Turf Grass 101: Selecting the Best Grass for Shaded Areas for Your Lawn

How to Choose Your Turf Grass

You have several choices of grass to choose from to plant a new lawn or to fill in spots that have become bare for some reason. Most of the time bare spots present themselves from insect damage or from holding too much water in a low spot in your lawn.

Turf Grass 101: Selecting the Best Grass for Your Lawn

There are several factors to consider when you are planning your lawn in a new home and starting from scratch, or whether you are supplementing grass that already exists in your landscape design. You need to do your homework first in learning about the best grass types for your area so it will grow and establish itself quickly.

What To Consider and Compare in Turf Grasses

Many people don’t take a lot of time to consider what type of grass is the best for their specific conditions but merely unroll the sod, make sprigs or throw some grass seed on the ground and expect it to grow. These people will likely not be very successful in growing a lush and green lawn and will likely need to choose another type of grass that fits their needs and then start over again from the beginning. This can lead to having a lawn of dirt for quite some time and that’s not attractive at all. Instead, you should ask yourself a few questions to narrow down your choices and choose the best type of grass.

Choosing the Best Grass for Shaded Areas

The top 3 best grass for shaded areas are Zoysiagrass, St. Augustine and Centipede grass. If you have large established trees in your lawn, you will have a lot of shade under those trees in the summer when the leaves are growing. Evergreens and conifers, such as all the varieties of pine trees and cedar trees, do not loose their needles in the winter, so you will have shade under these types of trees all year round. Many grasses do not tolerate shade very well at all. The good news is that you have three great choices to compare.


This type of grass is unbelievable beautiful with a dark green and lush hue. It’s tolerance to shade is moderate to high, it only requires moderate irrigation and it is also drought tolerant. This grass is moderate to high for tolerating foot traffic, as it will bounce back after walking on it. The disease potential is low to moderate, making it an easy keeper. You can mow this grass in a variety of heights to maintain anywhere from 0.5 to 2.0 inches tall, which is mowing it only every 5 to 10 days. The leaf texture is medium to fine and it spreads by both stolens that allow the grass to grow and reproduce horizontally and rhizomes which are root like stems to grow either horizontally or underground. This allows Zoysiagrass to fill in on your lawn quickly.

St. Augustine

St. Augustine has a high shade tolerance and needs only a moderate amount of irrigation to grow good. It is also drought tolerant but doesn’t hold up to heavy foot traffic well. It has a high disease potential that you need to be aware of. The suggested mowing height is between 2.5 to 3.0 inches and you will need to mow it every 3 to 7 days to maintain this height. The grass blades are coarse in texture and it spreads by stolens to fill in your area.


Centipede grass has a moderate shade tolerance, water requirements and drought tolerance. It doesn’t tolerate traffic very well and it has a low to moderate disease potential. The desired mowing height is between 1.5 to 2.0 inches tall and it needs to be mowed about once every 7 to 10 days to maintain this height. Centipede grass spreads by stolens.

What Are the Planting Options for Each Grass?

You also have planting options to compare when choosing your turf grass. Zoysiagrass has the most options as you can plant seeds, sod or plugs of grass. Centipede grass has two planting options of seed and sod and St. Augustine is sold as sod in either rolls or flats.

If you choose to use a grass and start it from seed, this is the most economical method of establishing grass, however at the same time; it takes longer to fill in your lawn. Your best choice of grass for seeding is Zoysiagrass because it spreads and fills in bare spots really quickly.

If you choose to use sod, you are choosing the fastest and easiest method of obtaining a green lawn quickly. Sod is more expensive than seed, but it also has the advantages of less irrigation, fertilization and weed control manning SC than what is involved with seeding a lawn.

Grass plugs work well for grasses that grow and fill in areas with stolens and rhizomes, such as Zoysiagrass. If you plant your plugs of 4 inches in diameter about 2 feet apart, you should obtain full coverage in about 3 months. Plugs are also used to fill in bare spots in your lawn at any time of the year.

Comparing the top three shade-tolerant grasses will help you to decide which one you want in your lawn. Each grass has it’s own specific requirements that need to be addressed in order for it to establish in your lawn quickly. You can choose the best grass for shaded areas based on appearance, the type of planting option that you prefer and on the irrigation and mowing schedule, you want to adhere to.


Paul Petersen