Festuca Glauca

Festuca Glauca

About a little blue grass…

Steel blue or blueish grey is always a welcome contrast colour in the garden, and if it’s in the form of a finely textured ornamental grass, like Festuca Glauca, so much the better!

Festuca glauca (blue fescue) resembles a little hairy porcupine with fine blades of an icy-blue to silvery grey colour that intensifies in the cold winter months. It is evergreen and produces buffy seed heads on thin stems in summer, which should best be removed in order to direct the plant’s energy into keeping its foliage in good shape.

This is a clumper but not a vigorously spreading ornamental grass, so if you want to use it as an eye-catching groundcover, plant it rather densely spaced to prevent weeds from germinating between plants. Mature size about 20 x 20cm.

Uses for Festuca glauca

  • Festucas work especially well when planted as a soft groundcover around robust and dramatic accent plants such as cordylines, palms, phormiums and cycads
  • Small aloes and rosette-forming succulents like echeverias are perfectly foiled by a mass planting of softening festucas between them
  • Use one or two plants as contrasting fillers when planting up a mixed container.

Growing notes

  • Festucas are very cold and frost hardy, and will tolerate coastal conditions equally well. They are not fond of hot, humid summers
  • Best position is full sun, or morning sun and afternoon shade
  • Medium water requirements when established
  • These plants do not like clay, sodden or very rich soils. Make sure that drainage is good and add some coarse compost and bonemeal when planting them
  • Dead grass blades forming in the clumps are natural, but can make them look untidy. Simply comb your fingers through them to remove it when needed. If it’s necessary to cut tired looking plants back, do so in early spring. Cut approximately a third of the blades off to encourage new fresh leaves to emerge. Clumps that have become too thick and overgrown can be divided every 2 – 3 years.

Companion plants

Festucas are also great in combination with larger ornamental grasses like pennisetums with their burgundy coloured leaves, but we team them up with the following too:

Kalanchoe thyrsiflora

Huge, fleshy rosettes of luminous turquoise-green leaves with bright red to maroon edges make this plant glow on a sunny day. Spectacular creamy-grey stems (up to 1.3m tall) carrying light yellow, tubular flowers appear in winter.

Phormium ‘Rubrum’

A dainty little flax up to 40cm high with long narrow upright leaves in a dark purplish red to burgundy colour. Cold and frost hardy.

Armeria maritima ‘Dusseldorf Pride’

Also called sea thrift, this hardy perennial has the same porcupine look and clumping habit as the festuca, but with dull green foliage and dark pink lollipop flowers on long stems in spring and summer. Imagine a sea of steely blue or greyish green with pink blooms atop!

The Gardener