growing blue fescue from seed

dawgie(z7NC)May 10, 2005

Just wanted to share my experiences growing blue fescue from seed. I saw a packet of blue fescue seeds at WalMart or Target last spring and bought it for something like 35 cents. Planted the seeds in 6-8 peat pots and pretty much ignored them. They sprouted quickly and I repotted into 4" pots in the summer. They are now all nice 6" tall/wide clumps of blue fescue. One of the keys to helping them bunch up is to give them regular "haircuts" while they are still small. I just cut them back with scissors several times during the growing season and in early spring. I plan to sow another batch of seeds soon, so I will have a ready supply for other areas in my yard.

I'm broadening my OG propagation this year to include N. Sea Oats, Chasmanthium. I have two clumps in my yard that reseeded heavily around the plants. I have been digging up some of the seedlings and repotting them, so I soon will have another dozen Sea Oats to plant or trade. I wouldn't call these plants aggressively invasive, but they do reseed rather heavily -- enough to keep my busy weeding for 20 minutes or so when I get around to it.

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Vera_EWASH(z5 EasternWA)

Good for you!

I usually do the same with sowing in cool whip or simular containers and then plant out as plugs. I wintersowed a bunch this year too! With my Blue Fescue I just direct sowed last spring to see how it would work and by end of the year I had really nice clumps. This year they are even bigger and better and I'm looking at seed heads now! They also seem bluer this year too...thats strange :) I'm winter sowed some Blue Oatgrass too but not getting much germination so I'm going do a little direct sowing since the weather is rainy.


    Bookmark   May 10, 2005 at 9:15PM
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dawgie...I'm interested in your "haircut" technique. How does this kind of pruning thicken the clump? I recently planted out 40 plugs of a few Festuca varieties, including Blue Fescue, that were wintersown. I only did two clumps last year, and just trimmed them once in late winter. They're acting like Vera's now, much more blue than last year, and shooting up dozens of seedheads on each clump.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2005 at 7:31AM
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Giving your blue fescue a haircut has the same effect as mowing a lawn. It causes the grass to send out more leaves and bunch up. It's also similar to pruning a tree or bush. Most plants will send out several new shoots just below the area where they are pruned.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2005 at 7:54AM
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I'll have to add that to my chain of experiments on the Festuca. I sowed 1.5" cells with 3 seeds each, 12-15 seeds each, and 30 seeds each. I'm comparing the amount of time it takes each to reach a useful size. I'll start trimming a few of each set, to compare the effect.


PS..Chasmanthium starts beautifully from seed. I winter sowed some last year, and it flowered and set seed in it's first season. That seed is now sprouting in the coldframe, along with some seed from Jellito.

Another good, but a bit slower, cool season grass to grow from seed is Snowy Woodrush, Luzula nivea. A clump that I WS'd last year is basketball-sized now, and blooming profusely. It's thriving in a shade/sun bed under a Locust tree, and a really cool looking grass.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2005 at 8:15AM
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I have a question about the color of some blue fescue 'select' that I started indoors this spring. I had great germination but all of the seedlings are basically green. Can I expect them to "blue" up as they grow this year. I see in the other posts that fescue may get bluer the second years but i am wondering about this year because I don't know if I want to plant green fescue in the perennial bed. Thanks.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2005 at 11:23AM
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When growing blue fescue from seed, you will have some variation in color. That's why growers propagate varieties like Elijah Blue, so they can be certain and consistent with the color. My blue fescues that I grew from seed all have a bluish cast, but vary slightly in intensity. One clump has a portion that is distinctly green, and that part probably came from a different seed.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2005 at 12:03PM
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I grew 'Select' from Plantation Seeds last year. All year, it was 99% green. This year, it's 80% green, except for the reddish tint to the flowerheads.

This year, I sowed Park's Blue Fescue, which is extremely blue in their photo:

My sprouts look exactly like the 'Select' did last year...99% green.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2005 at 12:15PM
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julie79(z5/6 MA)

Thanks, Dawgie, for starting this thread, and others for contributing. I winter-sowed blue fescue this year -- my first attempt at ornamental grasses. I had great germination and am now wondering what to do with all the seedlings.

Specific questions:
- How big should the seedlings be before I transplant them to pots or the garden?
- Should I bother to separate the seedlings or plant them as clumps?
- What about spacing?

Thanks in advance,

PS: All of my fescue looks elegant green grass, so here's hoping for a transition to blue!

    Bookmark   May 20, 2005 at 9:50PM
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I think you can transplant your seedlings at any time, or even sow seeds directly in the ground. I grew mine in 4" pots over the winter because I wasn't sure where I wanted to plant them. They have become more bluish in appearance as they have gotten larger.

I just started some new seedlings in leftover trays from annuals. I'm going to plant these ones in the ground as soon as their roots are well established in the trays. They are going in a new bed where I just planted 3 pink muhly grasses. I'm going to interplant the blue fescues between the muhlys so the whole bed will be filled with grasses. Muhly is not very ornamental until it flowers, so the fescue will add interest at other times of the year.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2005 at 10:01AM
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julie79(z5/6 MA)

Thanks, Dawgie. Sounds like a gorgeous combination!

    Bookmark   May 24, 2005 at 10:52PM
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I'm pleased to report that the seed from Parks grew blue!

    Bookmark   July 20, 2005 at 3:01PM
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I got some blue fescue seeds and the instruction I have are quite different (see below) from you procedures. How should I plant these seeds? and how to collect them?

Can I plant them late summer or autumn?

Thanks a lot

Sow February to July in trays of good seed compost in a propagator or warm place to maintain an optimum temperature of 15-18C. Sow in well drained compost, just covering the seed with compost. Germination can be slow. After sowing, seal container in a polythene bag and leave at 15-18C for 2 weeks, then place in a refrigerator for 3-6 weeks. After this, return to the recommended germination temperature, if germination does not occur in 6-10 weeks, return to the fridge for a further 3-6 weeks. Examine regularly whilst in the fridge and remove immediately the seeds show signs of germinating.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2006 at 4:22PM
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Any seed sowing instructions that include the word "whilst" are suspect.

Blue Fescue seed will germinate on a damp rock. They don't require cold statification. They don't require "good seed compost." (Brit seed supplier, eh?)

Fill a small container with plain old dirt. Sprinkle the seed on top of the dirt. Mist the seeds and the top of the dirt, and pat the seeds down so they have good contact with the soil. Keep the surface moist until they germinate.

Fescue is lawn grass. Folks grow it all the time, with minimal details and attention. It's one of the easiest OG's to grow from seed.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2006 at 7:07PM
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Yeap, british supplier :) I am from Portugal and I got these seeds in the UK... and all the seeds I buy in the UK usually come with rather complicate instructions :))

Two quick questions:
1) Now that I know that the instructions are rubbish, when is the best time to seed them?

2) can you suggest a similar ornamental grass, with redish color?

Thanks a lot for the help :)

    Bookmark   July 27, 2006 at 2:54AM
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Festuca glauca germinates in cool to warm temperatures, but the optimum is listed as 20ºC (68ºF). When I've winter sown it, it germinated in mid to late March. It's a cool season grower, so you could sow it now, and the seedlings will become established in the fall.

There are quite a few red ornamental grasses, but I can't think of any with foliage as fine as Festuca. They also tend to be larger in stature. There are several cultivars of Panicum virgatum which are red, including 'Shenandoah,'Rostrahlbusch' and 'Squaw.' These can't be grown from seed.

The closest in foliage fineness and stature to Blue Fescue would be Carex comans 'Bronze Form,' which, as it's name implies, is bronze colored. This can be grown from seed, and is hardy to zone 7, possibly cooler.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2006 at 5:50AM
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I planting blue fescue from seed this year, in a nine cell under lights, I am using the cutting technique as you suggested.
We bought quite a few grasses a few years back, maybe giving them a haircut would help them spread.


    Bookmark   April 2, 2011 at 7:51AM
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wondering about your experiment regarding how many seeds to start in small seed pots. are 5 enough to produce a clump.... 10 ? 20? 30...?

    Bookmark   May 5, 2014 at 1:59PM
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I was wondering the same thing and never have gotten an answer or at least one I find believable! I did find this site and it says in the column on the right three (3) seeds required. Hope this helps us both!!

Here is a link that might be useful: Blue Fescue Ornamental Grass

    Bookmark   June 30, 2014 at 5:06PM
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If you want a plant with consistent characteristics, use individual seeds. Multiple seeds to a clump will yield clumps with variations in color and texture of the foliage, even if all the seeds are from the same plant.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 12:55PM
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