Growing a Lawn in the Shade

Written by April Reinhardt (last updated December 1, 2021)

A shady yard on a hot summer day is a welcome respite from the blazing sun. Yet shady yards also inhibit the growth of thick turf, presenting a dilemma for home owners who want beautiful grass. While growing grass in the shade can prove challenging, it can be done. There aren't many solutions to the problem of growing grass in shade, but these guidelines can be helpful if you've a yard full of shade, and spotty turf:

  • Because grass in shady yards must compete with trees and large shrubs for nutrients from the soil, the largest plants usually win the competition, leaving grass to wither and die. Consider planting shade-tolerant grass such as St. Augustine and fescues.
  • When planting grass seed, make sure that you water as little as possible, but water deeply when you do water. Too much water will have your grass seed rotting in the ground instead of establishing root systems.
  • Mow using the highest setting of your lawn mower.
  • Reseed halfway through the planting season to establish new growth.
  • Use fertilizers with higher concentrations of phosphorus to encourage root growth.
  • Test your soil in the shadiest areas of your lawn before applying major fertilizers. Ensure that your soil has the proper pH levels and fertilize according to the results of the soil test.

If you still have spotty turf after painstaking efforts to grow grass in the shade of your yard, consider grass alternatives such as natural and ornamental grasses, perennial ground covers such as English ivy, foxglove, or creeping phlox. Periwinkle, hosta, and caladium are great alternatives to grass and grow very well in shade, increasing in size year after year. As a last resort, think about planting a large, long hedge such as hydrangea. Hydrangea are particularly hardy plants and thrive in shade as well as sun, so the canopy of the plant receives the sun, yet the underside grows just as well in the shade. A bonus to planting shade-loving plants is that they produce large, succulent blooms year after year, lending a dramatic flair to your landscape.

Author Bio

April Reinhardt

An admin­istrator for a mutual fund man­age­ment firm, April deals with the writ­ten word daily. She loves to write and plans to author a memoir in the near future. April attend­ed More­head State Uni­ver­sity to pursue a BA degree in Ele­men­tary Edu­ca­tion. ...

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