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Best Grass To Grow In Shade 

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!

Bench in the shade surrounded by trees

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.

All Natural Topper

Kellogg Garden Organics

All Natural Topper

**Product not available in AZ, CA, HI, NV, UT. For a comparable product in these states click here.

Backyard with trees casting shade

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.

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  1. My husband and I want to plant some grass in our currently dirt yard, and your article had great tips to help us choose the best grass for our needs. I liked how you said to consider Zoysia, as it has average shade tolerance and is high quality while still being low maintenance. Thanks; we’ll keep this in mind when choosing grass for our yard.

    • Hi Harry, brown patches in Bermuda grass can be caused by a few things. The best thing to do is to take a sample to the local county extension office for their advice. Bermuda grass needs at least 4 hours of direct sunlight per day, heavily shaded areas can turn brown. It is a warm-season grass that experiences dormancy starting in the fall which is displayed by brown patches that should disappear as things warm up. If they don’t brown patches can be caused by soil compaction, aerating your lawn to reduce compaction can help with this. Pests, like grubs and insects, can cause damage to your lawn. Finally, Bermuda grass brown patch disease could be a cause and would need to be treated with an anti-fungal.

  2. We live in central, coastal Mexico, on the pacific side. We need to find a grass that is low maintenance (doesn’t require a lot of mowing), does well in mostly shade, and can handle high humidity, and a very wet rainy season.

    Is that a fine leaf fescue?


    • Hi Daniel, we recommend looking into Centipedegrass because it is shade tolerant, doesn’t need to be mowed as frequently as other grasses, can handle heavy rainfall, and thrives in warm tropical climates. Fine leaf fescue may not grow as well in your region because it generally prefers drier soil. High humidity can also increase the likelihood of your FLF developing a disease. We recommend talking to a local garden center or expert on what type of grass will grow best in your region and soil conditions. Happy planting!

  3. I really like what you had to say about using your landscape to increase the value of your property and how matching your landscape to your home style can help. Thank you so much!

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