Picking the Best Grass for Shade: 7 Options


Getting lush and healthy plots of grass established in the shady areas of your yard can sometimes be a daunting challenge. Factors such as drought and inadequate soil preparation can certainly play a part, but quite often the main reason for difficulties is that the specific variety of grass seed you chose is not compatible with the overall climate of your location. This is an entirely forgivable mistake, especially when having to pick the best grass for shade from the confusing plethora of different seeds and mixes on the market these days.

7 Shade Grass Options

Out of the following 7 shade grass varieties, there should be one that fits your particular climate.

1. Centipede Grass

This is a low maintenance, tropical type of grass that does well in areas of the country that typically experience hot and humid summers with lots of rainfall. This grass is not very tolerant of temperatures below 55 degrees, and is highly sensitive to drought, although given it’s extensive root structure, will recover from both rather quickly. It is rated as being good for shady spots and can handle acidic soils as well. Once established, centipede grass is almost trouble-free, as it grows very slowly, doesn’t need much fertilizer, and isn’t bothered by disease or insects.

2. St. Augustine Grass

Another tropical grass that can really take the heat (100 degrees + !), but similar to centipede grass, hates temperatures below 55 degrees. But is it really the best grass for shade? Typically, St. Augustine grass grows best when subjected to soaking rains and/or watering, but also is known to recover nicely from extended dry periods. This grass is well acclimated to coastal regions with a hot, steamy climate, and thrives in neutral to alkaline soils with high salinity. Given its high rate of growth and possible fertilizing problems stemming from water dilution issues, St. Augustine grass can be somewhat high maintenance.

3. Zoysia Grass

Similar to the above grasses, Zoysia tolerates 100-degree heat, but quickly turns brown and goes dormant when subjected to temperatures below 55 degrees. It doesn’t need much watering or fertilizing when well established, but extra care must be taken after the first planting to keep the delicate roots moist and properly fed with nutrients. Zoysia has a reputation of not needing any mowing, but occasionally, the tall shoots that appear will require some trimming. Zoysia is OK with infertile and high-salt-content soil, but like most grass prefers a good loamy mix. Its dense growth keeps weeds to a minimum, but given the hot and humid conditions it likes, insects and disease can sometimes get out of hand.

4. Rye Grass

A cool-weather performer, ryegrass does great in the cool, moist conditions of early spring. Because of this, and the nature of its dense, fine-leaf texture, people employ it for sports and playground turf. Ryegrass will go dormant in excessive heat and extended drought conditions can kill it if you don’t apply timely watering. This is a slow grower that doesn’t require much fertilizing and is one of the best grasses for poor soil extremes ( sandy to clayey). Some traditional ryegrass varieties were susceptible to disease, but newer types are more resistant.

5. Velvet Bentgrass

Grown mostly in Europe for their golf courses, Velvet Bentgrass was once the go-to choice for outdoor sports turf in the U.S. The reason it fell out of favor was due to its high maintenance and slow growth characteristics. But why do some people consider it the best grass for shade? It tolerates acidic soils and grows very densely to effectively choke-out weeds and other unwanted plants. Known to be winter hardy, this grass is now the main choice for Scandinavian golf courses. Its thick growth can result in accumulations of thatch and cuttings after mowing that you should immediately remove to ensure proper water infiltration to the roots.

6. Creeping Red Fescue

Even though the name sounds like some sort of horrible disease, this grass has a lovely deep-emerald color and is excellent for the cool, shady areas of your lawn. It doesn’t care about the heat and humidity of summer at all, but will rebound strongly in the fall. People use creeping Red Fescu extensively for golf courses, landscaping, and residential yards in the U.S. This is a tough and resilient grass that has no problems with diseases or pests.

7. Fine Fescue

Of all the grasses listed here, Fine Fescue has the widest range of temperature tolerance. Furthermore, it is one of the most shade-tolerant of all grasses. However, it really thrives in cool to cold conditions and people often add it to grass mixes to reliably fill in the bare spots left by less hardy types. Unlike most grasses, Fine Fescue doesn’t need much rain or watering, and actually likes dry, shady spots. The fine grass blades grow very slowly, and mowing is not a problem. Like all fescues, it can take a lot of abuse. Overall, Fine Fescue has all the qualities of the best grass for shade and it is appropriate for most locations around the country.

Choose Wisely!

All of the above grasses are readily available as seed mixes on Amazon and at most home improvement stores. It’s a good idea to consult with a landscaper or horticulturalist if you need more in-depth advice. They can also offer hands-on experience on just what variety is the best grass for shade in your locale.

It’s normal for them to recommend that instead of grass, you plant some sort of ground cover like sedum. Moreover, they can even ask you to forget plants entirely, and go with decorative mulch. These options are actually perfect for the area at the base of a tree. Since you need no mowing, the tree roots won’t go through to soil compaction.

Whichever approach you take, the shady areas of your yard will come alive. They might even enhance other neglected features on your property!

Image source: depositphotos.com

Jonathan E. Bass

Graduated from Middle Tennessee State University. I am currently a gardener. I have a small garden behind my house. I love it.

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