Say you want a patch of lawn to do fun things on — you know, Frisbee with the dog, tag with the kids, enjoying a cold beverage with your mates — but you think grass can only grow in the sun, and you have shade. Think you’re out of luck? No way. There are a number of grasses that do quite well in low light yards — the trick is choosing one that is right for where you live.
Turf grass sits in one of two categories (cool season and warm season), and there are low-light or shady grasses for both. Here are our 4 best grasses for you low-light people out there — let the Frisbee playing begin!
1. Fine-leaf fescue. This cool season grass offers high quality, low maintenance, and good drought tolerance. The leaf blades are finely textured and grow well even in poor soils, but its traffic tolerance is not the best — so choose this one if the kids are grown and you simply want a shady lawn for sipping wine spritzers. Available in seed or sod, fine-leaf fescue is best kept to a 1.5”- 2.5” height.
2. St. Augustine. One of the most shade tolerant of the warm season grasses, St. Augustine is available in sod or plugs and quickly forms a dense, dark green surface for more vigorous activity. On the flip side, it does tend to be a bit thirstier and susceptible to pests and diseases, but for all the tough beauty it offers, we think it’s a winner. Keep it mowed at 2”-3” for a great appearance.
3. Perennial ryegrass. While perennial ryegrass used to be susceptible to gray leaf spot, newer cultivars have a much-improved resistance to the disease, making it a great cool-season grass choice. It’s available by seed and germinates fairly quickly with excellent traffic tolerance, but does not respond too well to heat or drought. And here’s a plus for this grass — it will grow in full sun to moderate shade, making it ideal for yards with varying sun patterns. Mow at a 1”-2.5” height.
4. Zoysia. Zoysia is a warm-season grass that merits a shout-out on both the sunny and the shady grass lists. Although it does best in full sun, Zoysia has average shade tolerance, and is one of the highest quality/low maintenance grasses to be had. Start it with sod pieces and keep it mowed at a 1”-2.5” height.
Runner-up: Centipedegrass. We call this one a runner-up because although it has decent shade tolerance and can be started by seed or sod, it has a yellowish green color that some folks don’t find too appealing, and it can’t boast great traffic tolerance. But since there’s a grass for everyone, centipedegrass deserves to be in the running — we just won’t mention that it’s commonly referred to as “poor folks’ grass of the South,” because that’s just mean.