It’s undoubtedly rare for your lawn to be fully covered with shade, but when laying sod, you must account for the parts with shade.
Typically, your grass requires sunlight to thrive, so having shade in your yard can be problematic, but can sod grow in shade?
Yes, sod can grow in shade but you must choose shade-tolerant varieties and take care of it properly.
Most turf grasses require at least four hours of full sunlight to flourish.
Shade-tolerant grass varieties like Tall Fescue bloom in four hours of uneven sun or partial shade.
In the warm season sod category, the shade-tolerant grasses include St. Augustine Sod and Zoysia Sod. The cold season category boasts tall fescues sod, Ryegrass, and fine fescue.
This piece discusses how to grow sod and keep them alive in the shade, what to do when the grass cannot grow under trees, and other related subtopics.
Can Sod Grow In Shade
Yes, you install sod in shade with sufficient care and effort. Aside from picking shade-tolerant grass varieties, allow more light by pruning the lowest branches of nearby trees.
However, remember that growing healthy sod on a shady lawn can be challenging, and the grass requires more attention and care than those in areas with proper sunlight.
Which Sod Is Best For Shade?
The best grass to grow in the shade includes St. Augustine grass, Zoysia Grass, Zoysia Grass, Fescue, Ryegrass, and Bluegrass. Different grass species grow in varying degrees of shade.
Below is an overview of the shade-tolerant sods.
1) St. Augustine Grass
It is a warm-season sod that grows well in a shady setting, not implying it would flourish in lengthy, deep-shaded situations.
This variety still requires some sunshine, but not as much as other choices like Bermuda grass.
Read more: Can you dethatch St. Augustine grass
Some of the St. Augustine sod varieties that are incredibly tolerant to shade include Sapphire, Palmetto, Bitter Blue, and Seville.
These varieties also do well in full sunshine. They require 4–5 hours of direct sunlight daily, making them the ideal grass to thrive in slightly shaded lawns.
2) Zoysia Grass
You can plant Zoysia grass as a shade-tolerant sod. However, it still likes the sun and thus explains why some don’t regard it fully as shade-tolerant grass.
Since it tolerates low light more than Bermuda grass, it’d be the best choice of the two. You can plant Zoysia in areas with subtropical climates like Florida.
Fescue is an excellent shade-loving grass, but it doesn’t imply it’ll flourish well in densely shadowed regions like those with dogwood trees.
Tall fescue, however, is an ideal cool-season grass to grow in your yard for shade.
The tall fescue of the turf species is shade tolerant and may thrive in both low-fertility and drought areas.
It is worth mentioning that while fescue grass can tolerate some shadow, it still needs full sun for healthy growth and coverage.
Some Ryegrass cultivars may not do well in shaded environments. Perennial Ryegrass is a grass that grass growers highly recommend for low-light circumstances.
Unlike other varieties, this one does not demand a lot of direct sunshine.
Rough bluegrass is a breed of bluegrass that thrives in the shade. Rough bluegrass excels in moist, chilly, and shaded environments.
If you plan to sod your lawn during summer, keep away from rough bluegrass since it dies off in the summer, leaving uninhabited patches on your yard.
Rough bluegrass thrives in shaded regions, particularly beneath trees, when the environment is cold- and the ground is wet. To survive, it needs 4 hours of filtered sunshine every day.
We cannot talk about bluegrass without mentioning Kentucky Bluegrass. It’s a perfect pick for cool-season landscapes.
Kentucky Bluegrass can sprout in partial shade, albeit they will still need some direct sunshine to thrive.
How To Grow Sod In Shade?
When you have shady parts in your yard that need sodding, selecting the ideal type of sod can help assure success.
Follow the steps below to grow sod in the shade once you’ve identified the top variety.
1) Till the soil down to about 6-8 inches deep to loosen it and aid the new sod roots to grow. Rake the dirt to level it out and clear any vegetation or stones.
2) Use a broadcast spreader to administer a 1-2-1 lawn starter fertilizer uniformly across the area at 1/2 pound per 1000 square feet.
Run a water-filled lawn roller over the lawn to compact the fertilizer into the ground and level the planting area.
Read more: Should you fertilize new sod
3) Before installing the sod, water the earth to a depth of 1/4 inch.
4) Start unrolling the sod at the longest straight part of the turf. Make a brickwork pattern across the yard by staggering each roll while ensuring the edges don’t overlap.
5) Push each grass strip together to close up spaces between the seams.
6) Examine the sod planting site and compact dirt into any divots or gaps to produce a flat surface. The sod roots will expand and fill up the spaces.
7) Roll the freshly planted sod with a lawn roller half-filled with water or tamp down the sod with a lawn tamper to aid in root development.
8) Water the grass with about 1/2 inch of water right after planting to soak the roots network.
To estimate the amount of water used to wet the soil, put a tin can below the sprinkler.
If the rains fail for the first month, irrigate the sod with 1/4 to 1/2 inch of water every day to encourage root growth. After root development, shaded regions may need less regular watering.
How Do You Keep Sod Alive In The Shade?
Competition with tree covers and low light poses a significant risk to sod survival. Keep your sod alive in the shade by following the guidelines below.
1) Restore Soil Balance
Soil conditions rapidly become imbalanced in the shade. Reduced soil pH and inadequate drainage encourage stubborn weeds and invasive lawn mosses to establish themselves.
Soil tests and amendments can aid in restoring pH balance and increasing grass nutritional availability. In addition, aerating highly packed soils can ease drainage issues.
2) Allow More Light
When given extra sunlight, shade-tolerant sods grow better. If possible, you can trim bushes and trees to unlock canopies.
The exercise increases sunlight and improves air circulation.
3) Change The Fertilizer And Watering Schedules
Turf in the shade grows slower than that in the sun. Although fertilizer can help sod grow, stressed grasses cannot take equal amounts as healthier, sun-fueled lawns.
Likewise, slow-growing turf in the shade demands less water than the fast-growing grass fully exposed to the sun.
However, contending tree roots might reduce the amount of water and nutrients available to your sod.
Keep a keen eye on your lawn and make adjustments to satisfy the unique requirements of shaded areas.
4) Increase Mowing Height
Cutting higher than usual allows grass blades to absorb and utilize available sunlight. Higher mowing stimulates grass roots to grow deeper, enhancing adaptability and health.
Always mow according to guidelines, and never cut upwards of one-third of sod blade in a single mowing, or you’ll induce stress to your sod.
5) Keep Lawn Traffic To A Minimum
Foot traffic, dogs, and children at play can cause harm to fragile, stressed grass. You can reduce lawn traffic by shifting play areas.
When bare patches appear because of damage, use a quality product formulated particularly for harsh shadow conditions to fill in the gaps.
Will Sod Grow Without Sunlight?
It is challenging to grow sod without sunshine, seeing that sunlight is one of the plant’s most fundamental needs. Without the sun, photosynthesis cannot take place.
Most cool-season grasses, however, will flourish in highly shaded locations.
What Do You Do When Grass Won’t Grow Under Trees?
Since grass has a low absorption capacity, competition with trees slows its development. However, the following measures would make it easier for you to grow grass under trees:
1) Mulch The Area
For sod to thrive under trees, tree roots should sprout through the mulch. Applying a 4-6 inches deep layer of mulch comprising leaves, straw, and pine will keep your sod from withering.
2) Give Minimum Fertilizer
Turf grown in the shade requires less fertilizer and is far more sensitive to disease than grass grown in the sun. As a result, it is preferable to avoid using too much fertilizer.
3) Treat Fungus Growth
Fungus thrives in shady areas where there isn’t enough air circulation. Use high-quality fungicides such as Scotts DiseaseEx Lawn Fungicide to treat the spot.
4) Reduce Soil Compaction
To sod under a tree, the core aerates the area to minimize soil compaction and promote drainage.
You might have assumed it was impossible to grow sod in the shade, but this post proved otherwise. Proper maintenance of your yard should not be an afterthought.
Ensure you select the right sod, maintain a healthy balance of drainage and water retention, and minimize unnecessary foot traffic to the sodded area. Moreover, mulch and prune adjacent trees to create an admirable lawn.
- Mississippi State University Extension Service – Selecting and Managing Turfgrass for Shade
- NC State Extension Publications –Selecting and Managing Lawn Grasses for Shade
Hey there, I’m Derek Schew, a writer for Lawnholic.com, where we cover everything and anything related to lawns. As someone who’s spent countless hours tending to my own lawn, I’m passionate about sharing my knowledge and helping others achieve the perfect yard. From lawn care tips to product reviews, I’m committed to providing our readers with the most accurate and up-to-date information available. So whether you’re a seasoned lawn enthusiast or just getting started, I invite you to join our community and discover the joys of a lush, green lawn.