Dwarf Fescue vs Tall Fescue: What Is The Difference?

There are several key differences between dwarf and tall fescue. The two vary in durability, texture, and maintenance, so selecting the species that best suits your needs is essential. 

A game plan for planting the grass is one thing, but now you have to decide which grass species is right for you? It can be overwhelming, we know. Keep reading; we’ll go over everything you need to find the best fit for your lawn. 

What Is Dwarf Fescue Grass?

Nature's Seed TURF-FF-2000-F Fine Fescue Grass Seeds Blend, 2000 sq. ft, Medium Green

Let’s start at the beginning; what even is dwarf fescue? Native to North America, dwarf fescue is a resilient cool-season grass. The leaf blades are flat, giving them a soft appearance. There are several distinguishing features of dwarf fescue, including durability, growth rates, and tolerance. Let’s break it down. 


Dwarf fescue is a durable type of grass and can withstand heavy foot traffic. It is often used for commercial areas because of its ability to stay healthy with little maintenance. It’s the best of both worlds, hardy yet refreshing for any garden or lawn.

Growth Rate

Dwarf fescue is a slower-growing grass, which is partially why it requires so little maintenance. Germination of this seed takes anywhere from 14-21 days to germinate. Keep in mind that this varies based on the environment’s quality. Though it does require little mowing, if left untended for 3 months, it can reach a height of 12 inches.


This particular species is moderately tolerant. Dwarf fescue has the ability to survive a period of neglect, drought, and fluctuating temperatures. The species become dormant after a certain period of time. Dormant grass is a light brown color. 

Don’t worry; the grass is most likely not dead. To determine if the grass is dormant, grab a handful of the grass and tug lightly. If there is resistance, the grass is dormant. If it comes out with little to no resistance, the grass is dead and needs to be reseeded. 

Though it isn’t ideal, dormant grass can be restored. Resume a regular watering schedule (at least once a week at a depth of 1 inch).

What Is Tall Fescue Grass?

Tall Fescue Grass

Tall fescue grass comes with its own set of unique features. Native to Europe, tall fescue is a cool-season grass. The leaf blades are wide, giving the grass a coarse appearance. Similar to dwarf fescue, tall fescue has its own set of features, including growth rate, tolerance, and care.

Growth Rate

Tall fescue is a very fast-growing species. Though it takes about the same amount of time to germinate (7-21 days), the overall growth is twice as fast compared to dwarf fescue. Left untended, tall fescue grows 8 inches a month, breaking down to about 2 inches a week. 


Tall fescue has a phenomenal tolerance when it comes to heatwaves, drought, and shade. Unlike most other grass varieties (including dwarf fescue), tall fescue develops deep roots, ranging from 2-3 feet into the soil. Because these roots are so deep, they require less moisture and can withstand drought, heatwaves, and shade for an extended period.


Unlike most other grasses, tall fescue grows in clumps, making it easily containable. That being said, it does limit the ability to bounce back after damage occurs. To avoid damage (and disease), mow every 7-10 days. 

Is One Better?

Green Lawn

Depending on what you are looking for in a lawn, one may be better suited to you than the other. Generally speaking, both species of grass are suitable. Now, if maintenance isn’t your jam, dwarf fescue may be the best route. Before you decide, there are a few things to consider. 


  • Tall fescue should be mowed every 7-10 days, whereas dwarf fescue should be cut every 10-14 days.
  • Both should be watered once a week at a depth of 1 inch (every day during the summer months).
  • Dwarf fescue has a weaker root system, making it more susceptible to excessive heat or shade. 
  • Tall fescue has a greater resistance when it comes to diseases.
  • Dwarf fescue can withstand heavy foot traffic, making it perfect for athletic turf or busy areas.

Appearance and Planting

If you don’t frequently mow your lawn, and it needs to withstand heavy traffic (dogs, kids, etc.), dwarf fescue is the best option. You will need to water this species regularly, but other than that, not a whole lot of maintenance is required. Now, if you hardly remember to drink enough water, let alone regularly water a lawn, tall fescue is best. To avoid issues, this grass type needs to be mowed frequently. 

How Tall Does Dwarf Fescue Grow?

If dwarf fescue is not cut regularly, it grows to a height of 12 inches over the course of 3 months. This increases the risk of disease, so dwarf fescue should not be left untended for more than 3 weeks. The ideal mowing height is 3-3.5 inches.