Growing & Maintaining Grass in Shady Areas

In the Tampa and Sarasota area, keeping a lawn green and beautiful year-round requires some persistence. We have scorching sunshine, heavy rains, and an abundance of insects, all of which necessitate special attention.

As one might expect in South Florida, we often concentrate on how to keep grass healthy under the sun’s strong rays. But keeping your grass healthy in shady areas can be just as challenging.

What types of grass grow better in shade?

For cool-season grass, Ryegrass and Fine and Tall Fescues offer the most shade tolerance. They require four hours of sun minimum to survive. Warm-season grasses that grow in some shade include Zoysia grass and St. Augustine grass.

When shopping for grass seed, choose shade-tolerant blends adapted to your region. Buy a blend or mix of seeds for shade because if one type fails to make it, another might.

Made in the Shade

  • Trim if Possible: We understand that some of our lush vegetation and trees create lovely, desirable shade for your yard – and as such, we would never recommend that you rid your yard of them.
    However, keeping shade trees trimmed and manicured will help to limit the areas which need special attention and care. Lower branches especially should be trimmed back to allow for sunlight to filter through. Besides, a well-trimmed tree is a healthy tree!
  • Try for Partial Sun: If you can, allow enough space around shade trees to let some sun reach the grass for at least a few hours per day. Even shade-tolerant grasses generally need sun for up to 5 hours per day to best thrive, and all grass needs the opportunity to dry out.
    During the rainy season, shady areas are prone to rot and fungus if no sunlight reaches the area. During the dry season, you will have to establish a blanace between adequate watering, and sufficient evaporation.
  • Know Your Grasses: Some lawn professionals prefer fescue varieties when choosing grass for shady areas; although in hot climates such as ours, you may do better with a drought-tolerant St. Augustine grass. During times of stress, consider re-seeding and filling in thin areas.
  • Understand How to Fertilize Your Florida Lawn: Grass under trees should be fertilized on the same schedule as the rest of your lawn – usually twice per year, in the November and April time frames.
    However, resist the urge to over-fertilize. In fact, grass which is primarily in shade needs only about half the nitrogen of full-shade grass; so it is wise to adjust your fertilizing accordingly. Remember – same schedule, different concentration.
  • Get the Right Cut: Grasses in shady areas should be kept longer than the rest of your lawn. The increased surface area allows for maximized photosynthesis which will help your grass to thrive. Adjust your blade when mowing to give shady grass its best chance.
  • Make Sure the Grass Gets Fed: Grass under trees will compete with the roots for nutrients and water, so make keep an attentive eye on those areas to spot early signs of distress.

Alternatives to Shade Grass

If you are having trouble successfully cultivating grass under your shade trees, you may wish to fill in those areas with an alternative material. Depending on your style, mulch or river rockmay create the perfect look.

Ground covers which do well in South Florida (and in the shade) include wandering jew, velvet plant, ivies, jasmine, ferns, spider plant, and pothos. These plants will allow for beautiful ground cover (and in some cases, splashes of color) while minimizing the frustrations of trying to keep grass lush and full in shady areas.

Whether you choose Florida grasses or ground covers, shady areas on your lawn can present a challenge – but we can help you to overcome these issues and present a gorgeous landscape.

From fertilizers to proper food, from fighting fungus to growing new seeds – Big Earth Landscape Supply can assist. After all, South Florida lawns and landscape are our business.