Perennial ryegrass and tall fescue are two of North America’s most popular turfgrass species. Both are relatively easy to grow. They’re also perennial, which means they will beautify your lawn throughout the year without having to be reseeded.
But they also have a couple of essential differences that can affect how you use them. Here is a detailed perennial ryegrass vs tall fescue comparison to help you choose the best option for your lawn.
What Is Perennial Ryegrass?
Perennial ryegrass is a prevalent lawn grass that can grow up to one or two feet tall. It has a dense, clumpy growth habit. It is popular in the US, but it can be grown throughout the world.
Perennial ryegrass grows best in mild climates and requires little maintenance, making it a good choice for urban yards. It can also withstand mild drought, making it an excellent choice for homeowners with limited water resources.
What Is Tall Fescue?
Tall fescue is a grass native to the northern hemisphere. This perennial grass has dark green basal leaves and can grow up to three or four feet.
Tall fescue can withstand drought and heat, even when other grass types die off in the summer heat. It has a dense root system that helps it thrive in poor soil conditions. This grass is an excellent choice for lawns, pastures, or any other need for an aggressive plant with low maintenance needs.
Perennial Ryegrass vs Tall Fescue Comparison
Below are the strengths, weaknesses, differences, and similarities between tall fescue and perennial ryegrass.
Appearance and Texture
One thing that sets the two types of grass apart is appearance and texture. Perennial ryegrass is a fine lawn grass used on any lawn. It has a fine texture and bright green color, which makes it great for adding a ton of color to your yard. Perennial ryegrass spreads through its tillers and creates a nice, straight blade.
On the other hand, tall fescue is coarse grass that creates a medium or dark green lawn. It grows in tight-knit clumps instead of spreading along the ground like perennial ryegrass.
Perennial ryegrass grows faster and establishes itself easily. The growth rate makes it an excellent choice for someone who wants a quick turnaround on their lawn. It takes about 5-10 days for perennial ryegrass to germinate and about 14 to 21 days for tall fescue to germinate.
Perennial ryegrass is the best option for people who do not want to deal with mowing and watering their lawns every week or month. It does not require frequent maintenance. It can hold up to extreme sunlight. However, this type of grass is not suitable for areas where animals may defecate on it.
Tall fescue is the best choice if you do not have pets. It’s a great lawn alternative to other types of grasses that might be too delicate for your yard.
Tall fescue is best for baseball pitches, parking lots, sidewalks, and places with much traffic. It is tough, so it can handle extreme traffic without getting damaged. However, it is sensitive to intense sunlight and prefers shaded areas.
Perennial Ryegrass vs Tall Fescue: Soil Needs
Perennial ryegrass and tall fescue have different soil requirements. Perennial ryegrass prefers dry soil and well-drained soil. It grows best in slightly alkaline to acidic soil, with a pH of 5.5 to 7.5. However, it can also handle somewhat acidic soils—just not too much!
Tall fescue does well in any soil but prefers clay for its roots. This turfgrass is the variety for you if you have issues growing grass on your soil type. You don’t have to worry about the soil being too acidic, alkaline, wet, dry, or compact for tall fescue.
You should water your lawn once per week when your grass grows. Watering less than once per week could cause problems with your yard. Perennial ryegrass needs a lot more water than tall fescue since it has shallow roots. You can water it less often to help deepen its root network as it searches for more water.
Perennial ryegrass is a warm-season grass that grows best in the Midwest states. It thrives in areas with well-drained soil and full sun. The species isn’t more tolerant of drought than tall fescue. It has shallow roots that limit its ability to withstand long periods without moisture.
Tall fescue is a cool-season grass best suited for transitional zones. Tall fescue likes areas with little sun exposure year-round. It is more drought resistant as it has deeper roots that can access underground water.
Pests and Diseases
Pests and diseases are not an issue for either grass. Whether it is nematodes and mites (which damage root systems), beetles (which feed on twigs), slugs (which feed on leaves), or caterpillars (which feed on buds), these varieties can handle that.
Tall fescue recovers faster than perennial ryegrass. It has deep roots. Hence insects and digging animals might not cause permanent damage to them. However, it is more susceptible to spore diseases and Pythium fungus infection.
Perennial ryegrass is less durable due to its short root system and soft blades, which are prone to breaking over heavy traffic. This disadvantage may make it more susceptible to damage than tall fescue when growing under stressful conditions.
Tall fescue can be used in lawns year-round because it has deep roots and a robust leaf structure that protects it from frost and drought stress. You can expect your yard to last longer with this variety of grass.
Another difference between perennial ryegrass and Tall Fescue is the height and frequency of their mowing. You should keep tall fescue height at 2 inches during the spring and fall. Keep it at 3 inches during the hot summer months when it’s in full sun, as it isn’t resistant to heat.
Trim perennial ryegrass to 2 inches during all seasons. It is sunlight resistant; hence there is no need to increase its height during summer. You only need to reduce mowing frequency from once a week to once a fortnight in summer.
Both perennial ryegrass and tall fescue need fertilizer. Both types of grass grow best when they have a little extra help from the soil. They all need at least one pound of nitrogen fertilizer per 1000 square feet.
Susceptibility to Weeds
Weeds are a problem for both perennial ryegrass and tall fescue, but the two types of grass have different tactics for dealing with them. Tall fescue is more susceptible to weeds as it grows in clumps. To prevent weeds from taking over, fill in spaces between patches with seedings.
Perennial Ryegrass vs Tall Fescue: Which One Should You Choose?
Tall fescue is excellent for lawns that are high traffic or include pets like dogs and cats. It grows back quickly when it gets cut. The grass is also drought resistant, pests resistant, and doesn’t need a lot of maintenance.
Perennial ryegrass may not be your best option if you have pets in your yard. This type is best for you if you live in a sunny area with dry and acidic soil. Perennial ryegrass has the best growth rate. It is ideal if you need grass to cover your lawn in no time.
Can I grow both perennial ryegrass and tall fescue on my lawn?
Absolutely. Perennial ryegrass and tall fescue both grow well in the same areas of your lawn. Perennial ryegrass will establish itself more and take up more space than tall fescue. However, planting one type of grass in a single yard is best. Each type requires different maintenance and mowing needs.
Do I need fertilizer on my lawn?
Fertilizer is a must for healthy lawns. It would be best to fertilize your yard to ensure it has enough nutrients to survive and thrive. Gardens grown without fertilizer may lack essential grass nutrients, leading to poor growth, yellowing leaves, and even death!
How do you differentiate between perennial ryegrass and tall fescue?
Perennial ryegrass has leaves that are narrow and pointed, while the leaves of tall fescue are broader and more rounded. The latter also has dark to medium green leaves, while the former has bright green leaves.
While perennial ryegrass and tall fescue are both beautiful types of grass, they’re not comparable in all aspects. Perennial ryegrass has soft leaves, while tall fescue has coarse ones.
Perennial ryegrass is more popular because it’s easier to grow and has a short establishment time. However, there are some downsides to this plant. It isn’t resistant to drought and not suitable for heavy traffic areas.
Tall fescue is a more durable plant that can withstand extreme drought conditions. It is resistant to pests but prone to diseases and fungus infections.
Hello! My name is Chris, and I am the founder of Yard Floor. When I was a toddler, my family had a lush green lawn. I was at the center of caring for and maintaining this lawn and even proceeded to take an associate’s Degree in landscaping. I am here to share my years of experience with you – be it repairing your mower/tractor or caring for your lawn.