What are the Best Types of Grass for Shade?


Shaded areas in your lawn pose a challenge for growing grass, as sunlight, along with water and nutrients, is essential for healthy plant growth. Dense canopies of trees or adjacent structures often cast a shadow on your lawn, resulting in sparse grass, bare spots, and stunted growth.

Fortunately, some grass types can tolerate shade and thrive even in low-light conditions. Identifying the best grass for your specific situation can go a long way in transforming your yard into a lush, green landscape.

The Best Grass for Shade

Most grass types prefer full sunlight, particularly warm-season varieties that thrive in the warm, humid climate of Florida. However, certain varieties like St. Augustine and Zoysia grass can still flourish in shaded areas, given they receive at least two to three hours of direct sun or four to six hours of partial sun daily.

These warm-season grasses are known for their ability to tolerate shade. But what adds to their resilience is their method of establishment—grass plugs and sod. Unlike the traditional method of planting grass from seed, grass plugs and sod consist of mature plants. Grass plugs, in particular, have a deep root system that enables them to acclimate faster to their new environment and better withstand various challenges, such as shade, making them a great option for lawns where shade tolerance is crucial.

St. Augustine Grass Plugs

St. Augustine grass, particularly improved and hybrid cultivars like Palmetto, CitraBlue®, Seville, and ProVista™ grass, are cultivated to perform well even under as little as four to five hours of direct sun daily.

However, when deprived of sunlight, this grass may show symptoms such as thinning, stunted growth, and becoming more susceptible to diseases. If your lawn is fully shaded, you can increase its survival by trimming the canopy above the lawn or removing low-hanging branches to allow enough sunlight to filter through.

Zoysia Grass Plugs

While Zoysia grass plugs prefer full sun, they adapt well to shade and boast superior low-light tolerance than other warm-season and cool-season grasses. Fine-bladed Zoysia grass cultivars, in particular, are observed to have exceptional shade tolerance and tend to perform well in lawns with partial shade.

However, as a warm-season grass, Zoysia grass still requires a minimum of three to four hours of direct sunlight to grow.

While St. Augustine and Zoysia grasses often rank as the top options for shade tolerance among warm-season grasses, some cultivars of Bermuda grass also make a great candidate for shaded lawns.


How to Grow Grass Plugs in Shade

While selecting the right grass plugs for shade sets the stage for success, proper maintenance measures are equally essential to maximize growth and create a healthy, dense lawn. 

Assess Your Lawn

When evaluating your lawn for shade, it’s essential to recognize that different grass varieties have different sunlight requirements. Even in low-light conditions, grass requires a minimum of three to four hours of direct sun.

Observe your lawn at various points throughout the day to gauge the sun and shade distribution. In areas where shade is prevalent or sunlight is limited, consider some remedies, such as clearing obstructions like lower branches to elevate the canopy and allow more light to penetrate.

Plant the Right Mix of Grass

Consider using a mix of different types of grass to cater to the varying light conditions present in different areas on your lawn. This approach can ensure that each area has the appropriate type of grass that can grow in its specific light environment.

In this case, using grass plugs provides an excellent opportunity to test the shade tolerance of different grass varieties without investing in full sod grass. Mixing grass types can also increase the chances of transplanting success while ensuring a more uniform look, as the various grasses blend together seamlessly across your lawn.

Mow Higher in Shaded Areas

Adjust your mower blades to cut the grass taller in shaded areas. Longer grass blades have more surface area exposed to the already limited sunlight, allowing them to get more sunlight and maintain their health. Taller grass is also more resistant to stress and less susceptible to diseases. Always adhere to the one-third rule, aiming to cut no more than one-third of the grass height each mowing.

Initially, when transplanting grass plugs, you should wait until the new grass has established itself before mowing for the first time. It usually happens when the grass is three to four inches tall, which indicates that the roots have already anchored into the soil and the grass has enough energy for healthy growth and handling the stress of mowing. Trimming grass too soon can disturb the root system and prevent establishment.


Adjust Your Watering

Grass in shady areas tends to hold moisture longer than in areas exposed to direct sunlight, therefore requires less watering.

Overwatering can lead to waterlogging and excess moisture can create a favorable environment for pests and diseases to thrive. Fungal diseases can appear as unsightly brown patches and slimy spots. Mushrooms can also emerge in the affected areas. Ensure to adjust your watering practices accordingly to prevent such issues.

Initially, when establishing grass plugs, make sure to keep the soil consistently moist to aid in root development. Once they have taken root, you can gradually reduce watering, focusing on deep watering to encourage the roots to grow deeper into the soil.

As a general guideline, water shaded areas less often and preferably in the morning, with the exception of shaded areas under trees where the grass competes with tree roots for water.

Fertilize with Potassium

Areas with less sunlight exposure usually requires less nitrogen than grass bathed in full sun. While nitrogen encourages lush, green growth, excessive amounts can lead to weaker blades susceptible to fungal diseases.

Adjust your fertilizer application to account for the shade—apply less nitrogen in shaded areas, and instead focus on providing enough potassium. This nutrient boosts the plant’s tolerance to environmental stress and boosts its resilience against diseases.

Reduce Stress

Grass in shaded areas already face challenges such as limited sunlight that hinders optimal grass growth. So, avoid causing further stress by limiting foot traffic and rough play in these areas, this is particularly essential when you have kids and pets in the household. These activities can lead to soil compaction that restricts air circulation and limits water and nutrient penetration, exacerbating the already challenging conditions.

Consider designating pathways in areas with better sunlight exposure to reduce foot traffic in the shade. You can also place signs or barriers to remind everyone to avoid walking or playing in these delicate spots.


When you’re dealing with areas in your lawn lacking adequate sunlight, opting for shade-tolerant grass varieties is an excellent solution. However, besides using the right type of grass, the success of establishing a new lawn with grass plugs hinges on diligent lawn maintenance practices to ensure it adapts in the less desirable conditions. 

Take proactive steps towards a lush, vibrant lawn that flourishes even in shady areas. Explore a range of high-quality, farm-fresh, shade-tolerant grass plugs at the Try SodPods website today.

Jamie Tedder

Jamie surrently serve as Vice President on the board for Turfgrass Producers of Florida. He currently oversees the production of all grasses throughout all farms in Florida at Bethel Farms. He is actively working with top grass breeders, researchers, producers and end users from public and private institutions around the country to stay up to date on current industry developments. Being a University of Florida graduate, he has applied that knowledge to over 22 years of experience growing spectacular grass!

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