Kentucky Bluegrass vs Tall Fescue – Differences + Pictures

Kentucky bluegrass and tall fescue are cool-season grasses that thrive in cool temperatures. They are popular turfs in the transition zone and the northern United States. Choosing between Kentucky blues grass and tall fescue won’t be easy unless you understand their key differences and care requirements.

These two turfs differ in many ways, including how they spread, their maintenance requirements, and how they tolerate various growth conditions. Here is a summary of the key differences between Kentucky bluegrass and Tall fescue grass.

Kentucky Bluegrass (KBG)Tall Fescue Grass (TTTF)         
KBG spreads quickly by underground rhizomes to form a uniformly dense lawn and fill any bare spots.Tall fescue grass is a bunch of forming turf that produces tillers. For that reason, it does not spread to fill bare spots or form a dense lawn.
This grass requires more fertilizing. On average, you will supply 3 to 6 lbs. of nitrogen fertilizer per 1,000 sq. ft. of lawn annually.Less fertilizing is required for TTTF. Only 2 lbs. of nitrogen fertilizer per 1000 sq. may be required annually.
Kentucky bluegrass requires frequent watering. It consumes at least 2.5 inches of water per week during the hot summer.Tall fescue grass needs about 1 inch of water or less every week during a hot summer to remain healthy.
KBG requires frequent mowing. This results from frequent watering and fertilization, which make it grow faster.Less mowing is required for tall fescue grass. It does not require mowing less than 3 inches high.
Summer heat and drought will easily turn Kentucky blue grass brown. This is due to its shallow root system that cannot obtain moisture from deep in the soil.Tall fescue grass is highly tolerant to drought and heat. Its deep root system easily obtains moisture and nutrient from deep soils for survival during dry summer.
Maintenance expenses for Kentucky Blue grass are generally higher due to frequent mowing, fertilizing, and watering.It is less expensive to care for and maintain Tall fescue grass lawns since the turf needs less fertilizer, mowing, and watering.
KBG is susceptible to diseases and weeds, especially when grown in hot climates.Turf-type tall fescue is tolerant to diseases and weeds.

Kentucky Bluegrass vs. Tall Fescue Grass – Detailed Comparisons

Both Kentucky bluegrass and tall fescue grass thrive in cool climate zones. These lawn turfs go dormant during summer due to hot and dry conditions. However, they can have good year-round green color under the right soil moisture conditions.

The following are similarities and dissimilarities between them:


Kentucky bluegrass: KBG is deep green in color with a velvety textured blade. At maturity, this grass is about 20-24 inches and easily identified with its “V” shaped leaves with a prominent midrib running up the middle of the leaf blade. Kentucky bluegrass spreads fast using underground rhizomes.

Tall Fescue Grass: This grass has wide, dark green blades. Although shiny looking on the top surfaces, the blades are very coarse to the touch. Tall fescue forms bunches and spreads by producing tillers, limiting its ability to form a dense lawn. The mature turf-type tall feature can attain 4 to 12 inches in height.


Kentucky Bluegrass: Seeding is an ideal way of growing Kentucky bluegrass. It spread quite quickly with underground rhizomes to form a thick sod. The seed is available in various cultivators and can be mixed with other grass varieties for a diverse blend.

Fall is the best time to plant KBG when the temperatures are between 50-65 degrees Fahrenheit.

Tall Fescue Grass: Seeding is an ideal way of planting Tall fescue grass. It produces tillers – vertical shoots that grow from the base of the plant, which limits its spreading abilities.

Late summer or early fall is the best time to plant Tall fescue grass when soil temperature nears 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit. You can grow it alone or mix it with other varieties of grass.


In both types of grass, consistent watering is needed for the seed to germinate. This should be done in the morning and evening without flooding the soil. Once established, Kentucky bluegrass will need more water than Tall fescue.

At least 2 inches of water per week will be needed during summer for the grass to grow healthy and green. On the other hand, tall fescue grass does not require regular watering to remain green. This makes it thrive in heat and drought conditions with minimal watering.

Sunlight conditions

Kentucky bluegrass prefers full direct sun, but some varieties can do well in partially shaded areas. On average, KBG needs at least 8 hours of direct sunlight to thrive. On the other hand, tall fescue grass can grow in full sun to partial shade areas. You can comfortably grow this grass under trees or between buildings where sunlight is minimal.

Fertilizing needs

Established Kentucky blue grass requires frequent fertilizing to make it dense and greener. On average, it needs 3 to 6 lbs. of nitrogen fertilizer per 1,000 sq. ft. of lawn annually. On the other hand, tall fescue grass does not need as much fertilizer. It needs about 2 lbs. of nitrogen fertilizer per 1000 sq. ft. annually.

Lawn Maintenance

Kentucky bluegrass grows faster and thus requires frequent mowing and dethatching. On the other hand, tall fescue grass requires less mowing, which is always done not below 3 inches. With more fertilizer, watering, and mowing requirements, KBG is expensive to maintain compared to TTTF.

Traffic tolerance

Kentucky bluegrass is less resilient to heavy foot traffic but can repair any damage it sustains from heavy traffic, including bare spots. On the other hand, tall fescue grass tolerates heavy use and foot traffic but will not repair itself when damage happens.

Between KBG and TTTF, Which one should you choose?

A choice for either Kentucky bluegrass or Tall fescue will typically depend on where you live and your preparedness to take care of your lawn. Kentucky bluegrass is particularly hardy in colder areas and a great option if you live in the northern United States. But you must plan for more watering, fertilizing, and mowing.

Tall fescue, on the other hand, can resist heat and drought, and this makes it suitable if you live in the transition zone – an area between the northern and southern states. With this turf, you will also have the advantage of less mowing, fertilizing, and watering.

Can I mix Kentucky Bluegrass With Tall Fescue?

Since Tall Fescue grass grows in clumps and has the potential to leave gaps in your lawn, it can be a good idea to mix it with Kentucky Bluegrass to get a rich, dense lawn. These two turf types of grass can grow well together with the right maintenance.


  1. Pennsylvania State University: Kentucky Bluegrass
  2. Umass Extension: SELECTION OF GRASSES
  3. Oregon State University: Tall Fescue

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