How to Grow A Lawn in the Shade

There is a lot to love about a nice spot of shade in the summertime. Unfortunately, growing a beautiful green lawn in the shade is anything but easy. Even though turfgrass requires at least 4-6 hours of direct sunlight, up to 25% of lawns are covered in shade from trees, bushes, fences and other structures. Different types of grass vary in their tolerance of shade. But if you’re struggling to grow grass under trees or other low light areas, never fear, there are easy ways to improve your ability to grow a lawn that is made in the shade. 

The Problem with Shade

Growing a lush lawn in a shaded area will always be more challenging than areas with full sunlight. Decreased light intensity affects photosynthesis, the process that green plants use to transform sunlight into food. This decrease in available light can also reduce shoot and root growth in the plant, which produces thinner leaves that aren’t as dense. With weaker plants, shaded grass areas are more susceptible to impacts from traffic, heat, cold, drought stress and pests.

7 Steps to Beat the Shade

There are many easy ways to improve your lawn in the shade. Follow these seven easy steps to beat the shade and start growing better. 


1: Plant Shade Tolerant Turfgrasses

The first step is picking the right turfgrass for your yard. Fescue, Perennial Ryegrass and Kentucky Bluegrass are all better suited for lower light. For warmer growing areas, St. Augustine is one of the most shade tolerant options. For smaller areas, try interseeding shade resistant grass seed to help boost growth. 


2: Remove Shade Structures

Be sure to prune and trim back trees and shrubs to help reduce shade covering. Clear any loose leaves or debris from your yard. In low light areas it is important to remove and reduce shade anywhere that you can to increase sun exposure.  


3: Stay Out of the Shade

One of the best ways to protect your high shade areas is to reduce foot traffic. Shaded areas can produce weaker plant structures that are more susceptible to damage. Staying out of the shade will give your lawn a better chance to grow stronger.  


4: Reduce Application  

It is best to reduce fertilizer application in shaded areas. The lack of sun exposure means that your lawn will need fewer inputs in those areas. For most shaded areas, you’ll want to cut fertilizer application by 50%. 


5: Mow High

Be sure to increase your mower height to the higher range for your particular grass type. Maintaining a higher cut height will help your grass grow deeper roots, resulting in a stronger and more durable lawn. 


6: Weed the Area

Removing weeds from the area will free up nutrients and other resources for your grass. Weeds compete for food, water and light sources, so removing them will give your grass greater access to the resources it needs. If weeds grow taller than the grass it can create even more shade. If your weeds are too stubborn to pull by hand, try a naturally-derived herbicide like Dandelion Doom or Weed Warrior.


7: Reduce Watering

Shaded areas tend to hold moisture longer, so be sure to closely monitor your irrigation and watering practices. Most likely, you will need to reduce your watering in affected areas. It is important not to over water, so keep a close on your lawn to ensure that you don’t make any common watering mistakes.

Grow a Lawn that’s Made in the Shade

One of the best ways to ensure that your shaded lawn grows well is to try Shade Select grass seed. Our special blend uses fescue, ryegrass, and bluegrass to grow in lower light or difficult soil conditions.

Ready to Stick it to the Shade?

Then it’s time to get out there and start growing your shade tolerant lawn. If you run into any questions, be sure to reach out to our lawn advisor team today. They are standing by to help you with all of your growing needs.

Cited Sources

Bertucci, M. Growing Turfgrass in Shade. University of Arkansas Extension.

Richardson, M., D. Karcher and D. O’Brien. What the Tech? Measuring light for healthier turf. Golf Course Management.

University of Massachusetts Turf Extension. Growing Turf Under Shaded Conditions