Creeping red fescue grass

How to Manage Pests


Red fescue is a cool-season grass used in cool, shaded, mountain sites, such as camps, resorts, and cabins where low-input of mowing, fertilization, and irrigation is desired. It does not do well in hot climates, except in shady, dry situations. In areas where Kentucky bluegrass does well, red fescue forms an excellent companion grass to increase shade tolerance. Red fescue germinates and establishes slowly. It is moderately wear resistant.

Identifying tips

A very fine-bladed grass with a deep green color. The leaves are folded in the bud, there are no auricles, and there is a short membranous ligule present. Red fescue has two distinct growing habits: creeping red fescue spreads very slow by very short rhizomes and Chewings fescue is a bunchgrass with an upright growth habit.


Very low maintenance. It does not require much fertilizer and does not need excessive amounts of water. A high mowing cut is recommended. Red fescue has a high tolerance for cold temperatures and shade, moderate tolerance for drought and wear, and low tolerance for heat.

  • Planting and management tips
  • Turf adaptations and tolerances table
  • Grass species and key

See the following publication for more information:

Creeping Red Fecue

Botanical Name Festuca rubra Min Zone 3 Max Zone 6 Height Maintain at 2.5 to 4 inches Light Full sun to shade Soil Well-drained Planting & Care

This is one of several fine fescues used in shade and low-maintenence grass seed mixes. It has long been mixed with bluegrass to create more shade-tolerant and drought-tolerant seed mixes. Creeping red fescue dominates shade areas while bluegrass populates sun areas.

This fescue is often used in no-mow mixes. It can be allowed to grow throughout the season with minimal or no mowing. If allowed to grow, the grass will bend over, providing a meadow-like appearance. If you mow, cut it just as the grass starts to bloom. Mow once a month to 4 inches to maintain a more lawn-like appearance.

Seeding Rate – 3.5 to 4 pounds per 1,000 ft2 for new lawns

Overseeding Rate – 3 pounds per 1,000 ft2 for thinning lawns

Germination Time – 7 to 10 days

Sod – Most sod is bluegrass. Occasionally, you can find “shade” sod with some fescue in the mix.

Optimum Planting Time – Late August- mid September (mid October in South) is best or early spring before soil reaches 50°F

  • Red fescue is shade and drought tolerant
  • Suitable for no-mow and low maintence lawns
  • Blends well with Kentucky bluegrass
  • Suited for Northern climates
  • Good color and fine texture
  • Creeping growth habit helps in establishment and in filling bare spots
  • Raise the mowing height of your lawn mower if you haven’t already done so. Taller grass shades out some weeds and forms deeper roots, making it better able to compete with weeds and more drought and pest tolerant.
  • Make sure the blade is sharp for healthier and better-looking grass.
  • Remove no more than 1/3 the total height of the grass at one time to reduce the stress on the lawn.
  • Leave clippings on the lawn. Short clippings DO NOT cause thatch and break down quickly, adding moisture, organic matter, and nutrients to the soil. A season’s worth of clippings equals one fertilizer application.
  • The amount of fertilizer your lawn needs should be based on the quality of lawn desired and the time you want to spend managing your lawn. High quality heavily used lawns require the maximum amount of fertilizer, while low maintenance lawns need the least.
  • Start with a soil test so you apply the proper amount of fertilizer for your lawn.
  • Fertilize on Memorial Day, Labor Day and Halloween. Eliminate the first two if you are following a low maintenance plan and add a light summer feeding if you are watering and going for a high quality lawn.
  • Increase success and decrease the risk of damage by using Milorganite fertilizer. It’s an organic-nitrogen slow release fertilizer that won’t burn the lawn and the iron is an added bonus. Plus, the phosphorous is non-leaching. And when the microorganisms work on the Milorganite it releases phosphorous and potassium bound in the soil, making it available to the grass.
  • Proper watering helps keep your lawn healthy and enables it to out-compete the weeds. Water early in the morning, if possible, and thoroughly when footprints are left behind. This encourages deeply rooted drought and pest tolerant grass.
  • Recent droughts and efforts to conserve water may mean a change of habit. If you allow your lawn to go dormant during drought, minimize foot traffic and play on dormant lawns.
  • Don’t apply herbicides or quick release fertilizer to dormant lawns. The fertilizer will feed the weeds and both can damage the dormant grass.
  • Once you let your lawn go dormant, leave it dormant until the weather cools and rains return.
  • A healthy lawn is your best defense against weeds. When weeds occur it usually means the growing conditions are better for the weeds than your grass.
  • Aerate lawns growing on compacted soil or with a half an inch of thatch or more.
  • Hand dig small populations of weeds. There are some new tools on the market that make this easier.
  • Spot treat weeds using the most eco-friendly products available.
  • Always sweep grass clippings and fertilizer residue off the walks and drives. This simple step keeps unwanted nutrients out of our waterways and eventually drinking water.
  • Never fertilize lawns when the ground is frozen.
  • Consider using a push or electric mower. It’s good for the waistline and the environment.

Problems Not as heat tolerant as other fine fescues, does not fill in as quickly as bluegrass, poor salt tolerance, grubs, sod webworm, leaf spot, ring spot, rust, voles (winter), moles (summer), skunks and racoons digging for grubs Varieties

  • Aruba
  • Dawson – good for low maintenance lawns
  • Jasper II – low maintenance, seed contains endophytic fungus that increase the plant’s vigor as well as drought and stress tolerance.
  • Seabreeze – low maintenance, resistance to or tolerant of Helminthosporium Leaf Spot

Some Facts About Fine Fescue

Here’s more in-depth information on the five main varieties of Fine Fescue:

  • Sheep Fescue also known as Festuca Ovina

    The Sheep Fescue is also often referred to as “Blue Sheep Fescue.” It is an ideal option for lawns that will probably be “low maintenance.” This includes areas with low to no mowing patterns. This grass can also blend well with wildflowers and yet not crowd them out. Among the Sheep Fescues, you have choices like Quatro, which has a flat or powder blue hue, and Azay Blue, which is a blue-green color.

  • Creeping Red Fescue also known as Festuca Rubra subp. Rubra

    As the name would imply, this type of fescue has rhizomes making it a creeping grass. It has been used in seed mixtures meant for shaded yards for many years. There is the “Common type” and the “Strong Creeping Red Fescue.” The first one is more economical but lower quality. The latter one is a better quality and is sometimes even imported from Europe.

  • Slender Creeping Red Fescue also known as Festuca Rubra subp. Litoralis

    It is similar to the Creeping Red Fescue, yet this variety does not grow or spread as rapidly. This is a Fine Fescue variety that can tolerate lower mowing heights. This makes the Slender Creeping Red Fescue ideal for places like golf courses. However, what makes this type of grass popular is actually its excellent salinity tolerance. Mixed with other seeds, “fults” is the most widely used alkaligrass that is used for salty soil.

  • Chewings Fescue also known as Festuca Rubra subp. Commutata

    This variety of Fine Fescue is named after the man who first discovered and sold it: George Chewings of New Zealand. Chewings was peddling this type of seed in the late 1800s. As is characteristic for Fine Fescues, this one has a high tolerance for shade. It also makes an ideal turf because of its fine texture and deeper shade of green hue. Keep in mind this variety is not a creeper, so seeding is required.

  • Hard Fescue also known as Festuca Longifolia or Duriuscula

    The Hard Fescue is becoming more popular because it has a better ability to tolerate heat than the other Fine Fescues. This type is a bunch grass, so it will require seeding and establishment.

Creeping Red Fescue Grass Seeds

Download our printable Grass Planting Guide, with Seeding Rates.

Create a Low-Maintenance Lawn or Add Nutrients to Your Soil with Grass and Groundcover Seeds.

Orchard Grass is a versatile variety that can be planted as a cover crop.

Getting Started: When to Plant

Planting Grass Seed in Fall or Spring: The ideal time to plant grass seed varies by hardiness zone, but is usually in the spring, once temperatures have reached a consistent 60 F and there is no more danger of frost. Grass can be planted through the end of July but no later. If you’re planting in the fall, wait until after there have been a few killing frosts so the seeds you plant will lie dormant until the spring.

Planting as a Cover Crop or Green Manure

If you’re planting grasses, legumes or clover to replenish nutrients, suppress weeds or more, we recommend planting in early to mid fall. Let the grass grow until frost. Come spring, mow before it goes to seed and then till the soil. Wait 3-6 weeks before planting new crops.

Which plants are best for cover crops?

Clover, Peas, Vetch and Rye Grass.

Planting Rates: How Much Seed Do I Need?

Planting rates vary depending on the size of the seed. A larger seed (such as a Fescue) can be seeded at 10lbs/1,000 square feet. A smaller seed (such as a Bluegrass) can be seeded as low as 2lbs/1,000 square feet. To see planting rates for each individual variety, please view the chart on the back page of this guide.

If you’re still unsure of how much seed to use in your area, please give us a call at (877) 309-7333.

Preparing the Area for Planting

We recommend leveling the planting area as much as possible to eliminate high or low spots. Till the soil if possible about 4-6 inches deep, as the soil should be loose and clump free before planting. If your area is already somewhat bare and even, we recommend skipping the tilling process as it can promote new weed growth or unwanted grass growth. You can then add a product to help aerate your soil to improve seed germination, but this is not necessary.

Step-By-Step Planting Instructions

Medium Red Clover helps add nutrients to soil.

  1. After your soil is prepared, apply the seed at the recommended rate. See the back of the this guide for seeding rates. To make sure you’re spreading the seed evenly, scatter 1/2 of the seed walking north to south and 1/2 of the seed walking east to west.
  2. If you have poor soil, you could lightly apply an organic fertilizer after seeding, although this is not a necessary step for strong growth.
  3. Many choose to cover their grass seed after planting, even though this is not necessary. If you do choose to cover your seed to help retain moisture and hold the seed in place, we recommend a maximum depth of 1/4”. You can cover the seed with topsoil, sterilized straw, or peat moss. Coated seeds such as Bermuda and Clover seeds should not be covered more than an 1/8” deep.
  4. Water gently and regularly, keeping the seeds moist until they begin to sprout. This could mean watering more than once a day if you’re having a dry spell. Once the seeds sprout, water deeply and less frequently. This helps to ensure a deep rooted, healthy lawn or meadow.
  5. Do not mow until your lawn is at the recommended height. This information can be found on our website at the specific product page. For most grasses, this is about 3-6 weeks after planting, but could be longer depending on growing conditions. Remember to be gentle when mowing the first few times — the seedlings will be somewhat tender.
  6. After mowing several times, you can apply an organic fertilizer to promote strong growth, but this is not a necessary step.

It may take weeks or even a month for the seeds to grow. Be patient. If you have any questions about germination time or planting, please don’t hesitate to call us at (877) 309-7333.

Further Reading:

Creeping Red Fescue Seed


Creeping Red Fescue performs best in well drained soils with a pH of 5.5 to 8.0 and tolerates more shade than most other cool climate grasses (2-4 hours sun/day).

Sowing Tips: Broadcast the seed at, or very near, the soil surface and incorporate lightly with raking into the top 6-10mm of soil. To ensure best coverage and avoid seed wastage we recommend using an appropriate seed spreader for the size of your area. Soil must remain damp throughout the germination period of both seeds and must be maintained for at least 1-2 weeks after sowing, through irrigation or natural rainfall. Adequate water supplies need to be maintained until the grass is fully established.

Optimal Planting Time: As a cool season lawn, it is usually best planted in very early Spring or Autumn when temperatures are 15 Degrees and climbing, avoiding any risk of hot days during the establishment period of the lawn.

A new Creeping Red Fescue lawn should be fully established and healthy prior to the onset of Summer or a very cold Winter.

Germination: Approximately 14 – 21 days (climate dependent).

Water: As Creeping Red Fescue has good drought tolerance, a low to moderate amount of irrigation is required. Water 1-2 times a week during the warm season as Creeping Red Fescue can go dormant in the summer months if watered too little. Also adjust irrigation frequency if Creeping Red Fescue is in full sunlight. Monitor the water needs of Creeping Red Fescue in shady areas as trees may soak up available water.

Fertilising: Fertilising requirements of Creeping Red Fescue are on the low end of the scale. It needs very little fertiliser during the active growth period. Often if the lawn is receiving frequent fertlising and is not looking healthy the best option is usually to stop fertilising altogether and monitor how the grass recovers over the following months.

First Mowing: 14-21 days after emergence.

Mowing Frequency: Can be mowed between heights of 2.5cm to 7.5cm.

It must be remembered by homeowners who are using Creeping Red Fescue into shaded areas, that lawn mowing heights will need to be increased for these areas. The longer green leaf blade is necessary for the lawn to power more photosynthesis under diminished light levels.

Disadvantages of Creeping Red Fescue:

  • As a Cool Season grass type, it is not suitable for use as a home lawn in most of the warmer regions in the country, but it can be a perfect lawn for many of our cooler areas.

  • Creeping Red Fescue does not handle heavy traffic overly well, and is best suited to low to medium traffic areas. For lawns which would be subjected to heavy wear and tear from dog or other pets, or from children constantly playing, then another grass type may be worth considering.

Seed and Package Details: 100% Creeping Red Fescue.

Independently Tested: 85% Min Germination, 98% purity. A seed testing Certificate is available upon request.

Ideal Usage: Residential Lawns, Commercial Landscapes, Parks, Playgrounds, Airports, Roadsides, Erosion Control, Heavily Shaded Areas.

Where can I sow this grass in Australia? Areas 4, 6, 7, 8, 9

Shade Tolerance: Excellent

Daily Sunlight Required: 4+ hours

Drought Tolerance: Good

Frost Resistance: Excellent

Traffic Tolerance: Moderate

Creeping Red Fescue

(Festuca rubra (rubra))

Often known as Strong Red Fescue, this common grass, as its name implies, has creeping rhizomes . It has a more vigorous creeping habit than some similar species which can help to create a dense, hardwearing turf or sward. These shallow creeping roots help it to remain green even in drier soils.


Often used in landscaping or amenity mixtures, where toughness and durability over a fine finish is required. Other more delicate species like Slender Creeping Red Fescue maybe used where a finer finish is required, for example in lawns. It can also be used to create a tougher sward in agricultural mixtures, such as horse pastures.


A very persistent perennial grass species.


Its creeping growth habit allows it to create a dense, tough sward. The creeping rhizomes can also access moisture in dry conditions, meaning it can stay greener throughout the summer.

Sowing Rate Advice

30kg per acre – 75kg per ha

Its unusual to sow this species as a pure stand in agricultural situations, amenity uses may require a higher sowing rate.

Mixture Sowing Rate Advice

1.5 – 2.5 kgs per acre / 3.75 – 6.25 kgs per ha.

Be cautious when including Strong Red Fescue in mixtures with less aggressive grasses, as it can have a smothering effect if included at a high rate. Ryegrass based mixtures will be more resilient.

Ideal Sowing Time

Sowing in warm soil conditions with adequate moisture will help the seed to germinate and establish quickly.


Creeping Red Fescue can tolerate close mowing or grazing, regular cutting will help to encourage tillering and create a dense sward.

Distinguishing characteristics


The seed is a thin oblong shape, with points at either end. It is a beige colour and smooth to the touch, usually it is no more than 5mm in length.

Vegetative StateFlowering Plant

Flowering Plant
Culms are erect or curved towards the base often red to purple. The leaf sheaths are tubular with the basal sheaths densely covered in downward pointing hairs. Ligules are very short, with rounded barely perceivable auricles. The lowest branch of the panicle juts out horizontally. This species has defined long, creeping rhizomes forming dense patches. It can reach between 20 and 60 cm in height.

Additional Info

Flowering June – July. Average seeds per kg – 950 000.

Works well with

Creeping red fescue is an inexpensive seed and can be included in simple mixtures, such as low grade landscape or amenity mixtures It combines well with the low growing, fast establishing Dwarf Ryegrass, for quick, resilient ground cover.

Buy Creeping Red Fescue Straight

You can find Creeping Red Fescue in the following mixtures

  • Economy Landscape with ryegrass
  • Verge Mixture with ryegrass
  • Rugby & Football Reseed & Renovate
  • Racecourse, Gallop and Cross Country Mix
  • Gallop Mixture 50% ORGANIC – needs derogation before purchas
  • Golf Fairway & Cricket Outfield
  • Golf Course Roughs Mixture
  • Standard Horse Pasture – Long Term Grazing & Hay
  • Standard Horse Pasture – Long Term Grazing & Hay – 70% ORGANIC
  • Equine Pasture Mix – Long Term No Ryegrass
  • Equine Pasture Mix – Long Term No Ryegrass – 70% ORGANIC
  • Natural Pony Paddock – with Herbs & No Ryegrass
  • Natural Pony Paddock – 70% ORGANIC
  • Weanling & Youngstock Grazing
  • Weanling & Youngstock Grazing 70% ORGANIC
  • Competition Grazing Mixture
  • Competition Grazing MIxture 53% ORGANIC – derogation needed
  • Broodmare Grazing
  • Paddock/Gateway Repair Mix
  • Paddock/Gateway Repair Mix 70% ORGANIC
  • Retired or Rehabilitation Horse Grazing
  • Final Trimester High Nutrient Boost – Strip Grazing
  • Solar Park Long Term Grazing Mixture
  • Solar Park Long Term Grazing Mix 70% Organic
  • Solar Park Permanent Grassland – Low Maintenance
  • Solar Park Permanent Grassland – Low Maintenance 70% Organic
  • Chicken Scratcher Sward
  • Chicken Scratcher Sward 70% Organic
  • Llama & Alpaca Paddock
  • Llama & Alpaca Paddock 70% ORGANIC
  • Buffer Strip Grass Margin Mix 70% ORGANIC
  • Recreating Grassland 70% ORGANIC
  • Species Rich Parkland Grass Low Maintenance 20% ORGANIC

Creeping Red Fescue Grass Seed For Shade

Creeping red fescue grass is adapted to cool, temperate climates. It requires more moisture than hard fescue or sheep fescue, and prefers a pH of 5.5 to 6.5 but can survive considerable acidity. It can be grown as a dryland cover crop in coastal regions or other areas with average annual precipitation greater than 18 inches. Elsewhere, it will produce better yields if grown under irrigation. Creeping red fescue grass is climatically adapted to all of the major land resource regions that receive adequate moisture and have well-drained soils. It thrives in sun or shade. Creeping red fescue is distributed from the western to the eastern U.S.

Zeal, Class One and/or Chantilly Creeping Red Fescue grass seed are outstanding members of the cool season grass family. Zeal, Class One and/or Chantilly has the ability to “creep” or spread through underground shoots which help repair damaged areas and fill in thin stands of lawn. This revolutionary breed of creeping red fescue grass is a beautiful shade of green and will maintain is luxurious color without extra fertilizer. Creeping red fescue makes excellent lawns, golf greens and turf for ground cover in landscaping. It is also an important grass seed for shade and performs even on sandy soils.

Seeding Rate & Planting Time

  • New turf: Sow 4 – 5 pounds creeping red fescue turf seed per 1,000 square feet or 160 – 200 lbs/acre for broadcast seeding
  • Over-seeding: Sow 2 – 2 1/2 pounds creeping red fescue lawn seed per 1,000 square feet or 80 – 100 lbs per acre for broadcast over-seeding
  • Plant cool climate grass seed when soil temperature reaches 55 degrees in spring up until a minimum of 8 weeks before frost in fall

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