How To Grow Grass In Shady Areas

If you have a garden with several shady spots, you may find it extremely difficult to grow grass in those areas. This is one of the most common problems of all homeowners. But, do not worry. In this article, we would like to give you some tips, which will help you to grow thicker turf in shady areas and make your lawn look better.


Provide the grass adequate amount of sunlight


Grass needs at least 4 hours of sunlight per day to be able to grow. The sunlight shortage will directly impact on the photosynthesis process of the grass; therefore, it cannot get enough energy to grow. As a result, the plant’s vigor reduces, and it cannot resist well with the diseases, insect attacks, and weather condition changes.

You can improve this situation by trimming some of nearby shrubs and trees to let in more sunlight. Cut tree branches as much as possible, as long as it does not destroy the beauty of the tree and the whole landscape. Before planting any new trees, take into consideration the number of existing trees, the density of those trees, and the light intensity decreased by the new trees. Keep in mind that shade trees should be planted 40 to 100 feet apart. Depending on the tree species, you may know clearly about its mature size, the proper density of it, and the shade it may create.

You may also like: Top 10 Best Grass Seeds for 2017: Which is The Best Choice?

Select the shade tolerant grass species

Fine fescue and rough bluegrass are the most tolerant shade species. Fine fescue can grow up well in shaded areas that are dry, meanwhile, rough bluegrass prefers constantly wet soils. For moderately shady areas, tall fescue may tolerate the conditions well. Zoysiagrass cultivars exhibit better tolerance to moderate shaded areas than centipedegrass. Bermudagrass has extremely poor tolerance to any amount of shade. So, based on this categorization, I am sure that you can easily choose a suitable type of grass for the shady areas in your garden.

Establish and maintain turfgrass in the shade

For cool-seasoned grasses, it is better to seed or sod in the early fall because they will have enough time to mature before the ground is covered by leaves. You should remove leaves by raking or sweeping to prevent the turf from smothering or being attacked by diseases or insects. If seeding cannot be done by mid-September, you’d better wait until spring to avoid the leaf problem.

Grasses growing in shady spots need a little bit more fertilizer than the normal amount used in other areas for the same species. However, they require only one-half to two-thirds more nitrogen than those which grow in full sun positions. To maximize the tolerance of your grass to the disease and environmental stress, you should maintain the soil pH, potassium and phosphorus levels according to the result of soil tests.

Water the grass deeply and only when it’s really necessary. Do not over water the grass in shaded areas because the shade slows down the evaporation of water on the grass leaves. On the other hand, light and frequent watering will develop the shallow-rooted trees that may use up nutrients and water in the area and weaken your grass.

You can proceed to core-aeration to loosen the soil compaction. It will help provide better soil drainage and aeration to allow sufficient penetration of water, nutrients, and air into the soil.

The trees with shallow roots and dense canopies could harm the nearby grass. So, if it is possible, please plant only those species of trees which have deep roots and relatively open canopies like oaks, honey locusts, linden, ginko, and red maples. Please avoid ash, Norway maples, silver maples, willow, and poplar.

A low mowing height is not recommended. The ideal height should be from ½ to 1 inch higher than it would be for the same type of grass in sunny areas. Grass clippings need to be removed by bagging to avoid smothering the grass. You should regularly cut the grass, but do not ever remove more than one-third of the total leaf surface at one time.

Weeds are also an enemy of grass in the war of nutrients, water, and light. They need to be controlled either by using cultural practices (highly recommended) or herbicides to improve the appearance of the grass. Before using any chemicals, please read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully and be sure that the herbicides you are going to use are safe for using under the tree canopy.

Use alternative ground covers

In case the quality of the grass cannot be improved, and you have tried all management practices and shade-tolerant species of grass, then you should think about other types of ground covers which favor shady conditions. There are several nongrassy plants for your selection: English ivy, purple wintercreeper, periwinkle, lirilope, ajuga and, pachysandra. Another option you may think about is removing the trees or shrubs that shadow your grass.



Growing grass in shady areas is possible if the basic requirements for grass growth is known and understood clearly. The competition of the 3 factors – water, nutrients, and light – is the fundamental cause of grass growing failure under shaded conditions. So, to improve grass in shady areas, please strictly follow all the guidelines above because all of them are important and have a critical role in keeping the grass in shady areas nice and healthy.

Last Updated on