Spring Tasks: Dividing the Blue Fescue

garden drama elijah blue closeup
Blue Fescue ‘Elijah Blue’ co-mingles wonderfully with creeping sedum in a rock garden border. Give it lots of sun and well-drained soil.

Blue Fescue ‘Elijah Blue’ has been greeting visitors at the front border of the Garden Drama test garden for over 10 years.

How does one make blue fescue  (Festuca glauca ‘Elijah Blue’) happy? From my experience — sun, sun, sun. Bake it to get that great, matte-blue cast to its spiky blades. And really well-drained soil, almost sandy, adds to success. When establishing blue fescue, it likes supplemental watering, but past the first year, it is quite drought tolerant. They say deer will pass it by, as well.

It really adds to the landscape. As far as small grasses, this is where it is at and how else do you get this groovy pop of blue? Dot it around the front of your border, like music notes on a staff or clump it in waves of 3, 5 or 7 for a sea of texture and color. It looks right at home tucked among the rocks and clings happily to stepping stones along the garden path.

An old chef's knife is the perfect tool to divide blue fescue.
An old chef’s knife is the perfect tool to divide blue fescue.

Dividing blue fescue every few years keeps plants as tidy little tufts, like the above photo. I let mine go, with no dividing at all over the past decade. They still looked pretty good, but were getting overgrown, a little misshapen and several had dead centers. So, it was time to divide.

The task isn’t too bad. The grasses dig up pretty easily and the root balls hold the soil as you lift the plants. Search for a dead, hollow center and carve it out and divide the clump into 2 or 3 smaller clumps. Take the opportunity to cut off all dead grass from last season until you have little Chia-pet-like clumps. Replant and keep them constantly moist for a few weeks and supplement water regularly the whole first season to encourage roots to send themselves down deep.

blue fescue clumps garden drama
Three large clumps of blue fescue can produce a dozen little plants.

Side note: It helps to cut your blue fescue back in either late fall or very early spring until you have less than an inch of growth. In essence, give it a buzz cut. If you don’t get it cut back in time and you have new growth sprouting, you can gently comb the dead grass out with your fingers and still get a pretty neat-looking plant.


One Comment Add yours

  1. Susan says:

    Thank you for this post. Love Blue Fescue and here in So Cal there is a lot of it. How deep do the roots need to be somewhat drought tolerant? I have some balcony rail boxes that get sun sun sun and not much is happy there. Blue Fescue would be pretty there though. Also, what is the name of plant putting its red stem with purple flower “tentacles” into the picture above? thanks again!

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