Bearskin fescue, as it is called in German, is better known to many plant lovers under the name bearskin grass. It is a sweet grass that is used as an ornamental grass in many gardens. This grass differs visually from many other grasses. It forms a dense, mostly rounded carpet, comparable to the dense fur of animals, perhaps that of bears? Bearskin grass is rather low-growing, only about 15 cm high, has a clump-like and cushion-like habit and is a beautiful, strong green colour. In winter the grass stays green but loses some of its beauty. But that changes quickly in the spring.
Table of Contents
Bearskin grass originates from the Pyrenees, where it usually thrives on rocky slopes. It flowers from July to August and produces small green panicles that are stiffly upright to overhanging. The fruit is an inconspicuous brownish panicle.
Bearskin fescue is a very attractive grass. It is often used in gardening and landscaping. In the home garden, it is good as an edging for beds, as a ground cover, as a lawn replacement for areas that are not too large, for rock, gravel and heath gardens, in the joints of stepping stones and even for grave design. Bearskin grass also thrives very well in planters. The use for extensive roof greening is interesting. Bearskin grass is therefore very versatile, robust and easy to care for and that is why it is so popular.
species and varieties
The botanical name for bearskin grass is Festuca gautieri. There are several fescue grasses in this group of plants.
- Blue fescue (Festuca glauca) – blue-grey foliage, about 20 cm high, very drought tolerant, the poorer the soil, the bluer the colour
- Dwarf Bearskin Fescue (Festuca gautieri ‘Pic Carlit’ – only grows to 10cm tall, otherwise the same as the larger version
- Rainbow fescue (Festuca amethystina) – bluish-green color before flowering, more coppery and purplish tones after flowering, purple flower, grows to 25 cm tall (excluding flower stalks)
- Special Blue Fescue (Festuca Cinera) – Hybrid ‘Elaijah Blue’ – bluest variety of all Blue Fescue, very durable variety, 15 to 25 cm high
- Sheep Fescue (Festuca ovino) – ‘Kingfisher’ – silver-blue species, 20 to 30 cm tall, very compact, good in the pot as the grass diverges at the edge and then even hangs a little over the edge
- Red fescue (Festuca rubra agg.) – group of plants, including: eyrie red fescue, common red fescue, rush red fescue, hairy red fescue and others. Found in many lawn mixtures
The care of bearskin grass
The beautifully formed hemispherical and dense lawn cushions with their rich green color are absolutely easy to care for. Once planted, the grass can usually be left to its own devices. It needs barren soil, little water, no fertilizer and hardly any pruning. Only the faded flower stalks should be cut off. There is not much more to do. A division makes sense when the grass gets out of shape
Bearskin fescue tends to go bald. Of course you can divide the plant and replant it, but there is another way. You put a layer of soil on the bald spots, not you, just about an inch. The grass usually drives out reliably again. However, the procedure creates a small hill.
With an ideal location and good care, bearskin grass can live for a good 10 to 15 years. Full sun is often given as the location, but I have found that the grass thrives better in partial shade. Bright midday sun doesn’t really do the grass any good, because heat is something that bearskin grass doesn’t tolerate very well.
- Sunny to semi-shady
- Not too hot!
- Also suitable for hillsides, if they are not too sunny.
- Ideal for dry locations
- East or west locations are preferred
The plant substrate must be permeable and quite barren. If the soil is too nutrient-rich, the plants quickly fall apart, lose their beautiful shape and look like nothing. The grass likes stony soils. It is important that all unneeded water can drain away quickly. Moist soils are not tolerated.
- Permeable but moisture-retaining
- Low in humus and low in nutrients
- Gladly also gravel soils
- Poor soil is important, otherwise the grass will become bare and senile quite quickly
- Reacts sensitively to rising damp
When planting, nothing special needs to be considered. The planting hole must not be too large and the grass must not be planted too deep. It can be planted all year round, except when it’s frosty, but there are of course months when it’s particularly favourable.
- Planting time is spring
- Aerie base must be above ground
- Mix in some compost
- 6 to 10 plants per square meter
- Planting distance 20 to 30 cm
- The weed works best when planted in small groups of 3 to 8 plants
- Drainage is recommended when keeping vessels
- You should also pay attention to the choice of companion plants. They have to do without fertilizer because it damages the grass.
watering and fertilizing
Watering and fertilizing the bearskin fescue is absolutely uncomplicated. The plants cope well with drought if they are not in the blazing sun. If it is hot and dry for a long time, it should be watered a bit, but often it doesn’t have to be. Fertilizer is better left out. Too many nutrients do more harm than good. It is better to add compost when planting and always mix in some of it when dividing.
- Light to medium water requirement
- Do not fertilize, likes poor soil
- Every two to three years you can mix in some compost when dividing
The bearskin grass does not need to be cut into shape. Only the stalks are cut off. Otherwise, there is no need to use scissors. In this regard, too, the weed is unbeatable.
- Cut off only the faded stems
- To prevent self-seeding, it is advisable to do this before the ears are ripe
- By self-sowing, the grass, like many others, can multiply greatly
Bearskin grass overwinters outdoors with no problem. It doesn’t need to be protected. Difficulties arise when the site is too wet. The grass doesn’t like that, it can happen that it disappears. Otherwise, the bearskin fescue is a robust, hardy plant that does not need frost protection. The evergreen grass is particularly attractive in winter at Reif.
- For potted plants, pack the pot so that it does not freeze through so quickly.
- It is also good to place a styrofoam plate or wooden slats under the bucket so that the bucket does not stand on the cold ground.
The bearskin grass can be propagated by division and by sowing. Division is very easy. Sowing is a bit more complicated, but not difficult either. Getting seeds is more difficult.
Division in spring or, if necessary, in autumn
- Especially recommended for plants that are beginning to bare.
- But should be done regularly, the plants stay healthier.
- Seeds can be harvested by yourself
- use potting soil
- Do not cover with soil, light germinator
- Press lightly and spray with water
- Bag over the pot for high humidity
- Keep warm, air and moisten slightly again and again
- Too much moisture is harmful
- Plant out young plants by autumn at the latest and protect them a little from the cold
diseases and pests
Bearskin grass is a hardy and healthy plant. If the site requirements are met and the substrate is right, if you don’t water and fertilize too much, the plants will thrive all by themselves. Diseases are very rare. Pests are also rare. Not even snails like the grass.
If there is too much fertilizer, the stalks become soft and the grass falls apart. It also becomes more susceptible to diseases and pests
The bearskin grass is a robust, easy-care and very beautiful type of grass. I particularly like the flat, semicircular grass as a lawn replacement for small areas, especially in small front yards. I put it myself as a separation between the bed and the stone edge, so to speak as a transition, above all so that the blackbirds cannot scratch there. For that it works fine. Since it is evergreen, it provides color in the bed even in winter. I’m very satisfied. The bearskin grass does next to no work and looks really good. I can recommend it with a clear conscience. If you have the wrong soil, i.e. moist substrate, you can try another species from the Festuca plant family.