Last Updated on March 7, 2023 by Mattias
Bermuda grass is one of the best grasses for gardeners because it grows aggressively, tolerates heavy foot traffic, and has high drought resistance. However, balancing sunlight for growth and shade for stress relief is crucial for a bermuda lawn to grow properly.
Are you finding it hard to grow bermuda grass in shaded areas? Let’s know why you experience this difficulty and help you solve your problem.
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Can Bermuda Grass Grow In Shade?
Bermuda grass can grow in shady areas, but you should expect it to have a slower growth rate and a less appealing appearance than if grown in full sunlight.
These warm-season grasses are the darling of many gardeners because they adapt to different climates and soil conditions, but shade seems to be their weakness. In fact, bermudagrasses are the least shade-tolerant among grasses.
It is not wrong to have your lawn surrounded by deciduous trees and structures that limit sunlight exposure to the grasses beneath them, but planting bermuda grass may not be a good idea for this type of lawn. However, you can grow bermuda grass if you are sure it will get at least four hours of full sunlight daily.
Knowing that bermuda grass grows in shady conditions is just scratching the surface; you also need to know about the behavior of bermuda grass in these conditions and get helpful tips for a shaded bermudagrass lawn. Let’s go into detail and closely examine bermudagrass growth in shady areas.
What Does Shade Do To Bermuda Grass?
Bermuda grass does not do well with limited sunlight, but the degree of shade can affect how it grows. The longer the shade lasts, the lesser your chances of getting a healthy, lush lawn. Let’s examine how varying degrees of shade affect the growth of bermuda grass:
Full shade is the worst condition to grow bermuda grass, and you may be wasting time and effort if you plant bermuda grass in complete shade. In dense shade, the leaf blades of bermuda grass become thin, sick, weak, and yellow spots appear. The grass eventually becomes dormant before it dies and gets replaced by weeds.
It is important to note that bermuda grass surrounded by trees with dense canopies counts as full shade because the trees do not allow enough sunlight to pass through them.
Bermuda grass grows in partial shade, but its growth depends on the time of the day and how many hours of full sun it gets. It is easier for bermudagrass to grow in the shade if it gets full sun from 10 am to 12 pm, but it may not grow as well if it is exposed only to the morning sun. Though partial shade is better for bermuda grass than full shade, it is thinner and disease prone than turf that gets full sun all day.
If you grow bermuda grass in partial shade, you should ensure it gets at least four hours of direct sunlight daily.
Having no shade is the best for growing a bermudagrass lawn. In this condition, bermudagrass has a light or dark green color and handles as much foot traffic as you can imagine. Bermudagrass lawns with no shade recover from damage quicker and adapt to different soil and climate conditions.
How To Grow Bermuda Grass In Shaded Areas
All hope is not lost if you have a shaded lawn where you intend to grow bermuda grass. It is true that bermuda grass grown in shade conditions does not grow as well as those with access to full sunlight, but you can take some measures to help the grass thrive.
Improve Sunlight Penetration
You can improve sunlight penetration to your bermuda turf grasses by trimming the leaves of tall trees that shade it. Another option is to cut down the trees or take down structures to provide full access to sunlight.
Improving sunlight penetration also helps the circulation of air to the grass.
Raise The Mowing Height
Bermuda grass needs a low mowing height for lateral growth, but you may get more success growing them in shaded areas if you increase this height. A higher height means the grass has larger leaf blades that can get as much sunlight as possible.
The recommended mowing height for common bermuda grass varieties is 1 inch and 1.5 inches for hybrid varieties, but adding an inch or two can help the grass survive with limited sunlight. However, only cut off ⅓ of the leaf blade length at every mowing to reduce stress.
Reduce Fertilizer, Watering Frequency, And Foot Traffic
Growing bermuda grass in shaded areas means it goes through more stress than it needs, and it would not tolerate as much nitrogen as it needs. Since it’s stressed enough, you should take further steps to reduce the stress it goes through.
Reducing the amount of fertilizer you add means less nitrogen, and reducing the watering frequency ensures the plant does not get overwatered and stressed. Foot traffic on the lawn also adds to the stress, so you should ensure your shaded turf grass does not get too many visitors.
Restore The PH Balance Of The Soil
Soils in heavy shade experience a decrease in pH level at a faster rate, and this leads to the invasion of moss and weeds. This decrease in soil pH means it becomes more acidic, while a neutral pH between 5.8 and 7.0 is needed for bermudagrass to grow. You can apply lime to the soil to increase the pH to a desired level.
However, the amount of lime you add to the soil varies on the type of soil. Clay soil is the most resistant to changes in pH, and you will need more lime than loamy or sandy soils.
How To Know Bermuda Grass Is Not Getting Enough Sunlight
Bermuda grass requires at least 4 hours of sunlight daily to grow on a partially shaded lawn. Having large trees and buildings around a bermudagrass turf may mean it gets less sunlight exposure than it needs. Here’s how to know your bermuda grass is not getting enough sunlight:
The stems, shoots, and internodes of bermuda grass grown in areas without sufficient sunlight begin to grow longer. This abnormal elongation happens because the plant tries to grow toward the direction of the light.
Bermuda grass does not experience photosynthesis if grown in shaded areas, so it prioritizes vertical growth over lateral growth. As a result, you get a sparse lawn with bare patches that creates room for weeds like crabgrass and dandelions.
Low Resistance To Diseases
It is easier for bermuda grass in shaded areas to suffer from moss infestation, fungal disease, and root infection because dew settles on the leaves for longer. Limited sunlight also means the grass does not photosynthesize as much as it should, meaning it does not have the energy to resist pests and diseases.
Shade-Tolerant Bermuda Grass Varieties
There are different varieties of bermuda grass, but some are more shade-tolerant than others. Shade-tolerant bermuda grass varieties tend to have thinner leaves to facilitate photosynthesis, dense canopies to prevent the growth of weeds, and softer blades to accommodate more foot traffic. They also have a dense root system that stores the water and nutrients they need for healthy growth.
Here are some varieties of bermuda grass that have good shade tolerance:
TifGrand Bermuda Grass
TifGrand Bermuda Grass has the thinnest leaves of any bermudagrass variety and is one of the most shade-tolerant. It has a distinct dark green color due to its ability to tolerate shade and its high drought resistance. This bermudagrass variety also handles high foot traffic and produces very little seedhead.
Celebration Bermuda Grass
Celebration bermuda grass is a versatile variety of bermuda grass because it thrives in full sun and partial shade. It has broader leaves than TifGrand bermudagrass, but its soft texture and wear resistance make it a favorite for many sports turfs. Though Celebration bermuda grass is a newer variety, it is fast becoming one of the best options for people who desire a lush lawn.
Tifway 419 Bermuda Grass
Tifway 419 is a dense growing bermuda grass variety with a dark green color and fine texture. This shade-tolerant grass can also withstand long periods of drought and high foot traffic. It is suitable for home lawns, golf courses, and sports fields.
Discovery Bermuda Grass
Discovery bermuda grass is not only known to be shade tolerant; it is also known for its slow vertical growth rate. It is soft to the touch, wear-tolerant, and can survive during droughts. One factor that sets this bermuda grass variety apart from others is its distinctive dark blue-green color.
ST-5 Bermuda Grass
ST-5 is a variety of bermuda grass scientifically modified to give the best results, even under complete shade. This variety has a shade tolerance of up to 90%, making it the most shade-tolerant bermuda grass commercially available. However, the downside of growing ST-5 bermuda grass is that it grows slowly and does not spread as much as other varieties.
Shade-Tolerant Bermuda Grass Alternatives
Bermuda grass does not thrive in shaded areas, but you can try other grasses that do not require much sunlight. Cool-season grasses like fine fescue are great for your lawn if it receives a significant amount of shade. Perennial ryegrass is another cool-season turf grass that can be a suitable alternative to bermuda grass.
However, you may be growing bermuda grass because you need warm-season grass that can withstand hot weather conditions that turn cool-season grasses dormant and brown. Here are some warm-season bermuda grass alternatives that can withstand shady conditions better.
St. Augustine Grass
St. Augustine grass is a suitable alternative to bermuda grass because it requires less than 4 hours of daily sunlight exposure. It has broader leaves than bermuda and is also more coarse. A St. Augustinegrass lawn stays green during summer months and adapts well to varying soil and climate conditions.
Zoysia grass is another alternative to bermuda grass. It has fine leaf blades, attractive color, and can withstand heavy foot traffic. However, it grows slowly in shady conditions, and you may have to take steps to stop it from being overtaken by weeds.
Can Bermuda Grass Grow In Shade Summary
In this article, we have established that bermuda grass grows in shaded areas but at a slower rate than those in areas with much sunlight. We also discussed how shade affects bermuda grass, how you can care for bermuda grass grown in shaded areas, and how to know if your bermudagrass lawn is not getting enough sunlight.
We have also recommended some shade-tolerant varieties of bermuda grass and alternative grasses that thrive on a shady lawn. These grasses require low maintenance and are a better option than the bermudagrass varieties that experience poor growth in shady spots.
Have you learned something from this article? You can also help others learn by sharing it with friends and save them the stress of unsuccessfully growing bermuda grass in shaded areas.
Meet Mattias Jonsson, the head of content at RainSaucers. Passionate about gardening and water-related topics, he’s dedicated to providing expert information and resources to help improve your home, health, and wallet. Learn from his research and experience.