Best Sod for Shady Areas

Best Sod for Shady Areas in Your Lawn

A common problem that homeowners face with their lawn is growing in shady areas. Most turfgrass thrives in full sun, but there are a few types of grass which will perform well in shade. And if you don’t have time to wait for grass to grow from seed, you’ll want to know the best sod for shady areas in your lawn.

Today I will be discussing everything you need to know about maintaining your lawn in shady areas, and installing sod to instantly improve those thin, bare sections of your lawn where most grass can’t grow.

I’ll explain everything from common problems, easy solutions, and the best sod for your shady lawn areas.

Let’s get right into it.

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.

Made in the Shade

We all love relaxing on a summer afternoon in the cool shade of a mature tree.

I have a large maple in my backyard where my kids swing in the summer and where we have picnic lunches some lazy afternoons.

But those cool, shady areas become a lot less desirable when you’ve got thin, patchy or weedy grass, or even bare ground.

Thin Grass in Shady Area Under Trees

To grow a thick, lush lawn in your lawn’s shady areas you have to choose a type of grass that’s made for the shade. These grasses are typically finer textured, with deeper roots, and spread via rhizomes to fill in any bare areas.

I’ll get into all of this in today’s article, but if you’re just here for some recommendations here are my top 3 picks: is reader supported. If you make a purchase after clicking a link, I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

Best Sod for Shady Areas (3 Best Options)

Sod for Shady Lawn
  • Red Fescue Grass – a fine-textured, creeping grass variety that loves the shade. If you have dense shade this is your best choice in my opinion.
  • Zoysia Grass – for moderate shade in warm climates you can’t beat Zoysia grass. It takes a long time to spread, but if you can afford sod, you’ll love it!
  • Tall FescueFescue grasses are known for their deep roots and disease resistance. I have a blend of different fescues as the foundation of my lawn and highly recommend it.

But in order to take care of your new sod in shade and make the most of your investment you’ll need to understand a few more things.

Read on and I’ll cover everything!

Shady Areas – What’s the Problem?

Many don’t consider shade to be as much of an issue for growing a thick, healthy lawn as they do water.

Nonetheless, too much shade can cause inconsistencies in the quality of your lawn. This can affect growth rate, patchiness, and even growth patterns.

All parts of your lawn require adequate water, nutrients, and sunlight. Just like seed distribution, this needs to be in even amounts so that the grass itself will grow uniformly.

Even if you are going out of your way to water and feed your grass in the shade, the lack of sunlight will have a visible impact.

Another key thing to keep in mind is that moisture tends to accumulate in shady areas.

When you water your lawn, the sun evaporates excess water. The presence of shade can prevent this from happening, leaving water and moisture to build up.

Excess moisture can cause decay, rot, and disease, so you’ll want a type of sod with resilient grass that will resist diseases.

Now, this isn’t to say that you can’t successfully maintain your lawn in shady areas.

Nor does it mean that you have to cut down any trees creating shade in your yard.

The first step to fixing your shade problem is observing what inconsistencies you are seeing and addressing them.

The best sod for shady areas will be more water tolerant and hardy.

Easy Alternatives to Your Shade Problem

On the fence about paying for sod? I get it – there’s nothing more expensive.

But you have options, and cutting down the trees in your yard isn’t the only alternative. Nor do you need to avoid growing grass in shady areas altogether by planting a groundcover instead.

Caring for Shady Lawn

Choosing grass seed or the best sod for shady areas is half the battle.

The other half is identifying the inconsistencies in your lawn and making the appropriate adjustments.

Here are some easy steps you can take to maintain your shady lawn:

Regularly Mow Your Lawn

Regularly mowing your lawn is one of the best ways to maintain your lawn. It promotes growth and prevents the accumulation of fungus and diseases that can be caused by excessive moisture.

In normal conditions, the general guideline is to mow your lawn once a week. But depending on the conditions of where you live and the type of grass you have, this can vary a bit.

Mowing your lawn more often will reduce the possibilities of diseases in your lawn, and making sure your mower’s blades are sharp can help too.

Improve Drainage

Another way to combat excessive moisture is through proper drainage.

This can be done by investing in french drains or drainage inlet grates to capture the moisture and redirect the accumulated water to the nearest drainage outlets.

Improve Drainage in Your Lawn

Another option is to regrade your lawn so that there is a slope that allows moisture and accumulated water to be redirected into the nearest outlets.

Grading or leveling your lawn can easily be a home project but is a bit more labor intensive so I recommend choosing a long weekend to take this on.

Limb Up Trees & Separate Branches

While you don’t necessarily have to remove your trees from your yard, you could consider separating your branches or “limbing up” your trees to create more space for sunlight below them.

That way, they will be trained to grow in a certain direction and allow sunlight to pass through.

Often homeowners hesitate to prune or limb up mature trees because they’re afraid of damaging them, but it’s an easy project to tackle. This video about the three-cut method for pruning large branches is a good place to start if you’re unsure what to do:

Manage for Falling Leaves

While on the topic of managing your trees to promote lawn growth, you should be mindful of your tree’s leaves.

Fallen leaves can also prevent the sunlight from reaching your lawn and lead to inconsistencies in growth patterns.

This is a bigger problem during the fall season where leaves commonly cover entire lawns.

Just like you should be mowing your lawns regularly, you should also rake and compost your leaves to feed your lawn in the spring.

Overseed Your Shady Areas

You will want to take note of which parts of your lawn are showing inconsistent growing patterns due to the shade.

Keep that in mind for when its time to reseed or overseed your lawn, and choose a seed that will thrive in shade for those areas.

I’m located in New England, so I always try to overseed my lawn early in the fall so my seedlings don’t have to compete with annual weed pressure from crabgrass and other spring weeds.

The best way to overseed is by using a broadcast spreader to evenly spread grass seed across the lawn, targeting specific problem areas with extra seed.

So, What’s the Best Sod for Shady Areas?

While there are many alternative routes you can take in order to manage for shady areas affecting your lawn, you can also change the type of grass or sod you are using altogether.

Best Sod for Shade

Finding the right grass for your lawn conditions is oftentimes a better solution and costs less in terms of money and manpower.

Choosing the right type of grass requires knowledge about the grass and your current lawn and location conditions. Here are some things to consider:

  • Warm vs Cool Season Grasses – Like the name suggests, there are grasses that grow better in warmer or cooler climates. Identify what kind of climate you are in and how the shade affects the climate of your lawn.
  • Choose Grass with Deep Roots – You will want to choose a type of grass that can be deeply rooted in order to avoid decay caused by moisture.

After taking these factors into consideration, we can now choose the best grass for your lawn. The following options include:

My Recommendations for the Best Sod Grass for Shady Lawn Areas

Installing Sod in Shady Area of Lawn

Red Fescue Grass

Red Fescue grass is ideal because, unlike other types of grass, it flourishes with moisture.

This means that you will not have to take all the steps above, such as regular mowing or regrading, to prevent moisture.

These types of grasses are easier to maintain and very durable once their roots have been established.

Like most grasses, they grow dormant in the colder seasons. However, you can easily mix this grass with a cool season grass so that you have grass all year round.

Zoysia Grass

This type of grass is also known as your traditional lawn grass and is commonly used in athletic fields because of its texture and resiliency.

Zoysia grass cannot be paired with other types of grass seed and maintain its texture in most weather conditions, aside from frost.

They are warm season grasses but are easier to maintain and do well under shade.

Tall Fescue

Tall Fescue and other types of fescue grasses are ideal for shady areas. This variety does particularly well in shade and is great all year round.

They are cool season grasses and can stand conditions such as moisture, heat, and even heavy foot traffic.

These grasses are very low maintenance and you can enjoy them without much caution.

Final Thoughts About Adding Sod to Shady Areas

Taking care of your lawn shouldn’t be a second job, and choosing the right grass or sod type for the different light and soil conditions of your property will allow you to spend more weekends enjoying your lawn and less time working on improving it.

Baby Feet on Lawn

I invite you to explore my website and learn some of my strategies to create a healthy green lawn that maintains itself aside from regular mowing and a few annual project weekends.

I’ll tell you the best height to mow your lawn, about how a soil test and a few simple projects can help you transform your lawn in a single season.

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.



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.

6 thoughts on “Best Sod for Shady Areas in Your Lawn

  1. Jane Hoyme

    I live in Northern Virginia and have a shady back yard. Do you know where I can buy red fescue sod? I have looked on line and the farms around here mention tall fescue but not red fescue.

    • Hi, Jane! I’m from New England so I can’t really help you out on local sod vendors, but I’d do some more research and try to drill down on the specific tall fescue cultivar used in the sod. There are hundreds of different varieties, and some types of tall fescue do well in part-shade to shade conditions. If you find one that you think will work, I’d say go for it, and then once your new sod lawn is established, consider overseeding the areas of your lawn with the deepest shade with red fescue for the next few years. That will help ensure those areas stay nice and lush with fescue that thrives in those conditions. I have a guide for overseeding, which you can read here, and another on overseeding after aerating your lawn here. Good luck!

  2. Steven

    Hi Sarah. I live in South Florida. Most of the lawns here are St Augustine but I have a few shady areas which need something else – but I’m not sure what. We get a couple of cold snaps a year when the temperature might dip into the 30’s & 40’s but mostly we’re in the 80’s (& up) year round. In the hot summer and fall we get lots of afternoon rain.
    What do you suggest?

    • Hey, Steven!

      I’d try a medium-blade Zoysia – they tend to be more shade tolerant and while it won’t blend perfectly with your St. Augustine, they do well in shade. Going for a medium-blade variety like Crowne, Cutlass, or El Toro will offer the closest match to St. Augustine for the shady areas of your lawn.

  3. Viday Heffner

    Hi Sarah,

    I spent several thousand dollars seeding my lawn and reseeding the next season (a few years ago) only to end up with over 50% mud and small islands of grass all over my yard. The landscaping company told me I needed to get trees trimmed and I had to arborist come over who told me that that wasn’t the problem. I really enjoyed reading this article about sod that will work in shady areas and this is going to be my next step. We live in SE Wisconsin…so would the tall and or red fescue be my choice?

    • Hey, Viday!

      Yes – a good fescue blend will probably be your best bet. Be sure to lay down a good starter fertilizer prior to laying your sod to help it establish the deep roots you want, and water it appropriately for the first few weeks to help it get established. I’d also recommend overseeding that area annually with a dense shade mix for the first few years. This way any fescue varieties in your sod that aren’t quite as good for shade will be replaced as they thin out with the blend that’s likely to really thrive in those conditions, and you’ll maintain a thick full lawn and make the most of your investment.

      Try using my grass seed calculator when the time comes for that to figure out exactly which seed to buy and how much of it you’ll need for those areas of your lawn.

      Good luck!

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