Festuca roemeri / Festuca idahoensis ssp roemeri
Roemer’s Fescue is a highly-ornamental bunchgrass with compact tufts usually less than one foot tall. It's an evergreen, looking its finest in the cooler months when it sports lush blue-green foliage. By late spring, it shoots up tan seed stalks 2’ - 5’ tall, swaying in the wind, until the plant goes dormant by mid-summer. This bunchgrass was once a common component of Willamette Valley Oak Savannas, but is now overtaken by invasive weeds and has diminished to almost nothing. In this way, Roemer’s Fescue presents us with an important opportunity to bring part of Oregon’s ecological legacy back to our gardens.
- Plant type/canopy layer: deciduous perennial herbaceous plant/ground layer
- Size at maturity: 1' tall, 1-2' wide bunchgrass with seed stalks 2-5' tall
- Light requirements: full sun
- Moisture requirements: dry to moist soil
- Bloom time: n/a
- Growth rate/ease: moderate growth rate, easy to grow
- Wildlife support: like most native bunchgrasses, provide excellent cover and nesting habitat for arthropods
- Native habitat/range: Found in meadows, grasslands and upland prairies throughout the Pacific Northwest. Portland Plant List - yes.
- Special features & uses: groundcover, evergreen, drought-tolerant
Gardening with Roemer’s Fescue: Roemer’s Fescue is ideal for dry sunny areas, meadowscapes and parking strips. Since it’s at its peak in the cooler seasons, it makes a great addition to open areas in need of winter interest - such as a pollinator garden where other perennials are dormant. It is an excellent underplanting for drought adapted shrubs, especially on slopes where it can help stabilize the bank. In a water-conscious non-irrigated garden, it will follow it’s natural cycle, going completely cere, or dormant, in the summer. But, regular watering and good drainage can keep it lucious all summer long. It can spread by seed, volunteering itself in new locations making it perfect for the wilder, rather than manicured, areas of your garden.
Photo Credits 1-4: "Festuca idahoensis" by Matt Lavin is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
Photo Credit 5: Nikkie West, Sparrowhawk Native Plants