At the most basic level, grass needs two things to grow: water and sunshine. How much water your lawn gets is easy to control but making sure it gets enough sunlight can be tricky. If you live in a wooded area or have many shrubs or bushes on your property, you should consider growing grass that does well in the shade.
Choosing a shade-tolerant grass species requires an intimate understanding of how much sun your lawn gets throughout the day and knowledge of your region’s climate. Growing grass in a shady yard is more complicated than growing it in full sunshine, so we’ve put together this handy guide to make things easier. Below you’ll find a rundown of the six best types of grass to grow in the shade, followed by some general tips for helping your shady lawn reach its full, verdant potential.
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6 Types of Grasses to Grow in Shade
- Fescue: Fine fescue, red fescue, and tall fescue are all excellent cool-season cultivars for partially-shaded lawns. All types of fescue have deep roots that allow them to flourish with as little as four hours of spotty sunlight per day.
- St. Augustine: The Sapphire and Palmetto cultivars of St. Augustine grass are generally considered two of the best warm season options to grow in the shade. St. Augustine grass needs more water and sunlight than fescue, requiring four hours of direct sun per day.
- Centipede: If most of your lawn gets six hours of dappled sunshine daily, Centipede grass will work well. The Oaklawn and Tennessee Hardy cultivars are especially shade-tolerant and are excellent warm-season grasses.
- Zoysia: Zoysia is extremely popular throughout the south and warmer parts of the transition zone for its robustness. Zoysia thrives on just three hours of full sun, making it extremely easy to grow in low-light conditions.
- Perennial Ryegrass: If you need cool-season grass that grows well with four hours of sunlight per day, perennial ryegrass is a great choice. It’s not as tolerant to shade as fescue but still grows well in partial shade.
- Rough Bluegrass: Rough Bluegrass needs four hours of dappled sunshine per day to reach its full potential, making it a great choice for growing in full shade conditions. However, it is a cool-season grass and does not tolerate heat well, making it a viable option only in cooler climates.
How to Grow Grass in Shady Areas
Choosing the right cultivar for your lawn’s conditions is only the first step to growing a shady lawn. Here are six tips for growing a lush, healthy lawn in the shade.
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Even out the shade
If you can, consider altering your landscaping to make your shade more evenly distributed. This might not be possible without drastically altering your yard’s look and feel — for example, if your shade comes primarily from a tree canopy. But if you can transplant a few bushes or prune some of the lower branches on your trees to even out the shade across your lawn, it will make your life a lot easier.
Don’t forget that planting new trees or bushes to reduce the direct sunlight that reaches other parts of your lawn is also an option. Having the same sunlight conditions on as much of your lawn as possible is the goal.
Pick the Best Seed for Your Climate
Even if you can manage spotty sunshine in some parts of your lawn, your yard won’t look good if you aren’t trying to grow the right type of grass for your climate. Choosing a suboptimal grass seed will leave your lawn thin, patchy, and brown even if you do everything else right.
Most of the country requires cool season grasses like bluegrass, ryegrass, and fescue that can withstand the freezing winter temperatures. These grass varieties don’t handle heat well and will wilt under the intense heat of a southern summer.
Conversely, warm season grasses thrive in the blistering southern summers and can easily handle temperatures over 85 degrees.
Plant the right grass seed mix
Seeding your lawn with a grass seed mix is a great idea for many reasons. Grass seed blends are more resilient to varying water conditions and can resist invasions from weeds and insects better than single-seed lawns. They also make growing a thick lawn in shady or partially-shady conditions easier since the different cultivars or species will even out growth in different areas.
Most major lawn care brands offer grass seed mix suitable for different levels of shade and direct sunlight, making it easy to plant grass seeds that will thrive.
One of the simplest ways to give your shady lawn a boost is to mow your grass higher. Mowing your grass higher makes it better at absorbing sunlight since the blades have larger surface areas. Taller grass also protects your lawn against fungus and makes for a healthier lawn overall.
Most experts recommend setting the mowing height to two-thirds of your grass’ current height to avoid cutting it too short. Don’t forget to make sure your mower blades are sharp since sharp blades make cleaner cuts and lead to healthier grass. Grass growing in the shade is less robust than grass that gets more sunlight, and every bit of help you can give it will improve your results.
Adjust Watering Schedule
Overwatering a shady lawn is one of the most common mistakes homeowners make. Shady spots hold water for longer than sunny spots, so giving the same amount of water to every part of your lawn could lead to fungus development in the shady parts. In general, watering shady patches early in the day is better since it gives the grass time to absorb the water and dry out before the cooler temperatures set in overnight.
Another important note about watering shady grass is to make sure the grass growing directly under trees gets more water than other shady spots. Grass that grows at the tree’s base has to compete with tree roots for water and can easily die if it doesn’t get enough water.
Reduce Traffic and Overseed
Grass in shaded areas has a harder time recovering from stress, so try to reduce activity in the shady parts of your lawn if you can. Rerouting footpaths to reduce foot traffic with clever landscaping is a great unobtrusive way to keep the kids and pets from killing the grass.
If you already have some dead or dying grass, overseeding is a great way to bring them back to life and can save you from the much more labor-intensive job of reseeding your entire lawn
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FAQs about Growing Grass in the Shade
What type of grass needs the least sunlight?
Fescue is the most resistant species of grass. Unfortunately, fescue is a cool season grass and won’t grow well in warmer climates.
What is the best grass for shade?
Most kinds of fescue grass, Kentucky bluegrass, St. Augustine grass, most species of cool season turfgrass, Bermudagrass, and zoysia grass are all excellent grasses to grow in shady conditions.
Is there a grass that grows in 100% shade?
Sort of. All grass needs sunlight to grow, but tall fescue can thrive in dense shade as long as it gets at least three hours of filtered sunshine per day.
How do I grow grass in heavy shade?
Assess your yard’s sunlight conditions, choose the right grass seed for your climate and shade level, water it in the morning, and mow it taller than you normally would.