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Suburban life is full of challenges and decision making. Boxwoods or gardenias for the hedge? Where to put the koi pond? Should we plant fruit trees?
Of course, there’s also what to with the annoying shady area of the yard where the grass will not grow. Here we provide for you some advice in this area.
Yards are typically thought of as monolithic swatches of single-variety grass. This does not necessarily need to be so.
Shady spots in a yard can be planted with other varieties of grass more suited to lower light conditions. Many varieties also have leaf colors similar to full-sun grasses and, if done properly, will appear to be seamlessly integrated.
Although there are recommended varieties of grass for different situations, finding a suitable single variety seed may be challenging. Check with your local hardware store if you require a specific seed variety.
Many seed varieties that are appropriate for shade are included in seed mixes. They intended to cover all portions of your yard (sunny and shady).
Here we review the types of grasses that are appropriate for shady conditions. We give our picks for the best seed and seed mixes for shade, broken down by cool climate and warm climate grasses.
Related Article: Best Grass Seed For Dogs in [year] – Our Reviews and Comparisons
Cool Climate Shade Grasses
- Fine or Tall Fescue (fine is better than tall, but tall runs a close second)
- Rough Bluegrass (look for the Sabre cultivar if you can get it)
- Perennial Bluegrass
Warm Climate Shade Grasses
- St. Augustine
Our Best Grass Seed For Shade Reviews and Comparisons
|1. Creeping Red Fescue
|2. JRK Ultra Dense Shade Mix
|3. Nature’s Seed Perennial Ryegrass Seed Blend
|4. Black Beauty Ultra Mixture
|5. Scotts Turf Builder Grass for Sun & Shade
1. Creeping Red Fescue
Creeping red fescue is an excellent cool weather and very shade-tolerant grasses (chewing fescue is also good). They have narrow leaf dark green blades and deep roots.
They grow ideally in yards with at least four hours of partial or dappled sun per day. For fine fescue varieties, stick to creeping red fescue or chewing fine fescue.
For tall fescues, turf-type and dwarf varieties are best.
- Fine blade grass
- Medium to dark green
- Grows up to 14 inches tall
- Easy to establish
Germinates in about 2-3 weeks and provides about 80-90% coverage. This creeping grass will eventually fill in all the open areas.
Soil conditions must be right for proper germination, which include watering or temperatures experienced during germination.
- Easy to establish
- Tough grass, good for foot traffic
- Deep and lush when established
- Weed resistant due to its dense mat
- Thirsty; requires a lot of watering in summer months
- In hot environments, requires overseeding to maintain establishment
2. JRK Ultra Dense Shade Mix
JRK Ultra Dense is a seed mix ideal for shady areas and only needs to be fertilized four times each growing season. It is also good in damp soils.
The mix contains Boreal creeping red fescue, Ambrose chewing fescue, Epic creeping red fescue, Laser Poa trivialis (rough bluegrass), Named perennial ryegrass, Reliant IV hard fescue, and Poa supina (creeping meadow grass).
- Broad mix of seeds for differing conditions
- Low need for fertilization
- Overseeds at a 5-6 lb. rate per 1000 square feet
- Establishes at a 6-8 lb. rate per 1000 square feet for new lawns
Establishes quickly and easily. Despite being a mixture of cool season grasses, some users have claimed that the seed will germinate and grow with proper watering in shady temperatures exceeding 90°F.
The choice to include rough bluegrass in the mix may result in escape and establish in full sun areas. If this occurs, many homeowners mistake the bluegrass in their brightly lit turf areas as disease.
- Strong shade mix (something should work!)
- Establishes in very shady areas
- Establishes easily
- Low need for fertilizer
- Some grasses in the mix do not tolerate foot traffic (bluegrass)
- Rough bluegrass can escape to sunny areas and disrupt the turf there
3. Nature’s Seed Perennial Ryegrass Seed Blend
Nature’s Seed Perennial Ryegrass mix takes the approach to establishing turf in shady areas by using a tried and true low light grass: perennial ryegrass. The mix consists of two cultivars of ryegrass, although the specifics are proprietary.
- 98% pure live seed, guaranteed
- Applicable for all climate regions
- Fastest establishment
This is a fast-growing seed mix that easily takes to both sunny and shady conditions. It will work in nearly any climate region in the US lower 48.
The turf has great texture and is very durable to foot traffic. It is also very salt-tolerant. The mix is appropriate for overseeding other turf cultivars to assist in reestablishment of the lawn after treatment for disease or weeds.
Some customers have experienced no germination and have also received open bags with much of the seed missing. These are both likely due to shipping problems (overheating, rough handling, etc.)
- Resistant to disease
- Salt-tolerant (good for post-winter establishment)
- Some germination issues
- Some shipping quality problems
4. Black Beauty Ultra Mixture
Black Beauty Ultra Mixture by Jonathan Green contains a mix of shade-tolerant tall fescue, perennial ryegrass, and Kentucky bluegrasses. The turf it produces is dark green and lush.
This mix is drought tolerant due to roots that can reach a 4-foot depth. It can withstand a fair amount of heat (low wilting).
The cultivars used (which are proprietary) are disease resistant.
- Fast germination (14 day)
- Disease resistant
- Works in sun and shade
- Wilt tolerant
Black Beauty mix is great for producing a lush lawn in shady areas. The cultivars selected have more leaf wax and the root bed can reach up to 4-foot depth.
This means your lawn will be tolerant of drought conditions and recovers quickly when favorable conditions return. The mix is also good for overseeding.
Some users have reported low germination rates (less than 60%)
- Drought tolerant
- Disease resistant
- Establishes quickly
- Some quality problems (low germination rates)
- Some users have been shipped old seeds (=no germination at all)
5. Scotts Turf Builder Grass for Sun & Shade
Scotts Turf Builder Grass Seed Sun and Shade mix is a very adaptable lawn seed mixture, applicable for both sunny and shady conditions. Seeds are coated with a proprietary WaterSmart PLUS coating that allows for 2x the water absorption rate of a natural seed coat, thus boosting germination rates and protecting from seedling diseases.
The mix contains the following grass seeds: Wendy Jean and Fenway creeping red fescues, Citation Fore and Silver Dollar perennial ryegrasses, and Moonshine, Abbey, and Right Kentucky bluegrasses.
- Germinates in 1-4 weeks
- Special coating boosts germination
- Spreads well after planting to cover bald spots
- Full sun or deep shade
Grows quickly and will establish quickly. Despite being designed for cooler climates, some users have had good experience using the mix in sandy soil in zone 10 conditions (think So-Cal, western AZ, southern FL, and Brownsville, TX).
Not really a “bad” feature, but note that this mix is intended for northern US climates. Germination has been hit or miss different lots of seeds, with users reporting one bag working just great and the next a total dud.
- Germinates well
- Resists seedling diseases
- Adaptable (sun or shade)
- Some quality control issues, varies by lot
- Some low germination rates