Growing Grass in Shade

OK. I admit it. I have given up. I came to the conclusion that grass just would not grow in the corner of my lawn near the ornamental cherry trees. The shade there is so dense that my grass, no matter how lush in April, thinned out to bare soil for five years running. This spring I planted hydrangea, white impatiens, golden hosta and variegated ivy there and the spot looks better than it ever has.

Trees and shade look nice in the landscape. However, it is difficult to grow grassunder trees because not only the quantity but also the quality of the light changes in the shade. In full sun, light is in the “near red” range of wavelengths. In the shade it shifts to the “far red,” which is less effective for photosynthesis. The result is a reduction in the food needed for turf growth. Leaves and stems ofgrass plants are thinner in shade. Moisture from dew under trees takes longer to evaporate. The additional moisture may contribute to an increase in disease.

With the deck stacked against it, it is remarkable that any grass grows under trees. If you let experience, rather than me, be your teacher, these tips will help you grow grass in the shade.


Under high pine tree shade, bermudagrass and zoysiagrass can grow successfully. Beneath the shade of a dogwood or an oak, both fail miserably. Use turfgrasses adapted to your area of Georgia. Fine and tall fescue are adapted to north Georgia. Dependent on the variety; zoysiagrass, centipedegrass, and bermudagrass can be grown throughout the state.

Cool season grasses -Fescue is the most shade-tolerant grass that is adapted to the Atlanta area but there is little difference between the various named fescue seed brands.  Fine fescues may survive in some situations. When establishing cool-season grasses, it is best to seed or sod early enough in the fall so there is sufficient time for the turfgrass to mature before leaves cover the ground. During the fall remove leaves by raking, blowing or bagging when mowing to prevent smothering of the grass. Cool-season turfgrasses will grow long after deciduous trees have dropped their leaves.

Warm season grasses – In general bermudagrass is intolerant to shade. Two newer cultivars, TifGrand and Celebration have shown good persistence under shade conditions. These cultivars may be options in environments where the grass receives 6 hours or better of filtered to intermittent shade. Likewise, centipedegrass needs the same light conditions as these two bermudagrass cultivars.

Some St. Augustinegrass cultivars have suitable tolerance to shade. Examples include Palmetto, Mercedes, and Raleigh.

Similarly, some zoysiagrass cultivars are tolerant to limited light environments. Zoysiagrass cultivars that have good tolerance to shade include El Toro, JaMur, Zeon, and Zorro. These species have performed well under a heavy hardwoodshade for 5 years. Cavalier has also been reported to have good shade tolerance while the older cultivar, Meyer, has fair tolerance…

Read more here

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.