to the touch, Kentucky bluegrass appears particularly plentiful during the cooler seasons where they regain their fresh green leaves and color.

While it may not be the most practical choice for heavily textured, insufficiently drained soils, Kentucky bluegrass develops well in fertile, sufficiently drained grounds, taking only 14 to 30 days to germinate. 

What are the differences between Tall Fescue and Kentucky bluegrass?

  • The appearance - The most prominent difference to be identified between both species of grass is their appearance. While they are both species of cool-season grass, there are some noticeable differences in the look of both tall fescue and Kentucky bluegrass once they have grown. The most significant difference to note is their texture. The leaves of Kentucky bluegrass are smooth and soft to touch while the leaves of tall fescue are ribbed on the surface and smooth underneath.  

    Additionally, tall fescue grows in the form of bunches with sods while Kentucky    Bluegrass is more likely to spread forming denser sods. 
  • The amount of water required - Kentucky bluegrass requires a significant amount of water when compared to tall fescue. While the latter copes particularly well when watered once a week, Kentucky Bluegrass needs double the amount of water to grow to its full potential. 

  • The conditions in which they grow - Tall fescue is deemed to be a particularly hardy species of grass, despite being a cool species of grass, it copes well in the heat and harsher ground conditions too. However, Kentucky Bluegrass doesn't grow particularly well in heavily textured soils or those that are insufficiently drained.

    While tall fescue thrives when planted in shaded areas, Kentucky bluegrass requires more exposure to sunlight for more frequent and prolonged periods. In fact, Kentucky bluegrass can withstand drought, growing best in more humid conditions. Tall fescue grows well in the sunlight too although shade is preferential. 
  • Maintaining the grass - Kentucky bluegrass grows via stems that spread underground as they grow. When subject to the harshness of the ground above such as heavy footprints etc, thick Kentucky bluegrass will restore and heal itself, spreading rapidly and recovering well from damage. However, the patches of tall fescue that have been subject to similar harshness require replanting to continue to grow. 

  • Mowing the grass - Kentucky bluegrass needs to be mowed on a more frequent basis than tall fescue, the later only requiring mowing when it has exceeded 3 inches in height. However, Kentucky bluegrass should ideally be mowed when it has reached a height of 2.5 inches in the spring and a little higher in the summer months.

  • The locations in which they are found - Tall fescue is a species of grass with a presence that is particularly prominent throughout Europe, however, Kentucky bluegrass is not only popular in Europe but in other countries such as North Asia and is commonly opted for by those in the USA.

  • The amount of fertilizer required - Unlike tall fescue, Kentucky Bluegrass is much more dependent on fertilizer for it to grow to its greatest potential. If planted in alkaline-rich soils, in particular, Kentucky Bluegrass is more likely to lose its rich green appearance due to the development of iron deficiencies. Because of this, this species of grass requires around 3 to 6ibs of fertilizer per 1000 square meters to maintain its healthy balance and luscious appearance. However, tall fescue requires significantly less managing perfectly well with 1ib of fertilizer per 1000 square foot. 

  • The Weeds - one of the most noticeable disadvantages of opting for Kentucky bluegrass is its tendency to attract weeds, an issue which many gardeners are likely to spend a significant amount of time trying to eradicate. Dandelions and clovers in particular are known to thrive in Kentucky bluegrass, so the occasional use of a weed killer will help to keep this issue under control. Tall fescue, however, is much more resistant to weeds so you are unlikely to encounter this issue should you opt for this grass seed for your lawn.

  • The Shade - tall fescue is the most appropriate option for shaded areas, although it still grows well in the sun than most cool grasses it is more tolerant to the shade than Kentucky bluegrass which thrives more when exposed to prolonged periods of sunlight and humidity.

What are the similarities between tall fescue and Kentucky bluegrass?

  • The germination period - While tall fescue takes 1 to 3 weeks to germinate in ideal conditions, Kentucky bluegrass takes around 2 weeks to 30 days. Although there are differences between the duration of both germination periods, neither take a particularly lengthy period with both being known to grow at a relatively fast pace so you aren't going to be waiting for a lengthy amount of time to notice results and changes in your lawn. 

  • The duration in which both seeds last - According to research conducted by Oregon State University, both Kentucky bluegrass and tall fescue will germinate after 3 to 5 years so long as they are stored in the right conditions.

  • Both struggle in hotter weather - While Kentucky bluegrass is known to cope better than tall fescue in the warm weather, both begin to struggle, often becoming dormant and brown in color when subject to particularly harsh hot temperatures. However, both are highly likely to return to their natural color and appearance once the temperatures in which they are familiar with return. 

  • Their color - whilst there are visible differences between the appearance of both species of grass, both are green and rich in color, which is likely to last for around 8 to 9 months of the year so long as your lawn is correctly maintained and taken care of.

Can Kentucky bluegrass and Tall Fescue be mixed together?

In particular regions, tall fescue and Kentucky bluegrass seeds can be mixed. This is because tall fescue helps to add a richness to Kentucky bluegrass that is likely to last for the duration of the season.

However, both species of grass cope well when mixed with other species too. In southern regions, tall fescue is known to compliment Bermuda grass while Kentucky Bluegrass grows well when mixed with ryegrass seed.

Should I choose tall fescue or Kentucky bluegrass?

If you remain to be a little uncertain in regards to the most appropriate grass seed for your lawn, we have highlighted some valuable factors that may provide a helpful guide in making your final decision.

In the United States, in particular, Kentucky bluegrass is praised for creating the ideal lawn.

If you take the correct care of your bluegrass, it can create a lawn that is lush, dense, and richly green.

However, tall fescue is also praised by lawn owners. It of course depends on your location and the lawn and garden that you are hoping to achieve. Tall fescue provides an economical option needing very little maintenance on your behalf.

It requires a minimal amount of watering and fertilizer and is more likely to withstand foot traffic too. While thick Kentucky bluegrass is also durable against foot traffic, the thinner types are more prone to becoming damaged. 

Your location is also going to be highly influential. If you have a garden that is subject to frequent and prolonged periods of sunlight, Kentucky bluegrass is likely to be the most beneficial option in allowing you to enjoy a healthy and aesthetically pleasing lawn.

However, tall fescue grows well in both sunlight and shade. 

You will need to consider the maintenance and care that your grass requires. Kentucky bluegrass requires more frequent watering, a greater amount of fertilizer, and regular mowing so may not be an appropriate option for gardeners looking for a low maintenance garden that isn’t hugely dependent on their time.

If this is the case, tall fescue is likely to be better suited to your needs as it requires half the amount of watering and fertilizer but it will still grow to be rich and healthy.

Consider the climate of the area that you live in. Tall fescue thrives in fall and spring, while Kentucky Bluegrass grows well in warm months in particular but also cold months, struggling a little when planted in shaded areas.

If you remain a little undecided in which grass type is going to be best for you and your garden,  why not have the best of both worlds and mix both seeds together before planting to achieve more varied results.

Final thoughts

Choosing the correct lawn seed is essential, many choose the seed that is going to create a lawn that suits their vision, however, it is important to remember that your lawn needs to be maintained and taken care of in the correct manner too. 

We have identified some factors that we would recommend you considering as this will ensure that you select the right grass type for your needs. 

Consider the soil type, as stated, the way in which both species of grass perform differs depending on the type of soil that they are planted in.

Before making your decision you may find it beneficial to conduct a soil test to evaluate the soil in your garden as this will help assess which seed is going to be the most suitable.

The size of your lawn - of course, a bigger space is going to demand the use of more grass seed which can of course result in increased costs and a bigger space is likely to require more of your time when it comes to the maintenance and upkeep of the lawn.

Ensure that you are fully equipped with the knowledge of each seed - this is a crucial factor, it is important to put the knowledge that you have gathered into practice when it comes to deciding which seed species is best for your lawn.

Remember to consider how well each is likely to perform in the location and climate where you live.

Evaluate the weather and growing conditions that each of these grasses require to grow into a rich green and healthy lawn. Also, consider the effort that is required on your behalf when it comes to maintaining your lawn.

Tall Fescue and Kentucky bluegrass are both popular species of grass that are somewhat suited to different environments, thriving when planted in the correct conditions. It is important to ensure that you select the correct type of grass for your garden.