The Best Grass Seed For Shade

You might be gardening for a while or you might be a beginner, but you probably still have a question: what grass grows best in the shade?

It’s a well known fact, climate plays an essential role in gardening in general, as it will impact your choice of plants and flowers, it will play a role in the way they grow and it will probably also affect the way you will design your garden (light, exposure, moisture, sun, rain, snow etc…)

Given the time that it takes to between the moment you plant your seeds, the moment it starts growing and the time when you have a fully blown plant/tree/flower, several months could have gone by. So you don’t want to plant something and then realise it will not grow because the soil is not adapted or that it will not survive long because of the climate conditions.

Planning is key

Let’s get the record straight: grass thrives on sunlight, air, water and nutrients. Just like any other plant. There is no such a thing as grass that will love the shade. In this article, we will focus on a specific theme and a challenge on its own: picking the best grass seed for shade. Yes, some grass seeds are better than others for places that do not benefit fully from the sunlight (either at all or partially). But some grass species and mixes have a higher resistance to shade. And these are the ones which will cover here below.

We divided the grass seeds for shade that we will cover in two distinct categories. Warm-season and cool-season lawn grasses. Those are the two main and mostly recognised classes of turfgrasses. There is also a so-called transition zone and that’s where growing grass is hardest because it gets too cold during winter for warm-season grass and it’s too hot in the summer for cool-season grass. Usually residents of these areas, if they really wish to grow grass, tend to switch between the two categories of grasses during the year according to the season. If it’s already difficult to pick grass for the transition zone, you can imagine how hard it is to pick a grass for that area that is also shade tolerant.. Mission -almost- impossible. That’s why we will focus on the best grass seeds for shade for the two main zones. And even though these terms are mostly used to refer to US geography, they can apply in other places of course.

Warm and cool season grasse
Picture by

Warm season grass

Zoysia grass

Very popular variety that is extremely appreciated for its beautiful, deep, emerald color. Zoysia grass seed is a very solid grass that grows very well in its optimal conditions and will require minimal effort from your side. It’s perennial and will come regularly when grown in optimal conditions. Surely shade it’s not optimal, but Zoysia heat and cold resistance make them an obvious choice for many. It does well for lawns with light to moderate shade.

Centipede grass

Very popular turfgrass. Grows easily even in poor conditions and requires little maintenance. It has moderate shade tolerance, which makes it suitable if you have some areas that don’t fully enjoy sunlight. It’s amongst the best grass for shade in the south.

Saint Augustine

Probably the best type of grass for deep shaded areas. It’s a vigorous, coarse textured plant that forms a carpet like lawn. It’s maintenance is medium to high.

Cool season grass

Red creeping fescue

It’s a perennial lawn grass. It needs quite a moist soil until it’s well established, then it’s going to be a really resistant grass. For cool season areas, it will also be an amazing turf to have for heavily shaded lawns. 

Tall and hard fescue

The grasses from the fescue family perform generally really well in the shade, that’s what tall and hard fescue are part of this list.

Perennial Ryegrass

After the fescue family, perennial ryegrass is the second best shade resistant grass.

As we just saw, those types of grass will be suitable for lawns or areas where shade is present. It’s not ideal, but it’s not impossible to grow beautiful, bright green, thick lawn in those parts. In order to be as successful as you can, here are some steps that you can follow in order to give yourself the best chances to get that beautiful emerald lawn:

  1. Understand your situation 
    1. What zone do you live in ? warm-season, cool-season or transition zone 
    2. Is your climate dry or humid ?
    3. What is the condition/ph of your soil ?
  2. Analyze what degree of sun exposure/shade you have. Usually you can consider time exposition and intensity. Time-wise you can either have partial shade or full shade (the first being when your lawn only has a couple of hours of shade in the day and the second it’s mostly shaded with little time in the sun). In terms of intensity, it’s either light, scattered or heavy shade. Scattered (or dappled) shade happens for example when some sun goes through the branches.
  3. Consider the maintenance: do you have time to dedicate for upkeep? This is important to consider when picking the grass as some are relatively easy to maintain and some require more efforts.
  4. Once the above parameters are considered and you picked the best turfgrass to create your lawn, you can begin the sowing (late-summer, mid-autumn; but check out your seeds for specifics). Easy steps to sow grass
    1. Prepare the areas: remove any existing weed, debris, big stones
    2. Rake the soil flat
    3. Incorporate pre-seeding and/or fertilizer if needed
    4. Sow the seeds of your choice. Make sure to sow them evenly without overcrowding them (use a lawn spreader if needed or do it small patches at time to help you keep track)
    5. Rake the seeds in
    6. Make sure the soil is moist until the grass is firmly established

Extra Measures

Because it’s all about growing grass in the shaded areas, here are some extra measures that can be taken to help you getting the lawn of your dreams in areas hard to work:


Even the best shade-resistant grass will love to get a bit more sunlight. By pruning and trimming trees and shrubs you will allow more light to go through their canopies and reach the lawn, giving it an extra boost. 

Limit footsteps

The grass in the shade will never be as strong as the one in full light. In order not to weaken it more, limiting traffic in the concerned areas is a great idea, if not a must.

Extra care

Monitor closely the areas of your lawn that are shaded and adjust the fertilizer amount and watering schedule accordingly. The grass there tends to grow more slowly than in full sun, so one logical reaction could be to use more fertilizer. But it might actually be counterproductive as weakened grass can’t handle the same amount of fertilizer as the fully exposed lawns. It’s best to use less (½ or ⅓ the amount as sun exposed grass) fertilizer and monitor it. Also, water evaporates less quickly in the shade, so make sure not to overwater your shaded areas. The only factor to monitor that might contradict this rule is for grass that grows in shade under trees as the tree will compete with the grass for water and nutrients, so monitor it regularly and water it accordingly. 

Increase mowing height

As stated above, the grass grows more slowly in the shade, so for you to keep a nice even lawn and not to weaken the frail grass it’s a good option to mow the shaded grass higher than the rest of your lawn. You could use more precise string trimmers for those areas for example.

Best Grass Seed For Shade

The main providers for grass seed on the market are Pennington, Scotts and Jonathan Green (amongst others). Here is a list of the best, most popular and most recommended grass seed for shade from these three companies that you can shop online.

Pennington Smart Seed Dense Shade

Pennington Smart Seed Dense Shade Grass Seed

Beautiful mix for heavy shaded areas. With this 3 lbs bag you’ll be able to cover up to 750 square feet. The germination will be done in 7-10 days. Suitable for all zones.

Scotts Turf Builder Grass Seed Dense Shade Mix

Scotts Turf Builder Grass Seed Dense Shade Mix for Tall Fescue Lawns

Special mix for dense shade. It’s a medium bladed texture that will work for full sun and heavy shade with as little as 3h sunlight exposure. It’s particularly recommended for transition zone lawns.

Jonathan Green 10610 Dense Shade Grass Seed Mixture

Jonathan Green 10610 Dense Shade Grass Seed Mixture, 25-Pound

Huge bag of 25 lbs. No doubt you’ll be able to cover a great piece of land with this. Premium grass seed mix to help you be successful in growing grass in shade.

Pennington Smart Seed Sun and Shade Grass Seed

Pennington Smart Seed Sun and Shade Grass Seed, 20 LBS

A beautiful sun and shade grass seed mix. This 20 pound bag covers 6, 660 Square feet and is suitable for all zones. This will be great for moderately or lightly shaded areas. It contains a mix of tall fescue and perennial ryegrass.

Scotts Turf Builder Grass Seed Sun and Shade Mix

Scotts Turf Builder Grass Seed Sun and Shade Mix, 3 lb. - Grows in Extreme Conditions Including Full Sun and Dense Shade - Seeds up to 1,200 sq. ft.

Huge bag of 25 lbs. No doubt you’ll be able to cover a great piece of land with this. Premium grass seed mix to help you be successful in growing grass in shade.


If you need to correct some patches that died, got destroyed by traffic or simply did not grow in the first place, you could try to use a repair mixture that is usually composed of seeds, fertilizer and mulch:

  1. Pennington One Step Complete Dense Shade Bare Spot Grass Seed
  2. Scotts PatchMaster Lawn Repair Mix Sun and Shade Mix