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The Best Grasses for Shaded Lawns

By Faith McGee ; Updated September 21, 2017
Prevent thinning grass blades by letting the grass grow taller if it’s in the shade.

Most common varieties of grass don’t grow well in shaded lawns. The majority of cool- and warm-season grass types prefer to grow in six to eight hours of sunlight daily. In fact, those who plant the wrong type of grass -- such as Bermuda or Kentucky bluegrass -- in shaded areas will experience thinning or spotty grass. However, there are some grass types that will spread and grow nicely in shaded lawns.

St. Augustine

St. Augustine exhibits the best shade tolerance of the warm-season grass types, according to Clemson University. This warm-season grass type is commonly grown in Southern regions of the United States. St. Augustine grass is only available as sod, which means you’ll have to completely renovate the shady areas rather than over-seed the lawn. Certain cultivars are better adapted to shade than others. Raleigh, Delmar, Palmetto, Jade, Bitterblue and Seville varieties are suitable for shady lawns.

Zoysia

Zoysia is a warm-season grass type prized for its ability to grow in shade, handle low mowing and survive heavy foot traffic, according to Clemson University. Types of zoysia grass that perform well in the shade include Diamond, Belaire, Cavalier, Meyer, Emerald and El Toro. Note that zoysia grass is a heavy producer of thatch, the living and dead organic matter between the grass and soil. Check your thatch layers each year to determine if they have grown over 1/2 inch, and dethatch if they have.

Fescue

Fescue grass types -- such as hard fescue, creeping red fescues, chewings fescue and tall fescue -- grow well in shady environments, according to the University of Wisconsin. Be aware that this grass establishes and spreads slowly, and you’ll have to keep off a newly planted fescue lawn for a few weeks. This grass type cannot handle heavy foot traffic.

Bluegrass

Most bluegrass types do not perform well in the shade. Supina bluegrass is one of the few types of bluegrasses that can exhibit thick healthy growth in shaded lawns, according to the University of Wisconsin. Before planting supina grass, make sure that your shaded area has moist soil. This grass type will not tolerate dry or droughty conditions. Keep your supina bluegrass at 2 1/2 inches tall to prevent the grass from becoming thin, according to the University of Wisconsin.