PPDL Picture of the Week

April 10, 2017

Lawns and Shade: A Tough Combination

John Orick, Purdue Master Gardener State Coordinator, Department fo Horticulture and Landscape Architecture

                   Many homeowners struggle with growing turf in shady areas of the landscape. This is a tough problem because turfgrass plants compete with trees for light, water, and nutrients. Trees also restrict air flow over turf growing in shade, potentially providing a more favorable environment for fungal diseases. In dense shade, lawns can become thin, allowing difficult-to-control perennial weeds like ground ivy and violet to compete and take over. So, what can be done to manage home lawns in dense shade? Instead of trying to grow turf, homeowners could choose to grow shade-loving ornamental plants in these areas. Hostas, begonias, impatiens, astilbe, are among shade-loving ornamental plants that will likely prove to be better plant choices. If homeowners would like to attempt to grow turf in shady areas, they could try over-seeding the area with a fine fescue species (e.g. creeping red fescue) which has excellent shade tolerance, turf-type tall fescue (good shade tolerance) or a turf shade mix containing at least 50% fine fescue mixed with other shade tolerant cool-season turfgrasses like Kentucky Bluegrass and perennial ryegrass. Please note that mid-August to mid-September is the best time to seed cool-season turfgrasses. Homeowners should also consider these tips for growing turf in the shade:

o   Prune tree limbs to allow more light to reach turfgrass plants and to increase air flow under trees.

o   Reduce traffic on shaded turf.

o   Turf growing in shade may require less nitrogen fertilizer due to a slower growth rate. In general, do not to apply more than 2 lbs. of actual nitrogen per 1,000 square feet per year to shaded lawns.

o   Be careful not to over water. Over watering may increase fungal disease pressure.

o   Mow turf at a height of 3 inches or higher to help plants compete with weeds.


Improving Lawns in the Shade (AY-14) https://www.extension.purdue.edu/extmedia/ay/ay-14-w.pdf

Lawn Improvement Programs (AY-13-W) https://www.extension.purdue.edu/extmedia/AY/AY-13-W.pdf

Establishing Turfgrass Areas from Seed (AY-3-W) https://www.extension.purdue.edu/extmedia/AY/AY-3-W.pdf

Control of broadleaf Weeds in Home Lawns (AY-9-W)  https://www.extension.purdue.edu/extmedia/AY/AY-9-W.pdf


Click image to enlarge


Lawn growing in dense shade - showing thin turf.                       (Photo by John Orick)