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The California fescue is a native grass found in both California and Oregon where it grows in dry climate areas within the chaparral and pine forest plant associations. The best stands and largest plants typically grow in partial shade where there is reduced heat and moisture stress. It is a clumping species with pale green to gray-green foliage that forms mounds 1-2 ft. tall; flower inflorescences grow to 3 ft. and provide attractive character in late summer.

California fescue offers both ornamental and restoration value in gardens and landscape areas throughout the Inland Empire. It is often used as an alternative to deer grass due to its more refine size and character. It can be planted in large drifts, casual masses, among trees, on slopes for erosion control and for habitat value. It is a good understory plant to California native oaks with low summer water needs.

Water Needs

California fescue is highly adapted to all parts of the Inland Empire where it grows well in sun as well as partial shade and with low amounts of supplemental water during summer. The chart shown below provides a recommended baseline guide to the monthly irrigation schedule and volume of supplemental water needed to maintain healthy growth throughout the average year. It should be noted there are several months indicated by an asterisk (*) when winter rains can provide sufficient moisture and irrigation is not needed. The high and low range of moisture indicates it can grow with varying amounts of water; more water in the spring will result in more robust summer performance.

Irrigation Schedule and Graph

Low Water Use Plants

Irrigation Schedule 1

  Jan* Feb* Mar* Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov* Dec*
Runs per Month 0x to 2x 0x to 2x 0x to 2x 1x 1x 1x 1x 1x 1x 1x 0x to 2x 0x to 2x
Inches per Run 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1"
Inches per Month 0" to 2" 0" to 2" 0" to 2" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 0" to 2" 0" to 2"

Range of supplemental summer water: 7"
Range of supplemental winter water: 0"-10"

  Jan* Feb* Mar* Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov* Dec*
For more information on how to use this Irrigation Schedule and Graph, follow this link.

For information how to calculate your irrigation system’s schedule and precipitation rate, please follow this link.

Plant Properties

Plant Type: Grass, Native
Foliage Character: Semi-deciduous
Habit: Clumping
Growth Rate: Moderate
Height: 1 ft. - 2 ft.
Width: 1 ft. - 2 ft.
Water Needs: Low 1
Foliage Color: Pale green, Gray green
Flower Color: Cream
Flower Season: Summer, Spring
Soil Adaptations: Well-draining soil, Clay
Exposure Adaptations: Partial sun
Function: Wildlife value, Slopes, Restoration, Residential spaces, Raised planters, Parks and open space, Mass planting, Grouped, Foliage accent plant, California native, Borders, Banks


Cool season grower. Best planted in the fall, October - November. Best cut back in the fall if a clean up is needed prior to its push of cool season growth (S).



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