Marathon Grass vs. Tall Fescue Grass

May 9, 2022 ● Turfs

When it comes to healthy, lush lawns, there are many options homeowners have to choose from. Two of the most popular types of grass are Marathon grass and tall fescue. Both have their pros and cons, but what’s the difference between them? 

Let’s take a closer look at the benefits of marathon grass vs. tall fescue as you begin to plan out a gorgeous landscape this spring! 

Key Takeaways

  • There are three types of Marathon grass to choose from, all of which offer different benefits. 
  • Marathon I, II, and tall fescue are best for family lawns that receive heavy amounts of wear and tear.
  • Marathon III is best for homeowners who want to mow their lawns less often.

What is the Difference Between Marathon Grass vs. Tall Fescue?

We’ll take a closer look at the exact properties (and benefits) of both Marathon grass and tall fescue later on in this post but first, you might want to know what the key differences are between the two.

This can be confusing to explain since, technically, Marathon grass is tall fescue. All Marathon products are tall fescue grass species – but have been refined and cultivated to offer many additional benefits.

For starters, all Marathon grass types are more durable than other cool season varieties of tall fescue that are available for use in southern California. 

The Original Marathon grass, in particular, is noted for being more durable and having a faster rate of growth. Because of this, it bounces back quickly when damaged. It has a strong disease resistance as well.

The other two varieties – Marathon II and Marathon III – have multiple sub-varieties that can be used. These include dwarf varieties that have a reduced growth rate but can be lowered much lower while producing fewer clippings. This can result in a more manicured look and require less frequent maintenance. 

In short, the tall fescue you can buy just about anywhere is not necessarily the same as Marathon. Though it’s the same species it doesn’t have the more refined characteristics of the grasses in the Marathon line. 

Benefits of Marathon Grass

Benefits of Marathon Grass

When considering the benefits of Marathon grass vs. tall fescue, it’s necessary to first break down the differences between the three types of Marathon grasses.

Marathon I

Also known as the Original Marathon, this year-round sod is prized for its durability and beauty. It’s well rounded, meaning it doesn’t perform extraordinarily well in any one category – but has decent rankings in just about all of them.

It grows quickly, recovers well from daily traffic, and is popular for family yards and recreation areas. It just doesn’t show the wear and tear quite as much as other types of grass. 

Marathon I has a nice medium-green color and needs to be mowed at a moderate height. 

Marathon II

A more advanced development of dwarf tall fescue, Marathon II is still quite durable. It can be cut a bit shorter and grows in a dense fashion. It is disease-resistant, too, so you won’t have to worry too much about the health of your yard.

Although Marathon II grows more slowly than Marathon II, it still recovers quite well. It can handle regular traffic as long as this does not occur on a daily basis. This kind of grass is best used for accent lawns or landscape design purposes only – this isn’t where you’ll want to let your kids hang out and play football! 

It looks attractive year-long with its deep green color and needs to be mowed to a height of around 1.5-3”. 

Marathon III

The most sensitive and delicate of all three Marathon grass varieties, Marathon III has a fine-leafed consistency that makes it the most natural-looking of them all. It grows in a dense fashion and has a dark green color. 

It grows quite slowly so it’s not the best choice for family lawns. It can be grown in a community area but again, this isn’t the type of grass to grow if you’re looking for a lawn your children can play on. 

That said, it offers many benefits – one of the biggest being that it requires infrequent mowing. Damaged or brown spots, though, might be visible for longer since it does regrow so slowly. 

Benefits of Tall Fescue

Like Marathon grass, tall fescue is relatively tolerant of cold, heat, shade, and even drought. It’s versatile, resilient, and durable. 

Though it’s a cool-season grass, like Marathon, it has improved heat tolerance and is disease-resistant. It has a bunch-forming growth habit. 

Like Marathon, it has a limited capacity for self-repair since it grows so slowly. 

It tolerates shade well and establishes quickly from seed. In fact, its extensive root system can easily reach up to three feet deep – much deeper than most other cool-season grasses – which is what makes it so tolerant of heat and drought. It grows well in warm summer temperatures and stays green during the cool.

The biggest challenge of growing tall fescue is that, like Marathon II and III, it doesn’t recover from damages easily. This is because it grows in clumps and spreads from the base of the plant. This makes it easier to contain – but also makes it slow to reestablish itself. 

Marathon Grass vs. Tall Fescue Comparison

Can’t decide whether Marathon grass or tall fescue is right for you? Take a look at this chart to help you make the right call. 

Marathon I Marathon II Marathon III Tall Fescue
Sun Requirements Full sun to shade Full sun to partial shade Full sun Full sun to partial shade
Texture Coarse Slightly coarse Soft Coarse
Mowing Height 2.5-3.5” 1.5-3.0” 1.5” or higher 2-3”
Best For Daily use lawns Lawns, athletic fields, parks Rarely used lawns or accent areas for landscape design purposes only Lawns that are used less often or only for landscape design purposes


So, what’s the verdict? Marathon grass is a great option for homeowners looking for a low-maintenance lawn that still looks good. If you have time to put in some extra work, tall fescue can be a great choice, too. But no matter which variety of grass you choose, remember to follow our tips for how to care for your lawn and keep it looking its best all year long!


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