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
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
Lawn Improvement Programs
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