Dallas Morning News - March 27, 2019
Grass in the Shade
Which grass makes the best turf for the shade? This is without question the most common question for me and others in my profession. The answer is simple – there are no good choices. Most grasses hate the shade. Common Bermuda and the hybrid Bermudas are mostly out of the question needing full sun all day, although the relatively new hybrid called Celebration is doing quite well in fairly shady areas on some golf courses and on residential properties. Centipedegrass is pretty good in shade but much fairs better in sandy acid soils than in alkaline clays like our black clay soils here. Zoysia? Well various cultivars have been promoted for years as shade tolerate but I have never seen much evidence to support those claims. It’s a pretty grass to use unless it is a high traffic area, but not that durable in the shade.
English ivy, liriope and dwarf yaupon all do well in shady yards
As the new spring growth emerges from trees, it is time to face the facts. Trees want full sun. Grasses want full sun. Guess who wins? Fertilizer won’t help grass grow in the shade. Tilling and adding soil amendments won’t help grass grow in the shade. Watering more or less won’t help grass grow in the shade. Thinning out or raising tree limbs won’t help grass grow in the shade – especially long term.
You have two basic choices that will work. Cut down the trees and let the grass have the sunlight - or let the trees have the sunlight. If the tree foliage gets to continue to have the sunlight, you'll have to change the planting under the trees to ground covers that appreciate shade - Asian jasmine, English ivy, Persian ivy, liriope, ophiopogon, Horseherb, Virginia creeper or dwarf shade-loving ferns and shrubs.
Or you can select hard surface materials. Decomposed granite works well for walkways and sitting areas. Mulched areas are not only OK with me, but the trees love that solution. Best choices would be shredded native tree trimmings or lava gravel. No plastic under these materials should be used.
Virginia creeper under live oak (Nellie thinking about climbing)
How about artificial turf? Some of my friends have used it and it has its place. Not for me, but it is one way to solve the - what to grow in the shade question.
Removing trees (it hurts to even say it) is sometimes the best thing to do, but allowing the trees to stay and adding shade loving plants and decorative hard surfaces other than turf may be the best way to go. That is exactly what we have done at our place.