Grass for Shade

Earlier Australian grass varieties never coped very well with shaded lawn conditions. And now the need to retain and protect trees combined with the high shade sections of modern in-fill housing means it’s more important than ever to choose a shade tolerant grass variety.

Thankfully, more recent dedicated turf breeding programs have produced shade tolerant grass varieties that can thrive in mixed sun/ shade and even in heavily shaded areas. No longer do you need to put up with those unsightly muddy weedy patches under the trees.

And our range of shade tolerant grass varieties also cope well with drought and sun so you don’t need to compromise.

Come and explore our shade loving turf types that demonstrate high shade tolerance across the full spectrum of full sun through to dappled light and heavy shade.

Empire Zoysia is always a stellar performer in heavy shade and our modern range of Buffalo grasses have been delivering exceptional performance in the shade since the 1990s.

Guide on shade tolerant grass varieties that can thrive in mixed sun and shade

What Is The Best Shade Tolerant Grass?

When deciding on the best shade tolerance grass for your particular needs you need to observe the area, note how much of the day that area spends in the shade, and also how much direct sun it receives and at what time of the year.

Grass will cope with shade more easily in warmer climates.

In fact, a little shade in the summer months can help keep your grass cooler but in the winter too much shade will can spell the death knell for a healthy lawn. You’ll also want to think about how much use the lawn will receive. Even shade tolerant Australian lawns will struggle to recover from unrelenting over-use damage.

See below for our guide on how much shade each grass can handle.

What Grass Will Grow in Shade?

Sapphire Buffalo

Sapphire Buffalo grass also demonstrates exceptionally high shade tolerance and like Matilda will be quite happy in up to 80% shade. It too is hard-wearing and will recover well from moderate wear and tear. Its fine textured leaf and deep green colour will keep on looking stunning throughout the cooler months too.

Other soft leaf Buffalo grasses such as Sir Walter buffalo and Palmetto are exceptionally hardy and maintain good winter colour but have higher needs for daily sunlight hours.

Empire Zoysia

Empire Zoysia is a great turf grass for shady areas if you’re looking for a prestige turf look. Its stunning appearance and beautifully soft deep green fine leaf combines perfectly with its ability to do well in up to 50% shade.

It’s a very hardy turf and will cope with heavy wear and tear but because it is slow growing you probably wouldn’t want to plant this in a heavy use area that is shaded for more than 30% of the time.

It is frost hardy but may brown off with severe frosts. However, it will green up again in spring even more quickly than Buffalo grasses will.

Matilda Buffalo

Matilda Buffalo is a shade tolerant fine leaf grass that will cope with up to 70 or even 80% shade.It is suited to cooler climates and retains its colour in winter. It’s also very hardy and drought tolerant. It will cope well with moderate wear and tear and will bounce back in the warmer months.

Sapphire Buffalo grass also demonstrates exceptionally high shade tolerance

What Grass Will Grow In Shade and Sun?

Our Matilda, Sapphire and Zoysia grasses are all equally at home in full sun, partial shade and even some full shade. Their deep root systems allow them to access water in the hottest months as well as help them thrive in the cooler more shady times.

When thinking about the right lawn you’ll want to balance up the following:

  • Full sunlight hours
  • Hours of shade
  • Use/ wear & tear patterns
  • Winter temperatures/ frosts
  • Soil conditions

To find the perfect turf grass for your unique requirements you might want to come and talk to our experts. We can help you navigate through all the pros and cons of the wide range of turfs on offer to find the turf that fills all your needs.

Even sun-loving grasses such as kikuyu will cope with some shade but their need for full sunlight is much greater than our shade-loving turf types. Kikuyu is really hardy and will recover from heavy wear and tear but it will need around 5+ hours of direct sunlight to be happy.

Some grasses are all equally at home in full sun, partial shade

Direct Sunlight

Direct sunlight refers to full exposure to sunlight without any filtering from trees or other objects. Dappled sunlight or partial shade is not considered direct sunlight. Most modern turf varieties need at least some direct sunlight daily, but some shade tolerant grass types will cope with as little as 3 or 4 hours of full sunlight each day.

Can Grass Grow Without Direct Sun?

All grass varieties need some sunlight in order to carry out photosynthesis and process the nutrients it absorbs from the soil. Grass that doesn’t get sufficient sunlight will tend to become very tall, spindly or lanky and weak if it can grow at all.

If the area you want to grass receives no direct sun at all you might be better to look at an alternative such as a ground cover plant or possibly paving the area. A ground cover such as Dichondra repens will do well with very little full sunlight but will not tolerate wear and tear. Be especially careful about using options such as this because many of these plants do not tolerate dog urine.

How Much Sunlight Does My Grass Need?

Traditional grass varieties needed at least 7 hours to absorb sunlight each day to remain healthy. … but shade tolerant grass varieties such as Empire Zoysia and Buffalo grass such as Matilda or Sapphire will do well with as little as 3 or 4 hours.

Even shade tolerant grasses will be slower growing in shaded areas and this will have a big impact on your turf’s ability to recover from damage. There is a lot you can do to help keep shaded areas of turf really happy.

How To Get Grass To Grow In Shady Areas

Even with shade tolerant varieties you want to maximise their exposure to the sun and their ability to use what sun exposure they do receive especially in the winter. When mowing keep your shaded lawns relatively long—50 or 60mm. The longer grass blade length ensures there’s sufficient leaf area for photosynthesis to occur.

So, the more time your lawn spends in a shaded area the longer you’ll want to keep the grass. The big bonus here is of course less lawn maintenance and what’s not to love about that.

  • Reduce your watering to only those times when the soil is very dry; winter rain and dew should be ample to keep your grass nicely hydrated.
  • Keep your lawn area well aerated so that nutrients, air and water can get to the roots. It’s best to do this at the end of winter before the grass starts growing again.
  • Use less fertiliser on shaded lawns that you would normally use (about 30 to 50%).
  • Avoid using herbicides as much as possible as even turf friendly herbicides can stress the grass. Keep an eye on the pH levels of the soil.
  • Adding some wood ash or lime will lift pH levels if they’re too acidic.
  • Reduce foot / high traffic in shaded areas.
Even with shade tolerant varieties you want to maximise their exposure to the sun

Growing Grass Under Trees

One of the most common reasons for shaded lawns is trees or hedges. Grassed areas under trees can look stunning but if your beautiful trees are preventing your lawn from growing then there are some things you can do to help.

Keep a regular check on any grassed areas under trees and promptly remove any fallen leaves. Obviously, this is especially important in autumn/ winter when deciduous trees are dropping their leaves but also check after storms and strong winds.

Any leaf fall, fallen branches or other material covering your lawn will kill your grass so you need to remove this detritus as soon as possible. You can increase your lawn’s exposure to sunlight by pruning the lower branches of trees and hedges.

Both in winter and summer this will allow your lawn to have exposure to the morning and evening hours of direct sun. Pruning or thinning your trees to produce a more open growth habit overall will also allow more light in without necessarily losing too much of the tree canopy.

Many tree species form excellent hedges if you prune them to form a lower but denser habit. This may be the perfect compromise for your situation.

Where to Buy

Atlas Turf Supplies has been supplying the best shade tolerant grass varieties in Australia for many years. Our reputation for quality is unequalled. If you’re not sure about which turf to use for your shaded backyard come and talk to our friendly experts. Our shade-loving turf varieties leave the competition in the shade.

Shade Tolerant Grass