Whether you have many trees in your yard or your home and surrounding homes block the sunlight, you will need to plant grass see designed for shade. Shade grass seed comes in different varieties and grows well under low light conditions. However to help the shade grass grow, tree limbs should be pruned up to 10 feet from the ground. In addition, some limbs could be removed from the top of the tree to allow some light to come through without detracting from the look of the tree.
Fine fescue grass varieties include Chewing's (Festuca rubra spp. commutata), hard fescue (Festuca longifolia), sheep (Festuca ovina), spreading (Festuca rubra spp. rubra), slender creeping (Festuca rubra spp. trichophylla) and tall (Festuca arundinacea). All of these varieties are deep green with very fine blades. They have an upright growing tendency, tolerate acidic soil and dry soil. Most fine fescues are thatchless and will tolerate light to moderate shade. The fine fescues are cool season grasses suitable for the Northern areas of the U.S. and as far south as Kentucky, Missouri, Oklahoma, Colorado, Utah, Nevada and Northern California.
Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis) will tolerate light shade and dry soils. This grass blends well with sunny varieties of grass and is often packaged in seed mixtures. Rough stalk bluegrass (Poa trivialis) tolerates more shade than Kentucky bluegrass and likes cool, wet conditions. Rough stalk bluegrass is best in lawns with heavy shade because it does not blend well with sunny varieties of grass. Bluegrass is well suited for the northern area of the U.S. because these grass varieties are cold-season grasses. Bluegrass grows in the same areas as the fescues.
Perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne) tolerates light to moderate shade and is often mixed with bluegrass and fine fescues for added shade tolerance. This type of grass is thatchless so water will penetrate easily. Perennial ryegrass is dark green with fine leaf blades. It tolerates a wide range of soils including sandy to clay soils. It is low growing and creates a dense sod that is excellent for athletic fields. Ryegrass grows in the same region as the fescues.
For the southern region of the U.S., south of mid-California, the gulf coast of Texas and the Carolinas, St. Augustine (Stenotaphrum) is the best choice for shade. This warm-season grass does not have seeds available so it must be sodded or plugged during installation. St. Augustine likes moist soils.
Zoysia is another warm-season grass that tolerates shade well. Although it does not tolerate shade as well as St. Augustine, it is a good choice for areas in the U.S. south of Michigan. The amount of shade tolerance is directly related to the warmth of the climate. Zoysia is a creeping grass that has coarse, wide blades that are not pleasant to walk on with bare feet. However, this quality makes this grass very tolerant of heavy traffic without requiring maintenance such as reseeding. Zoysia requires little water and infrequent mowing.
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