Lawn grasses differ in their appearance, growth habits, their adaptability to sun and shade, and resistance to diseases and pests. Among grass varieties, the bunch-type grasses are those that grow in clumps. These grasses are slower at filling in bare areas or recovering from damage, given their slow growth rates. By comparison, grasses that grow with underground stems and rhizomes spread more rapidly, fill in bare spots and recover from damage faster.
Red fescue (Rubra) is a native grass of North America and has a clumping growth habit. The grass is hardy in cool weather and has a good tolerance to shade and drought. Red fescue also adapts well to poor soils. Its fine-textured grass blades are dark green in color, and it is a good choice for areas that are not regularly mowed. This grass has low water and fertilizer requirements and goes dormant during very hot weather. Red fescue does not prefer overly fertile ground.
Tall fescue (Festuca spp.) is a bunch-type grass that grows in clumps and has deep roots. The grass is a cool-season perennial with good resistance to drought. Tall fescue adapts well to a wide range of soil types and weather conditions. The grass has a high water requirement, especially during the warmer summer months. Tall fescue is best established from seed or sod in early fall. If the grass is planted in spring, there is a greater chance of damage due to the summer heat and possible drought. Tall fescue takes a slower time to fill in bare land or spaces between plants due to its slow, bunching growth habits.
Perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne) has a clumping growth similar to the bunch-type grasses and has no stolons or rhizomes. The grass has a moderately low resistance to shade, heat and drought and is tolerant of cold temperatures. Perennial ryegrass is a highly competitive and high-maintenance grass that grows best in coastal areas with moderate weather all year. This grass prefers areas of full sun and is the most wear-tolerant of all the cool-season grasses. It has a rapid germination rate.
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