What is Shade Grass?

Ken Black
Ken Black
Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

Shade grass is a grass species that grows well in low light or partial light conditions. These grasses may be cool season or warm season grasses, depending on the area in which they are located. Shade grasses often will not grow, or will not grow well, in areas that receive full sunlight. The amount of direct light a shade grass may tolerate can vary from one species to another.

Species of shade grass are often chosen based on the geographical area of the yard owner. Fine fescue grass is a popular choice for those in northern climates and transition zones, especially creeping red fescue grass. In the southern zone, St. Augustine grass is a good choice for a shade species. St. Augustine grass may need additional fertilizers if planted near trees, which may rob the soil of many nutrients the grass needs, but this can also be a problem for fescue grass as well.

The advantage of planting a shade grass is mainly one of aesthetics. Not only does the grass look fuller and better in the shade than other species, it may also help prevent a number of other unsightly problems, including uncontrolled weed growth and erosion. Shade grasses can choke out other weed species by competing against them for the same space.

Caring for shade grass is generally not any more difficult than caring for any other variety of grass, but there are some things to consider if the grass begins to look unhealthy. One cause of poor looking grass may be that there is still too much direct sunlight for too long a period of time. Of course, the grass may also not be getting enough light. Another possible cause is the lack of nutrients or water in the ground.

If shade grass is not looking very good, one of the first solutions is simply to take a soil sample into the local extension office. There, professionals can test the soil and tell you what you may need to ensure that your shade grass species grows properly. If the soil nutrients are adequate, then light may be a problem. It may be possible to mix shade grass with grass that grows better in full sunlight conditions to ensure adequate coverage in the area of concern.

Those wondering if a specific species would work in the shade should carefully research the product being purchased. Most grass seed packages will indicate which conditions the product is suited for. In other cases, such as with St. Augustine, there are no seed packages because the grass is started from plugs or sod plots. If there is a question, always ask before purchasing the product.

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