3 Reasons Your Fescue Dies Every Year in the South

Brendon Willis

What causes my fescue lawn to die every year?

Fescue can be pretty frustrating if you live in the south. The sun beats down on your lawn all day long in the summer, but your regular lawn grass doesn’t grow in the shade and you have these dirt or thin lawn areas under the trees, against the fence, and next to structures.

So you find out that you need to plant fescue in these areas. If you’ve planted fescue, you may be familiar with the experience of getting a nice green fescue lawn area established just to have it mostly or completely die off within 6-12 months. Or maybe you had fescue sod laid and it has died. In the south, there are 3 reasons that we would say account for 9 out of 10 instances of fescue lawn decline.

In this article we will discuss these reasons and some tips to avoid fescue lawn decline or death.

Reason 1: Disease & Too Much Water

The most common reason we see for fescue decline is brown patch disease. There is one primary catalyst to brown patch disease – TOO MUCH WATER! Too much or too frequent watering sessions, especially during the summer months. Keeping your fescue wet all day when it’s hot out will rapidly speed up disease pathogen transfer across the lawn. A humid lawn surface is a great host for disease. Brown patch disease can kill your fescue in a matter of 3-4 weeks. This is the most common killer of fescue in summer.

Fescue needs water once per day during the hottest months of the year, July through mid- September. Watering once per day in the early morning when the grass is already wet from the dew should be all your fescue needs. Avoid watering in the heat of the day.

Reason 2: Not Enough Water

On the other hand, fescue can not live very long without water when it’s 95+ degrees outside. In fact, unless you’re super dedicated, it can be hard to have any fescue at all if you don’t have an automatic sprinkler system.

In the winter months when the temperatures are averaging 50 or below, water your fescue once a month or so if you can. In the cooler spring and fall months, once or twice a week usually works. In the warming and cooling months, early summer and late summer, usually 2-4 times per week. Then, in the hottest months you’ll likely need to water every day.

Reason 3: Mowing Too Short

Fescue needs to be cut at a height of 2.5-4 inches on a weekly basis when it is growing. Much shorter and you’re cutting off too much of the plant for it to thrive. Too tall and the grass doesn’t dry out well enough during the day.

Super tall fescue is at risk of getting disease due to lower air circulation. But, it’s much better to be too tall that too short.

Fescue likes to have the clippings bagged when it’s cut each week. Piling up clippings make it susceptible to disease.


In conclusion, maintaining a healthy fescue lawn in the South requires careful attention to the balance of water, mowing height, and disease prevention.

By understanding the delicate relationship between too much and too little hydration, avoiding mowing the grass too short, and remaining vigilant about disease control, particularly with brown patch disease, you can increase the chances of enjoying a lush, vibrant fescue lawn all year round. Consistent and well-timed watering, proper mowing practices, and removing clippings can help reduce the frustration that often comes with fescue care.

Embrace these strategies, and your fescue will be better equipped to withstand the summer heat and thrive in shaded areas.

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