How to Grow Grass in Shade

What you’ll need

  • pruning shears
  • rake
  • seed spreader
  • straw (or other mulch cover)

If a shady area of your lawn is less than 50 percent grass, you may need to do some renovation to grow grass in that area. Here’s how to do it.

Evaluate the amount of sunlight

Even shade grasses need at least four hours of sunlight. If the area isn’t getting enough sunlight, you should prune back the surrounding trees if possible. For more on pruning, see our gardening section. If you can’t prune back trees enough to allow at least 4 hours of sunlight to reach the grass, consider planting a ground cover perrenial that does well in shade, such as pachysandra, or one suited for your hardiness zone and personal tastes.

Find a shade tolerant grass

Find a shade tolerant grass for your area of the country. For lawns in the cool-season area, there are grass seed mixtures available that are mixed specifically for shade areas. For cooler zones of the warm-season region, choose a fescue blend or a shade tolerant cultivar of zoysiagrass. In the South, there are shade tolerant cultivars of St. Augustine available.

Amend the soil

Before planting any seed, sod, sprigs or plugs, you should first evaluate the soil. Trees compete with grass for water, therfore you want a soil that will retain water, so you need the right mix of sand, loam and clay. Consider a soil test, which will give you recommendations for amending your soil. For excellent results, consider using lawn soil, which is designed as the ideal soil for grass seed.

Plant the shade grass

Plant the grass in the new area. See our sections on planting grass seed, sod, sprigs and plugs for more information.


Clean your mower and drain the gas tank before putting it away for the winter. In spring, change the oil, clean the spark plug and refill the gas tank.