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Poaceae (Gramineae)
Ornamental grasses and grasslike plants, Turf Grasses

Some of these grasses are ornamental; others are used for lawns, erosion control, or pasture. All need good drainage, can withstand dry conditions and severe frosts. Clumps can be divided in fall.

Festuca arundinacea

Clumping, tall-growing pasture grass (to 4 ft.) whose finer-leafed selections are used for moderately low-water-use lawns. Tough blades and tolerance of compacted soils make it a good turf for playing or sports; finer-textured strains are used alone or mixed with bluegrass. Check locally for best-adapted varieties. Forms no runners, so plants must be close together to make dense turf; sow 8 to 10 lbs. of seed per 1,000 sq. ft. Sow in fall in mild-winter areas, in spring in colder part of the range.

Festuca californica

Native to the Coast Ranges from Northern California to Oregon. Grows as a loose clump of blue-green or blue-gray leaves to 2–3 ft. high, 1–2 ft. wide. Airy flowers rise 1–3 ft. above the foliage in late spring, early summer. Flower spikes are green at first, later turning purple and finally maturing to yellow. Long-lived and does well in various soil types. Tolerates summer drought in its cooler climate zones. Use as a specimen plant or massed as a groundcover. ‘Horse Mountain Green’ is a strong grower with leaves that are dark green above, chalky blue beneath; flower spikes can reach 6 ft. tall. ‘Scott Mountain’ and ‘Serpentine Blue’ have intensely blue-gray foliage.

Festuca glauca
Festuca glauca

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Festuca glauca

From Europe. Grows to 1 ft. high, 10 in. wide. Dense tuft of very narrow, fine leaves; color varies from blue gray to silvery white. Summer flowers in spikes. Use as edging or a groundcover. Center of clump commonly dies out after several years.

Festuca idahoensis

Native from British Columbia to Alberta, south to central California and Colorado. Blue-green to silvery blue foliage in a dense clump to 14 in. high, 10 in. wide. Longer-lived than F. glauca, and clumps are less likely to die out in the center. May also be more tolerant of wet winter soils. Good slope stabilizer. Hybrid ‘Siskiyou Blue’, to 2 ft. high and wide, has luminous blue leaves and tolerates considerable shade.

Festuca longifolia

From Europe. This bunch grass is used mostly for soil stabilization.

Festuca rubra

This turf grass spreads by rhizomes. Principal use is in blends with bluegrass or other lawn grasses; is also used to overseed Bermuda lawns in winter. Narrow dark green blades. Not fussy about soil. Can be used alone (many varieties are available); mow to 1 1/2–2 in. high. One of the most shade-tolerant of good lawn grasses. Unmowed, all types of red fescue make an attractive meadow on slopes too steep to mow.

Festuca rubra commutata

Used in lawns, Chewings fescue forms a denser turf than creeping red fescue, so takes lower mowing (1 in.) when that is desired. This is a bunch grass.

Festuca rubra rubra

Grows to 3 ft. tall as a meadow grass, or can be mowed for use as a turf grass. For lawns, is usually used in combination with rye, bent, and/or Kentucky bluegrass.

Festuca trachyphylla

From many temperate-climate areas of the world. Forage and meadow grass producing dense, foot-high tufts of fine-textured, green to gray-green leaves and small purple-tinged flowers in mid- to late summer.

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