Growing Grass in the Shade: Seed Choice, Prep, and Care

Ginny Bartolone
Written by Ginny Bartolone
Updated September 21, 2022
Friends and family enjoying at garden party
Photo: Maskot / Getty Images

Your backyard will have it made in the shade

Get quotes from up to 3 pros!
Enter a zip below and get matched to top-rated pros near you.

Just like our veggie gardens, flower beds, and houseplants, every grass seed comes with different sunbathing preferences. But growing grass in the shade can be a bit of a conundrum—nearly all grass seeds need at least four hours of sun. So how do you grow grass in the shady parts of your yard? 

When choosing the right type of grass for your lawn, particularly for shaded areas, seed choice and how you treat your lawn will make all the difference.

Can You Grass Grow in the Shade?

The quick answer is yes; you can grow certain varieties of grass seed in shady areas of your lawn with the proper care. On the other hand, grass seed that requires at least eight hours of direct sun each day will visibly suffer in the shaded spots on your lawn. It may turn yellow, develop a fungus, or pick up one of the other common lawn problems like weeds or thatch.

The best way to amend a lawn with grass drying in the shade is by choosing a grass variety that doesn't require as much direct light. Shade-hardy grass typically has thinner blades than standard varieties as well as deeper root systems. The grass seed puts the focus on finding its food underground instead of just from the sun. 

Learning how to grow grass in the shade also requires a bit of ongoing maintenance. Less foot traffic, a regular watering schedule, and special fertilizer may be required to keep the shaded grass from developing problems.

Preparing to Grow Grass Seed in the Shade

If you're getting ready to reseed the area under a tree, shrub, or near a large structure, there are several steps to set yourself up for success.

Know Your Zone

Begin by researching your hardiness zone and whether you live in an area with cool- or warm-season grasses. Most nurseries will only sell seeds adapted to your region, but you can get into some trouble if you go hunting online for a unique blend.

Monitor the Sun

A shady spot means something different on every lawn. Check on the problem area on your lawn throughout the day. 

For example:

  • Does it receive filtered sun or no sun at all? 

  • Does it have several hours of filtered or direct light during the day?

  • And if so, how many hours?

Densely shaded areas only receive about two hours of filtered sunlight a day. Moderate to filtered shade will receive anywhere from four to six hours. Knowing the exposure will help you choose grass seed for shade.

Check Your Soil

Soil tests can cost as little as $15 when done on your own. Make sure the pH and nutrient levels of your soil are healthy before reseeding. Aim for a pH between 6.5 and 7 for best results. You may also need to amend the levels of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, especially if you've been having issues keeping other seeds alive in the past.

How to Pick and Grow the Best Grass Seed for a Shaded Lawn

Many major grass seed brands modify seeds to ensure they can grow in shaded lawns with a mix of light levels. You may find seeds coated in a layer that helps the seed retain water, while others will release a light layer of fertilizer to help it germinate. 


Kentucky bluegrass, rough bluegrass, and annual bluegrass are all great cool-season grasses with hardiness in lightly shaded areas. Many brands will even mix several varieties of bluegrasses together to make the leap between the shaded and sunny areas of your lawn. 

Keep in mind that most bluegrass varieties will still need between four and six hours of sun to thrive.

  • Region: Cool-season zones 2–7

  • Sunlight: Tolerates light to moderate shade

  • Water: Tolerant in areas with frequent moisture; may go dormant in droughts

  • Appearance: Bright green, deep green, or yellow-green depending on species; texture ranges from tufted and light to rough and dense

St. Augustine

If you live in the warm south, St. Augustine grass is a popular variety for lawns that mix both direct sun and deep shade. It has a rough and dense texture, which makes it a great contender to stand on its own without needing to mix with other varieties.

  • Region: Warm-season zones 8–10

  • Sunlight: Tolerates light to moderate shade and direct light

  • Water: Drought-tolerant and relatively low-maintenance

  • Appearance: Deep green with coarse texture

Creeping Red Fescue

Creeping red fescue is an excellent choice to stand on its own in shaded areas or mix with grasses like bluegrass. It is soft and vibrantly green and requires little maintenance to stay strong. 

The fescue grass has deep roots or spreads through rhizomes, both of which make it strong against drought, moderate traffic, and a good amount of shade.

  • Region: Cool-season zones 1–7

  • Sunlight: Tolerates light to moderate shade; needs three to four hours of direct light

  • Water: Drought-tolerant and relatively low-maintenance

  • Appearance: Bright green and dense


As another warm-season grass for hotter climates, centipede grass can tolerate low levels of shade, especially on lawns with changing sun levels throughout the season. Centipede grass is also best for areas of your lawn that often go unused. It doesn't tolerate traffic well but, at the same time, prefers minimal watering.

  • Region: Warm-season zones 7–10

  • Sunlight: Tolerates light to moderate shade; needs three to four hours of direct light

  • Water: Drought-tolerant and relatively low-maintenance

  • Appearance: Bright green and dense


The bright and soft blades of zoysia grass are the envy of many lawn owners. Not only is it tolerant against a mix of shade and sun, but you can water it regularly or go on vacation and it will do just fine. You will also find Zoysia grass in warm and cool zones, though it does best in the transition area of the country and downwards.

  • Region: Transitional and warm zones 6–11

  • Sunlight: Can handle light to moderate shade; prefers some direct sunlight

  • Water: 1 inch of water a week is best; drought-tolerant

  • Appearance: Fine texture and bright-green color

Perennial Ryegrass

While you can use ryegrass in both cool and warm regions, it is less likely to go dormant and brown in warmer zones. It is also very hearty against shade and can stand as little as two to four hours of sunlight a day. Perennial ryegrass is a good go-to if you need to fix patches in your lawn, especially in warmer climates.

  • Region: Best in transitional zones 5–7

  • Sunlight: Tolerates moderate to dense shade

  • Water: 1 inch of water a week is best; drought-tolerant when necessary

  • Appearance: Deep green to purple hue

How to Maintain Healthy Grass in the Shade

Even after you choose the best grass seed for the shady areas of your lawn, you still need to provide the spot with a little extra TLC. As we mentioned above, it's best to adjust your watering, fertilization, and traffic schedule in highly shaded regions of your turf. Here are some tips to keep in mind when keeping shaded grass green.

  • Keep grass tall: In order to mow your grass like a pro, keep your grass blades between 2–3 inches, ideally never cutting more than 1/3 of the blade at a time.

  • Create a watering schedule: Research the preferred water levels of your grass variety and monitor the moisture of the shaded area. You do not want to risk overwatering areas where the water does not evaporate or absorb as quickly as it does in the sun.

  • Fertilize with care: Go easy on the fertilizer in low-sun areas once you plant your grass, as they will not need as much nitrogen to thrive. 

  • Prune trees and shrubs: Whenever possible, prune trees and dense bushes to increase the sunline on the shady patch, especially as these plants grow larger and denser.

  • Control traffic: At-risk turf grass needs rest to bounce back from lack of sun, water, or nutrients. Decrease foot traffic on shaded areas, especially in the months just after planting.

DIY Lawn Care vs. Hiring a Pro

You have several options to call in the professionals when trying to find the best shade-ready grass seed. Hire a professional landscaper for routine maintenance of shaded grass or to bring in an expert to help you reseed your lawn. 

The cost to maintain a lawn with a professional's help will cost between $50 and $200 per week, depending on the level of service you choose. Reseeding a lawn will cost between $0.10 to $0.20 per square foot. However, keep in mind that some pros may charge extra for small areas and complex jobs.

Choosing and caring for shaded grass seed is a DIY job with a bit of attention. However, if you find yourself struggling to maintain the area after a first attempt, we recommend calling in the pros for an extra set of eyes.

Frequently Asked Questions

Shade-tolerant grass seed still needs between four and six hours of sun to germinate, and many types require a little extra care to thrive. However, it is possible to plant new grass seed in shaded areas when you choose the right variety.

Need professional help with your project?
Get quotes from top-rated pros.