Best Grass for Shade

What is the Best Grass for Shade?

If part or even all of your property tends to sit in the shade, it’s essential that you choose a variety of grass that will thrive in such conditions. In this article, I’ll introduce you to what I consider the best grass for shade, and discuss the qualities of these grass types that allow them to grow and thrive in low-light areas of your lawn.

Trust and Accuracy Information

This article was last updated on by Lawn Chick Owner Sarah Jameson
Article content reviewed for accuracy by Horticulturist Arthur Davidson, A.S.

My Favorite Types of Grass to Grow in Shade

Here’s a list of 4 of my favorite varieties of grass which thrive in shade. Each type of grass has unique characteristics, and I’ve done my best to provide the information you’ll need to choose the best fit for your climate and landscape conditions.

My Favorite Grass Seed

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Red Fescue Grass

Red fescue (also called red creeping fescue) is a cool season variety of grass. It’s native to Europe and quite hardy in the right circumstances.

If you’re in USDA planting zones 1-7 (the northern part of the country), this is a perennial grass. It’s an annual grass when planted in zones 8-10. Some of the states where red fescue grass thrives include Pennsylvania, New York, West Virginia, Ohio, and it will also do well in New England lawns.

Creeping Red Fescue – photo NDSU

Red fescue is admired for its lovely shade of emerald green. It must have the right level of moisture, though. Depending on where you live, you might have to be especially attentive to this. If your climate is a bit on the dry side and you get fewer than 18 inches of rain each year, irrigation will be essential.

After planting when your red fescue grass seed, you must keep the soil consistently moist until it’s fully established. After your grass is established, it will have an especially secure root system. This is one reason why this species does so well with heavy wear and other adverse conditions.

If the weather sometimes gets very humid and hot, you might find that your red fescue grass temporarily becomes dormant and takes on a brown hue. Your grass will revitalize in the fall, though.

Selecting Red Fescue for Your Lawn

While you can buy pure red fescue grass seed (Amazon link), if you want to plant red fescue for your lawn, you should know that it tends to be at its best when mixed with other types of grass seed.

Look for a Red Fescue grass seed mix that includes bluegrass and perennial ryegrass. You can find prepared mixtures with the correct proportions online and in local box stores and garden centers.

An advantage of red fescue grass that you will enjoy is the fact that it doesn’t tend to have the same kind of pest problems other species are susceptible to.

Expert Recommendations for the Care of Shade Tolerant Fescues

Despite the easy care of shade-tolerant fescue grasses, there are a few words of caution for homeowners shared by Brad S. Fesenberg of the University of Missouri Department of Horticulture. He recommends that for best results you should, “Avoid excessive nitrogen fertilization, which promotes shoot growth at the expense of roots, lowers carbohydrates, and promotes soft, succulent tissue that is more susceptible to disease.” 

Specifically he suggests that “shade-tolerant grasses such as the fine fescues should receive no more than 2 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet per year.”

Additionally, Brad recommends that homeowners use caution when watering shade-tolerant fescues under trees. “Do not overwater turf in shade. Dry conditions are always preferable to wet conditions for fescues growing in shade,” he says. Deep, infrequent watering in the morning during periods of extreme drought are your best option.

St. Augustine Grass

St. Augustine can be a good grass species to choose but it’s a type of grass that does best in warm climates. You should also refrain from mixing it from other types of grass seed. This is because of its unusual texture – when mixed with other types of grass it will stand out and can detract from the appearance of your lawn.

Best Grass for Shade - St. Augustine Grass Lawn

Photo Courtesy Circle C Farms,

St. Augustine is among the grass species most tolerant of shade. Like most types of grass, however, it does need a certain amount of sunlight. One of St. Augustine’s most attractive features is the fact that it tends to grow into a very thick, plush lawn. It’s popular with homeowners because St. Augustine grass does a great job of crowding out weeds and other types of grass.

If you choose St. Augustine grass for your shady lawn, make sure to follow the specified directions regarding moisture, soil, and plant your grass seed at an ideal germination temperature.

St. Augustine grass is dark green with a blue tinge. Its leaves are broad and coarse, while its stems are quite flat and large in size. St. Augustine is an especially popular grass for home lawns, pasture, and ranch areas.

Zoysia Grass

Zoysia (also referred to as zoysiagrass) is known for being able to do well in areas with medium shade. It generally does best as a warm season species, though, although it is sometimes grown in northern areas. If you live in a northern or cool-season zone and want to use Zoysia grass, you should be ready for it to take on a brown color when the first frost hits.

Best Grass for Shade - Zoysia Grass

There are several different kinds of zoysiagrass or zoysiagrasses. Do some research to find out which kind will be most suitable for your region and area.

Zoysiagrass is native to Japan, China, and other regions of southeast Asia. It can vary from fine-textured to textures that are coarser in appearance. Leaf blades of zoysiagrass tends to be quite stiff. This is because they contain a large amount of silica.

Because of its hardiness and how quickly Zoysia grass spreads, zoysiagrass is popular for use in athletic fields and golf courses, and in parks.

Hard Fescue and Tall Fescue Grasses

Hard fescue and tall fescue are varieties that are often included in mixtures designated for high shade areas. These species are known for doing well in medium shade and they do well with heavy foot traffic.

Best Grass for Shade - Tall Fescue & Hard Fescue Grasses

Tall fescue is known for being very adaptable and able to do well in a variety of different climates. This is because of its general ability to thrive in cooler climates as well as heat, shade, and even drought. It’s a cool-season grass, but it has enhanced tolerance for heat. It tends to be effective in resisting disease, so it’s a bit lower maintenance than some other species.

Tall fescue does most of its growing during the fall and cooler period of the spring. It is a popular choice in northern areas, such as the northern states of the United States.

Tips for Growing Grass in the Shade

Choosing a type of grass that can thrive in shade is the most important step. But there are other tips to keep in mind, too. Two of these are pruning trees and shrubs that are creating shade, and aerating your lawn.

Prune or Limb Up Trees to Allow more Sun to Get to Your Grass

If you have trees or tall shrubs that are causing extra shade, make sure to do regular pruning. It’s beneficial for your grass to thin out the tree canopy a bit. This will mean that sunlight can more easily reach the grass and soil.

Something else you can do is something called “limbing up.” Limbing up involves removing some of the lower branches. Consult with a certified arborist for help, especially if you have older trees.

Aerating your lawn is another step you can take to make sure your grass looks beautiful. Aeration is a process that makes holes in the soil, letting more air, fertilizer, and water get to the roots of the grass.

Choose the Best Grass for Shade and Enjoy Your Lawn

Grass for Shade

As we’ve seen here, even if all or some of your lawn will sit in the shade for some of the time, you still have the chance to enjoy a lovely green space on your property.

The key is to understand that different types of grass thrive in different conditions. The best grass for your property depends on a range of factors That’s why using a single type of grass seed when you establish your lawn may not produce the best results.

I generally recommend using a grass seed blend designed to work in your area (you will typically have good luck buying something like that at a nursery or garden center in your community).

This is better than using one type of grass in a shady section of your lawn, and another in a sunny section. A grass seed blend will produce a consistent look for your lawn, while some varieties dominate shady areas, and others thrive in full sun.

As long as you’re careful to choose a grass seed blend which contains seed that can do well in shade (refer to the list above), you should be all set for success.

At Lawn Chick, I am committed to publishing accurate, useful, and trustworthy resources for my readers. As part of this commitment, I’ve invited subject matter experts to review our articles for accuracy. I invite you to read our editorial policy and publishing standards which outlines in detail how every article on this site is sourced, edited, fact-checked, and vetted.


Additional Resources
  • Grasses in Shade: Establishing and Maintaining Lawns in Low Light by Brad S. Fresenburg, University of Missouri Extension, (link)
  • Growing Turfgrass in the Shade by L.E. Trenholm, University of Florida (IFAS Extension) (link)
  • Selecting and Managing Lawn Grasses for Shade by Grady Miller, NC State Extension (link)


Sarah Jameson’s blog, Lawn Chick, is read by over 2 million homeowners each year and she is regularly cited as an expert source of lawn care knowledge by major publications. Her goal is to meet you where you are, and help you achieve a yard you’ll be proud of. Ready to take the next step toward improving your lawn? Grab her free lawn care cheat-sheet: What to Do When - Take the Guesswork Out of Lawn Care, or upgrade your garage by browsing her favorite DIY lawn care products.

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