Zoysia is a warm-season grass that has several species, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. Certain species work better for homeowners with shady lawns. Additionally, the overall climate of a location affects the shade tolerance of zoysia grasses.
All zoysia grass performs best in full sun, but it tolerates light to moderate shade, with some tolerating these conditions better than others. One shade-tolerant type known as Palisades, a type of zoysia japonica, performs well in shade and also offers good winter hardiness. This makes Palisades ideal for shady lawns in the northern portions of the growing range for zoysia. Zoysia matrella species, known for its dense growth and fine blades, offers Royal and Zeon, both with good shade tolerance. Emerald is another choice for shade, although its low tolerance of cold temperatures makes it a poor choice in northern areas.
Growing zoysia in the shade in southern locations works better than in cooler northern areas. In the south, high heat and humidity maintain many of the ideal conditions needed by zoysia, even when grown in less than full sun. Homeowners in the north who want to plant zoysia in the shade should choose only the most shade tolerant and cold hardy types for best results, such as zoysia japonica cultivars.
Zoysia grown in shade needs slightly different care than that grown in sunny locations. Maintaining a height of 1 to 2 inches works well for zoysia normally. In shade, increasing this to a height of 2 to 3 inches provides additional length and area to the leaf blades. This in turn leads to better food production and a stronger, healthier turf. Providing fertilizer to shaded zoysia grass increases the availability of vital nutrients, but keep in mind that this also increases thatch accumulation. Annual dethatching works to control this occurrence.
No grass grows well in heavily shaded areas. Lawns with deep shade may need other approaches. Options include planting shade-loving ground covers and plants such as hostas or mulching around large shade trees. Pruning large trees also lightens the shade and may allow grass to grow more vigorously in these areas.