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5 Best Shade Tolerant Grass Types

To have a beautiful, healthy lawn, it is important to choose the right kind of grass for your landscape. In an ideal world, your lawn would thrive in an open, sunlit yard. However, yards can be more textured and complex, with trees, buildings and localised climates to consider.

If your yard has limited sunlight, you should be looking for shade-tolerant grasses. These varieties typically grow more slowly than sun-loving grasses, allowing them to stay strong even in shadier conditions.

In this article, we take a look at some shade-loving varieties that will turn your yard from drab, to fab.

Choosing a Shade Tolerant Grass

When choosing a shade tolerant grass, there are a few key factors to consider.

The first is the amount of shade the area receives throughout the day. This can vary depending on the season, with some areas receiving more direct sun during certain parts of the year than others. Critically, even shade-tolerant grasses need at least three to four hours of direct sunlight, or four to six hours of infrequent sunlight, to thrive.

You should also consider the amount of sunlight the area will receive in the future, considering the growth of trees or bushes that may eventually shade the area, or any future renovations that may create additional shade.

Also envisage how much use the lawn will receive – if it is in an area where people will be walking or playing frequently, you may want to opt for a sturdier variety of grass that is better able to withstand wear and tear.

Best Shade Tolerant Grass Types

In Australia, many varieties with high shade tolerance are warm season grasses such as Buffalo grass (up to 70% shade) and Zoysia (up to 40% shade). Here are some of our favourites.

Prestige Buffalo

Prestige Buffalo is known for its ability to tolerate shady conditions. It can thrive in areas that receive as little as three to four hours of sunlight each day, which makes it an ideal choice for locations that are partly shaded, such as beneath trees or near buildings. In addition, Prestige Buffalo has good drought-tolerance and is resistant to wear and tear. As a result, it is an ideal choice for lawns that are subject to heavy foot traffic. 

Prestige Buffalo costs between $13 to $20 per square metre and can be grown from Queensland to Victoria as well as Western Australia. Your local farmers or suppliers can easily be found with our online supplier locator tool.

Sapphire Soft Leaf Buffalo

Sapphire Soft Leaf Buffalo is a soft-leaf Buffalo grass that is known for its ability to thrive in shady areas. This grass is perfect for homeowners who want to maintain a lush, green lawn in low-light areas. Sapphire Buffalo grass is also highly resistant to drought and heat, making it a low-maintenance option for busy families. In addition, this variety of Buffalo grass outperforms other common varieties such as Shademaster, Sir Walter, Kings Pride and Matilda. If you’re looking for a durable, low-maintenance grass that can thrive in shady areas, Sapphire Buffalo grass is the perfect choice.

Sapphire Soft Leaf Buffalo cost between $12 to $20 per square metre and can be grown in Queensland, New South Wales, ACT, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania. Your local farmers or suppliers can easily be found with our online supplier locator tool.

Palmetto Buffalo

Palmetto Buffalo is a popular choice due to its high shade tolerance and low wear properties. In high wear areas, Palmetto has a shade tolerance of 45%, but in low traffic areas, Palmetto’s shade tolerance increases to 65%, making it an excellent choice for areas that are shaded for part of the day.

Palmetto Buffalo costs between $12 and $20 per square metre and can be found from Queensland down to Victoria and across to Western Australia. Your local farmers or suppliers can easily be found with our online supplier locator tool.

Empire Zoysia

Empire Zoysia is a versatile grass with a soft texture and attractive green color that can be used in a variety of settings. It is tolerant of both sun and shade, making it ideal for use in both low-wear and high-wear areas. In low-traffic areas, Empire Zoysia can tolerate up to 50% shade, while in moderate to high-traffic areas it can survive in up to 30% shade. In addition, Empire Zoysia is resistant to a variety of pests and diseases, and requires infrequent watering or mowing, making it a low-maintenance option. 

Empire Zoysia costs between $13 and $22 per square metre and can be found in the Northern Territory, Queensland, New South Wales, ACT, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia. Your local farmers or suppliers can easily be found with our online supplier locator tool.

Nara Native Zoysia

Nara Native ZoysiaAnother ideal Zoysia choice is Nara Native Zoysia which has 40% to 50% shade tolerance – higher than Couch and Kikuyu.

Nara Native Zoysia is a true all-rounder that performs under tough conditions without sacrificing on looks and feel. While it may go dormant in low light conditions, it does maintain good colour.

Nara Native Zoysia costs between $12 to $22 per square metre and is available in the Northern Territory, Queensland, New South Wales, ACT, Victoria and Western Australia. Your local farmers or suppliers can easily be found with our online supplier locator tool.

Maintenance of Shade Tolerant Grass

Shade-tolerant grasses are naturally adapted to growing in lower light conditions, making them less likely to require frequent mowing. For lawns with shade cover only mow down to 50mm-60mm.

A good reminder – the greater the shade the longer the leaf.

Don’t worry that mowing your lawn higher may cause thatching issues. Buffalo grasses growing in shaded conditions have the lowest chance of thatching.

Shaded grasses require less frequent watering than those in full sun. Water when necessary, or if you feel the soil drying off. Ideally, water your grass in the morning. You should also try to keep your lawn well-aerated so that nutrients, air and water can reach the roots.

When it comes to fertilising your lawn, grasses in shaded areas may need extra nutrients to make up for the lack of sunlight. This is because the lawn has limited potential for photosynthesis (the plant’s process for creating energy, which requires sunlight), and therefore this needs to be supplemented by a good quality nitrogen fertiliser.

Shaded lawns should also be protected from avoidable stressors, as their ability to bounce back is compromised. Reduce foot traffic in shaded areas, and try to avoid herbicides where possible. You should also try to maintain an optimal soil pH of 6-7.5 for your lawn.

In Conclusion

Shaded areas of your garden will require special consideration when selecting the right lawn for your yard. There are a variety of shade tolerant varieties on the market, but the most successful options in Australia are Buffalo and Zoysia grasses. Shade tolerant lawns may require a bit more tender loving care than other varieties – especially in the darker corners of your yard – but with some planning and consideration, you can have a beautiful lawn year-round.

To select the right variety for your home, check out our range of turf using our Find Your Turf tool. Alternatively, check out our handy Quick Lawn Selection Guide.

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