Best Grass for Shade in The South? [Choose Wisely]

best grass for shaded lawn south usa

It is that time of the year, when you feel like cultivating green grasses in your backyard, turn on the lawnmower and start your watering and fertilizing routines. Southerners make plans to sow and re-sow their yards and that is when it can get confusing.

To know which type of grass is best suited for your lawn, keep reading this article for more information about the best grass for shade in the south.

There are two main categories of lawn grasses – the warm-season lawn grasses that are best grown in the hot season and usually turn brown during winter, and cold-season lawn grasses that are best grown in cold climates and tend to fade during summer.

If you are growing a warm-season grass, then they will thrive in humid and hot weather of Southern America.

Warm-season grass –  is typically grown during summer when the temperature ranges from 75 – 90 degrees Fahrenheit. If the temperature falls below 50 to 55 degrees, the grasses will become dormant and turn brown or tan till spring hits again.

Since these grasses originally belong to the tropical regions of the US, they are best suited to mid-summer warm climates.

Cold season grass – grows best during winter when the temperature ranges between 65 – 80 degrees Fahrenheit. The best cold-season grass growing season is early spring to early fall and cold winters.

The best grass varieties for growing in shade in the south would include nugget, touchdown, red fescue, or hard fescue, eclipse, or chewing fescue. You will have to put in a little bit more work to make it thrive but it is definitely possible with the southern climate.


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What Grass Is Best For Growing In Southern USA?

To learn more about the best grass for shade in the south, the following types of grass are what I recommend as the best suited for your lawn –

  • St. Augustine – The coarse texture of this grass is well adapted to wet, coastal areas with only mild winter temperatures. It can also grow in different types of soil and provides fantastic coverage, requiring minimal mowing. You can get varieties like Raleigh, Floratam, and Seville.
  • Buffalo Grass – Buffalo grass grows extremely well in places having prolonged drought and extreme heat. These grasses are perennial that can thrive without fertilization and high irrigation requires little mowing and requires very low maintenance. They do not grow well in shady regions. Varieties of Buffalo grass Include Bowie, Plains, Cody, and Bison.
  • Zoysia – This perennial grass type is grown in the warm-season and have either fine or coarse texture. They are well adapted to a variety of soils. It grows well in semi-shaded, southern regions. They can tolerate extreme drought conditions and turn straw-colored in severe drought situations. Varieties of Zoysia are Meyer, Emerald, Belair, and El Tori.
  • Tall FescueThis grass grows best in wet or moist environments but surprisingly also does well in drought environments. It is grown mostly in “transition” regions of the US which are characterized as too humid and hot for cool-season grass, yet cool for the warm-season grasses. It grows moderately well in shaded conditions. Variations of this grass are Kentucky -31, and Alta.
  • Kentucky Bluegrass – Being a cool-season grass, this grows well in spring, winter, and fall and becomes dormant during summertime. It has slight shade tolerance and different levels of mowing requirements and is also pretty drought tolerant. Varieties of Kentucky Bluegrass are Monopoly, Parade, Vanessa, and Kimono.

Check out my full range of articles on grass varieties.

Can You Grow Grass In Heavy Shade?

Most grasses grow well in direct sunlight. But some sensitive grasses have specific tolerance levels when it comes to sunlight. They grow better in shaded areas. Certainly, some improved varieties of grass require variable sunlight or partial to heavy shading.

For instance, Zoysia grass is light-tolerant and moderate-shade tolerant compared to centipede grass. But neither of these two kinds of grass will survive the impacts of heavy shade. Emerald and Meyer have slight tolerance whereas Bermuda grass shows extremely low tolerance to the shade of any amounts.

How Do You Grow Grass In A Wooded Area?

Growing grass in a wooded area is possible but very challenging. Grass requires sunlight and woody regions do not allow sunlight to enter. The canopy of the trees prevents all the sunlight from reaching the ground. Hence, it becomes difficult to grow all kinds of grasses under the tree shade.

If you use the right type of grass, you may be successful in growing grasses in wooded regions.

To successfully grow grass in a wooded area, you will need to trim some branches off the trees and allow some extra sunlight. Dispose of branches that you cut and remove the small weeds and shrubs from the planting area.

Loosen the soil with the tiller but avoid the tree roots. Most grasses will thrive in soils with pH levels ranging from 6.5-7. After testing the pH levels, add additives if needed, to correct the pH level of the soil. Use a rake to level the smoothen the surface of the planting site.

Start planting shade-tolerant grasses such as Nugget, Touchdown. Red fescue or hard fescue, Eclipse, and chewing fescue.

Since most of the shade-tolerant grasses have short roots, avoid very deep raking while removing dead or fallen leaves.

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Will Zoysia Grass Grow In The Shade?

Zoysia typically contains a deep root structure that is extremely efficient in retaining moisture and this is how it resists drought. Even during drought events, the grass stays green. If heat and drought persist, the grass will become dormant but it will again turn green once it is watered again.

Zoysia grass likes full and direct sunlight and can tolerate light shade.

Will Centipede Grass Grow In The Shade?

The growth rate of centipede grass is the slowest compared to all warm-season grasses. It spreads above the stems (stolon) and eventually forms a dense lawn. It usually gets damaged with heavy foot traffic and can take some time to recover.

Centipede grass can tolerate shade more than Bermuda grass but centipede is less salt-tolerant.

Can You Grow Fine Fescue In Shade In The South?

Fine Fescues are cold-season grass that requires a minimum of 4 hours of sun to survive. They have the highest tolerance for shade among all the cold-season grasses whereas Tall Fescues have moderate tolerance to shade.

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How Do You Overseed A Shady Lawn?

Naturally, shady lawn areas can become thin after some time. Thus, it becomes crucial that you periodically overseed these areas as they start to thin.

April and late summer is the appropriate time for overseeding the shady areas. You can overseed the small areas by raking the area and then sowing the seeds, followed by another round of raking. While overseeding larger areas, you may find a core aerator is a useful tool to boost the health of your lawn.

Once you have sown the grass seeds, it becomes necessary to water the seeds with frequent yet light water applications to help with the germination of seeds.

The process of overseeding can be repeated once or maybe twice a year. But do not forget to apply water once overseeding is complete.

You can overseed in shady areas too. All you have got to do is increase the volume of overseeding. Small shady areas require hand casting whereas larger shady areas may require drop spreader.

Why Does Grass Generally Not Grow Well Under Trees?

It is very difficult to grow grass under trees because of the shade.

Most grasses require adequate sunlight which usually gets blocked by the tree canopies.

The taller the trees and the thicker they become the more shade cover they will provide for your lawn and this can result in poor health and cause the grass to dry out.

The grass will look for nutrients and moisture and when the grass has to compete with trees for water and nutrients there will be only one winner and that is the trees.

Trees consuming all the good nutrients and moisture will leave the ground less fertile and it may become too dry for the grass to survive never mind thrive. Grass around trees should be mowed less often as this will increase the chance of your grass actually surviving.

What Do You Do When Grass Won’t Grow In The Shade?

You can grow grass successfully in the shade or under a tree if you have determination and care for it properly. You can select those high shade-tolerant grasses like fine fescue to ensure that your grasses grow healthily even under trees.

If you sow grass seed in spring or early fall and water them daily you may see your grass grow quickly. Once the grass seeds have germinated and gradually grown a bit, you can reduce the amount of water you have to provide. Watering deeply at least twice a week would be enough at this stage.

Instead of selecting shade-tolerant grasses, you can increase the quantity of light by trimming the lower branches of the trees. Removal of lower branches will allow more sunlight to enter and reach the grasses.

If your grasses are under the trees, they should be watered more, especially if the weather is dry.

It is important to fertilize the land more frequently, around 2 to 3 times a year.

Growing grasses under the trees can be extremely difficult but it is not impossible. If you plant shade-tolerant grasses and increase the levels of light and water, you can successfully enjoy the growing lush green grass under the trees or in shade.

I hope you have enjoyed this Best Grass for Shade in The South article and have actually found some useful information you can now use to grow the lush green lawn you dream of!


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