Best Types of Grass to Grow in the Shade


Mar 22, 2021

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Not everyone will have a warm, sunny patch of land to grow grass in.

In fact, a lot of people will have a lawn that is partly or mostly in shade. If the shaded areas of your lawn are not planted with the right type of grass you may end up with a lawn that is part grass and part bare dirt.

Thankfully, there are many types of grass that will generally grow well in shadier areas!

Let’s take a quick look at some of the options that you can choose from.

How Much Sunlight Does Your Grass Really Need?

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Grass, like all plants, needs sunlight to grow. Some grass will need full sun throughout the day while others may only need a few hours.

Keep in mind that no grass will be able to survive in an area that is 100% shaded.

All grass types, even the most shade-resistant of varieties will need a minimum level of sunlight to be able to grow.

In most cases, you will need to make sure that your grass is getting at least four hours of direct sunlight or a minimum of six to eight hours of dappled sunlight per day.

If the grass isn’t getting at least the minimum sunlight required to survive, you may have to consider trimming back the trees. For many homeowners, this is a last resort option.

If you do decide you need to prune your trees, it’s best to start with the lower branches. This will make it easier for sunlight to penetrate through the upper canopy.

Best Shade-Tolerant Grass Varieties to Choose

Picking the right variety of grass for the shady areas in your lawn is half the battle, and there are many types to choose from.

You’ll find that some seed and seed mixes sold online and in stores are conveniently marked as “shade-tolerant”.

Below are generally regarded as the best grass-types to grow in the shade.

Warm Season Grasses

1. Zoysia
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📷: Total Landscape Care

Zoysia grass is a hardy grass type known for superior wear and tear resistance and growing well in unfavorable conditions.

Most varieties of Zoysia will need at least 4 hours of direct sunlight. Some cultivars even claim that 3 hours is enough to sustain the grass!

2. Centipede
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📷: Pennington

Popular due to its low maintenance needs, Centipede grass is very tolerant to high temperatures and can grow well in poor soil conditions.

Centipede will do best in full sun, but it is still fairly shade tolerant only needing 6 hours of direct sunlight a day.

3. St. Augustine
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📷: Clemson Coop Ext.

St. Augustine is an attractive grass that requires a moderate amount of maintenance and is best suited for warm and wet regions.

In ideal conditions, St. Aug will grow rapidly in full sun, but you will find that it struggles in heavily shaded areas. It will require at least 6 hours or more of direct sunlight a day.

Cool Season Grasses

1. Fescue
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📷: Lawn Club

The fecue varieties are some of the most shade-resistant grasses you can find. Each tolerates cooler temperatures well and will need 4 hours of direct sunlight a day.

Both Tall and Fine Fescue offer there own unique benefits and disadvantages and should be well researched before a decision to use one over the other is made.

2. Kentucky Bluegrass
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📷: Pennington

Kentucky Bluegrass is a soft textured grass most famous for it’s beautifully dark colored blades. It is the most widely used cool season grass in the United States.

Only a few varieties are moderately adapted to shade and will need at least 4 hours of direct sunlight a day.

3. Ryegrass

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Ryegrass is excellent at handling high foot-traffic, but you will find that it is not particularly heat or cold tolerant.

Best known for its rapid establishment rate from seed and its moderate shade tolerance, Rygrass will need at least 4-5 hours of sunlight per day to thrive.

Tips for Growing Grass in the Shade

Growing grass in the shade can be tricky and trying to figure out which type is best for you isn’t exactly a walk in the park either! It all takes patience, time and consideration.

Here are some tips and general rules to keep in mind for keeping grass healthy when grown in the shade:

Raise Mow Heights

The reason for this is simple – the longer your grass blade is, the more surface area for your grass to conduct photosynthesis and grow with the little sunlight it’s given.

Mowing also places a lot of stress on grass. Because of this, your grass will take longer to recover in shadier areas from being cut too short.

Use Less Fertilizer

Once you’re grass is established, you will need to make sure that you are giving it the right amount of fertilizer. You won’t need to use as much fertilizer on grass grown in the shade.

As a rule of thumb, when feeding grass in shaded areas apply only 1/2 of the nitrogen you would normally use on the sunny spots of your lawn.

Water Less Often

You won’t need to water shady sections as often as sunnier parts. Because your grass is getting less sun, this means it takes water longer to evaporate.

Having too much excess water in these areas can lead to more serious problems like weeds, fungi growth, or thatch. Keep close attention to these areas and make sure they are not being overwatered.

Keep it Clean

To keep grass healthy year round you need to keep it clean! This means picking up any debris that may have fallen from the trees above. Too many branches and leaves on the ground can block what little sunlight your grass is getting, causing it to suffocate.

We recommend using a lawn sweeper as an affordable and easy way to keep your lawn debris-free.

Avoid Walking On it

Grass in shady patches will often be more susceptible to damage and recover much more slowly than grass grown in full sun. The more frequently you walk on it, the more stressed it will become.

Thankfully, this is an easy problem to solve. Just tread lightly and minimize your time walking in these areas of your lawn.

Your Other Option

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Luckily, the worst case scenario isn’t a bad option at all!

If you find that growing grass in your lawn’s shaded areas isn’t working out there are plenty of other plants and ground cover that grow perfectly in bright, indirect sunlight.

Your options will vary depending on climate and how much sunlight your area gets.

We recommend talking to your local home and garden center for more information on which plants will work best for you.


Just because your lawn has shady patches doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy healthy grass!

It does, though, make choosing the right variety more important. It also means that caring for it in the proper way will be critical.

The most important thing to remember is that experience is gained in the lawn, so don’t be afraid to get out and try!