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Thursday, 11 March 2021
How do you grow grass under a tree?

How do you grow grass under a tree?

Gardening is both an art and a science. It’s about arranging plants harmoniously using techniques of plant cultivation. 

It’s a known fact that grass doesn’t grow well under trees because of the shade. It’s possible, however, to grow healthy, natural grass in the shady areas with the propre care. In order to have a captivating landscape, it’s important to understand the reasons why it’s challenging to grow grass in order to learn how to grow grass under a tree. 

Can you plant grass under a tree? 

It’s generally difficult to grow grass under trees due to the deep shade as well as competition for nutrients and water. However, you can always grow shade-tolerant grass under trees with proper care and determination. Planting shade-tolerant grass while increasing the amount of water and sunlight, and monitoring nutriment levels should be enough to successfully grow green grass under trees. 

How can I get grass to grow under a tree? 

Growing grass under trees like maple, pine, spruce and oak trees seems impossible to do sometimes due to the lack of sunlight, vigor and density that make it hard for the grass to grow. 

Here are some lawn care practices to help you grow grass under trees:

Maple tree

  1. Select the most suitable grass seeds, sprigs or sod that can tolerate some shade. A grass seed mix or sod blend for shaded areas generally offers multiple species of grass to ensure a dense and healthy turf all year long. Soil moisture can also influence grass selection. Rough bluegrass, for example, grows better on poorly drained, moist soils than other types of grass.
  2. Before planting the grass, cultivate the surface of the soil and then remove the rocks and weeds from the area. Try not to damage tree roots by working around them and leave about 2 feet of space around the tree uncultivated to encourage its growth.
  3. Plant the grass seeds and rake them into the soil lightly. Water them one to three times a day for about a week. Once the grass starts to sprout, reduce irrigation frequency and increase the amount of water per session.
  4. Most shaded turf grass requires ½ to 1 inch of water weekly, preferably in the morning to avoid prolonged leaf wetness overnight. 
  5. Make sure to mow the shaded grass about ½ inch higher than the grass grown in the sunlight. A higher mowing height will help the grass absorb light better.
  6. You’ll need to apply a lawn fertilizer that is specific for turfgrass in shade. The latter will only need minimum nitrogen and potassium to help it grow stronger and improve its shade tolerance.
  7. Don’t forget to rake the fallen leaves because they will otherwise block sunlight and trap moisture.

Pine tree 

  1. Start with removing the dirt around the pine tree with a rake to help expose the soil to sunlight and moisture. 
  2. Till the soil to a depth of 6 inches preferably, and try not to damage the tree roots. You can use a garden fork or your bare hands to dig up the soil. 
  3. You will need to apply lime, as needed, to decrease the acidity. Every 1000 feet of soil will need around 10 to 15 pounds of lime. Lime will help adjust the pH level for grass to grow.
  4. Once you finish with the limestone, scatter some grass seeds. It’s always important to choose the right kind of grass to grow under your pine tree. As mentioned before, use a shade-tolerant type of grass
  5. Water the grass seeds every morning. The pine tree will absorb the water from the ground so the seeds beneath it won’t get enough of water. This is why it’s important to make sure you water the seeds regularly, about 1 to 2 times a day.

Spruce tree

  1. Thin out the branches of the tree to allow sunlight and rainfall to make it to the grass growing beneath.
  2. Start by gently raking the declining sod from the tree trunk to the outer edge of the tree canopy. Try not to damage the spruce roots as they are shallow and can be easily destroyed.
  3. Apply a layer of lower-acidity soil into the top couple inches of soil underneath the Spruce tree. It will help balance the nutritional inputs to allow both grass and the tree to grow together. 
  4. Throw an even layer of grass seed (always a shade-tolerant grass seed) and rake it lightly, and then add another layer.
  5. All you need to do is water the seeds. Be careful when watering to ensure you aren’t flooding the soil.


Want to improve your lawn’s health?


What kind of grass grows best in shade? 

When choosing the grass to grow in your garden, it’s very important to know which types of grass withstand shade, especially if you have a tree in your garden. 

Here are some of the best shade-tolerant grasses for lawns with low light conditions:

St. Augustine Grass

St. Augustine grass is a warm-season lawn grass that does well in shaded areas. However, it won’t thrive if it gets zero sunlight. This type of grass grows well in full sunlight, so when exposed to 4-5 hours of direct sunlight, they can fully resist the low light conditions after. 


Fescue grass is a group of cool season varieties that grow in shady areas. It contains two major sub-species: tall fescue and fine fescue.

Turf-type tall fescue can grow in drought conditions as well as low fertility regions. The fine fescues are fine, shorter fescue grass that can be divided into four categories: creeping red, hard fescue, chewings fescue and sheep fescue.

Fescue grass requires 4 to 6 hours of filtered or dappled sunlight and a propre lawn care (mowing height, regular watering, etc.) for a healthy growth. It will give the grass a better chance of surviving low sunlight conditions.


Rough Bluegrass is the particular type of bluegrass that works well with shady areas. It’s also adapted for wet and cool areas. It requires about 4 hours of dappled sunlight daily to be able to fully grow.

Rye Grass

Perennial Ryegrass is the shade tolerant Ryegrass. It’s also a cool season kind of grass. It can thrive for several growing seasons if it gets at least 4 to 5 hours of full sun daily. You should know that Ryegrass doesn’t do well in dappled sun.

Tips to grow grass in shade 

Growing grass in shade can be a very challenging mission. So, here’s a list of tips to help you:

  • Prune the tree to thin the canopy, it will allow sunlight to reach the grass beneath.
  • Lawn aeration creates holes in the soil to allow air, water and fertilizer to reach grass roots. It’s better to aerate warm-season grass in late spring or early summer and cool-season grass in early fall.
  • After aerating the area, spread a thin layer of compost to give shady grass a boost to grow. Grass in shady areas needs less fertilizer than grass exposed to full sun, so the compost layer should be thin enough that you can still see grass blades after applying it.
  • Whether you’re sowing a shady area for the first time or overseeding an existing lawn, choose a quality seed that includes several types of shade tolerant grasses. This way, if one grass fails to succeed, there’s another one to take its place.
  • Know when to water your grass. If your shady lawn is courtesy of a building shadow, you won’t need to water it as frequently. In this case, it’s better if you water the grass deeply but infrequently to encourage deeper roots to form. This is vital for shady grass to thrive.
  • As mentioned before, try not to over cut the shaded grass. Keep it ½ to 1 inch taller than the exposed grass.
  • A shaded landscape should be given roughly one-half to two-third less nitrogen per year compared to a sunny one. In cold regions, a winterizer fertilizer is applied at half the recommended rate.
  • Keep foot traffic to a minimum by installing stepping stones or a simple mulch path to protect the grass.
  • If you can’t get grass to grow in the shady areas of your garden, consider planting a shade-tolerant, low maintenance groundcover. 


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