The Best Grass Seed for Shade of 2022

Most lawn grass needs abundant sunlight to thrive, but a few types of turf can grow in areas with light-to-dense shade.

By Glenda Taylor | Updated Jun 29, 2022 6:14 PM

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Best Grass Seed For Shade

Photo: amazon.com

If the lawn in a sunny front yard is thriving but no grass seems to grow under the large shade tree, odds are it’s because the grass isn’t suitable for a shady spot. Most grasses are sun-oriented plants that develop to their maximum potential only when they receive 8 or more hours of direct sunlight per day. Fortunately, a few types of grass seed germinate and grow in medium to light shade, and a few more can survive even in dense shade.

Be aware, however, that even grass designed to grow in dense shade still requires at least 2 hours of direct sunlight or up to 6 hours of filtered light every day, such as dappled light through tree leaves. Ahead, learn what to look for when choosing the best grass seed for shade and find out why the following types of grass seed are suitable for various shady situations.

  1. BEST OVERALL: Scotts Turf Builder Grass Seed Sun and Shade Mix
  2. RUNNER-UP: Pennington Smart Seed Dense Shade Grass Mix
  3. BEST FOR DENSE SHADE: Scotts Turf Builder Grass Seed Dense Shade Mix
  4. BEST FOR LIGHT SHADE: Scotts Turf Builder Grass Kentucky Bluegrass Mix
  5. BEST DROUGHT-RESISTANT: WaterSaver Grass Mixture with Turf-Type Tall Fescue
  6. MOST DISEASE-RESISTANT: Jonathan Green Mixed Full Shade Grass Seed
  7.  BEST FOR REPAIRS: Scotts EZ Seed Patch & Repair Sun and Shade
  8. FAST ESTABLISHMENT: Scotts Turf Builder Rapid Grass Sun & Shade Mix
  9. BEST FOR HIGH TRAFFIC: GreenView Fairway Formula Grass Seed
  10. ALSO CONSIDER: Pennington One Step Complete Dense Shade Grass Seed
Best Grass Seed For Shade Options

Photo: amazon.com

What to Consider When Buying Best Grass Seed for Shade

Owners of shady yards—or those with a combination of sunny and shaded areas in the same yard—often find it challenging to cultivate a lush lawn. Lawn grass loves the sun. However, grass seed producers have improved certain varieties to make them more shade tolerant.

Types of the Best Grass Seed for Shade

The types of grass that do best in shade typically have thinner blades than sun-loving varieties. These thin-bladed types also have deeper root systems than wide-bladed grasses, which helps them receive the nutrients they need through their roots. Some of the more common shade grass seed blends include one or more of the following:

  • Creeping red fescue: A soft, fine grass that can tolerate moderate shade but still needs a few hours of sunlight.
  • Tall fescue: Though it germinates quickly and can tolerate partial shade, tall fescue usually needs 4 hours of sunlight or dappled shade throughout the day.
  • Bluegrass: This cultivar includes several types of grass that require full sun daily, but a few bluegrass varieties, such as saber, glade, and BenSun, can grow in spots that receive at least 4 hours of sun per day.
  • Perennial ryegrass: One of the darker green grasses, most perennial ryegrass usually needs at least 4 hours of sunlight; some of the improved varieties can get by with only 2 hours.
  • Centipede: This cultivar contains types that grow in both sun and partial shade, with shade-tolerant varieties, such as Tennessee hardy and oaklawn, that need about 4 to 6 hours of sunlight per day.

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Coating and Fertilizer

Coatings on grass seeds absorb water and then release it slowly, helping the seeds to remain slightly damp to ensure the highest rate of germination. Some seed coatings also may contain fertilizer to give seedlings a boost when they sprout and fungicides to deter fungal diseases, such as brown spot or dollar spot, which can kill tender new grass.

The coatings, which often contain clay to help them adhere to the seeds, increase the weight of the product. As a result, a 1-pound bag of coated seeds has fewer actual seeds than a 1-pound bag of non-coated seeds. Coated seeds offer lower coverage rates, but they provide higher germination rates.

In addition, some manufacturers don’t always coat their seeds; instead, they combine them with a granular fertilizer that helps the new seedlings grow. Grass seeds planted in shade have less exposure to sunlight, which naturally encourages growth (photosynthesis). If the grass seed doesn’t come with fertilizer, either as a coating or mixed in, growers can add an all-purpose lawn fertilizer to the soil when sowing.

Foot Traffic 

The delicate leaves of most shade-tolerant grasses won’t stand up to a lot of heavy foot traffic, so don’t plan to plant them where kids practice sports or dogs run and play. Among the more activity-tolerant grasses are some of the different types of tall fescues, which often are more robust than other varieties.

Thinner grass blades sometimes bend and get crushed under repeated foot traffic; in fact, simply walking daily in the same spot can quickly wear a path in many types of shade grass. An all-purpose grass fertilizer applied every 3 months during the growing season can help strengthen shade grass by supplying nutrients.

Climate 

Grass seeds are defined as either “warm season” or “cool season,” and the two types prefer different temperatures and perform differently. Those who purchase grass seed from a local supplier usually don’t need to worry about whether it’s a warm or cool season type, because the supplier usually sells only those varieties that thrive in that particular area.

  • Warm-season grasses: These grass varieties are best suited for areas that have hot summers with temperatures that reach 85 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit. They green up in late spring and go dormant in early fall. Warm-season grasses typically grow well in the southern half of the United States. Very few grass seed types are suitable for growing in shade in warm regions, because the best warm-season grasses aren’t produced from seed but rather from plugs, such as St. Augustine and zoysia. However, some perennial ryegrass and centipede grass may be grown from seeds in shady spots in warm regions.
  • Cool-season grasses: Better suited to the northern half of the country, cool-season grasses green up early in the spring when nighttime temps can still drop below freezing. Their growth slows during hot summer weather when the temperature rises above 80 degrees. Cool-season grasses, which often are grown from seed, include a variety of fescue, bluegrass, and ryegrass types of grass.

Amount of Shade 

The amount of shade in a particular part of the yard determines the best type of grass seed to plant in that spot. Follow these general guidelines when shopping for the best shade grass seed.

  • Full sun: 8 hours or more of direct sunlight per day
  • Light shade: 6 to 8 hours of sun per day
  • Moderate shade: From 4 to 6 hours of direct sun or 6 to 8 hours of filtered sun
  • Dense shade: Less than 4 but at least 2 hours of direct sunlight per day or filtered sun for 4 to 6 hours

Even the most shade-tolerant grass seed varieties are unlikely to grow with less than a minimum of 2 hours of sunlight per day. In this type of yard, a better option might be to plant a deep-shade-tolerant ground cover, such as periwinkle or various types of ferns.

Planting Area

Successfully growing shade grass requires preparing the planting area before sowing the seeds. Most grass varieties prefer a soil pH of 6.5 to 7. The pH scale runs from 0 to 14, with 7 considered neutral. Numbers below 7 are progressively more acidic, and numbers above 7 are progressively more alkaline.

An inexpensive pH tester, which is available online or at garden centers, can quickly determine the pH of the soil. If it’s too acidic (lower than 6.5), consider broadcasting ground lime to raise the pH. If the soil is too alkaline (higher than 7), add a sulfur-type fertilizer to reduce alkalinity. Follow the product’s application instructions for the best results.

Our Top Picks

To qualify for a spot in this lineup, we chose seed types that grow in various shady situations, such as light shade, sun-and-shade, moderate shade, and dense shade. Some feature coated seeds, while others offer untreated bare seeds. However, all the following products are well suited for establishing grass in shady spots.

Best Overall

Best Grass Seed For Shade Option: 20 lb. Turf Builder Grass Seed Sun and Shade Mix
Photo: homedepot.com

Since most lawns receive a combination of both sun and shade, Scotts developed Turf Builder grass seed, which contains seed types that can grow in both situations. The blend includes a variety of fescue, ryegrass, and bluegrass seeds coated with Scotts WaterSmart PLUS coating, which helps retain moisture while the seeds are waiting to germinate and provides fertilizer to boost seedling growth.
This 20-pound bag of grass seed covers up to 8,000 square feet, and it can be spread uniformly in both sunny and shady spots in the yard. The shade-tolerant grass varieties in this blend grow in areas with as little as 4 hours of sunlight per day.

Product Specs

  • Seed type(s): Fescue, ryegrass, bluegrass
  • Coverage: Up to 8,000 square feet
  • Coated: Yes

Pros

  • Blended for both sun and shade
  • Shade tolerant in areas with as little as 4 hours of sun per day
  • Coated to retain moisture and fertilize seedlings

Cons

  • Not for areas with less than 4 hours of sun per day

Get Scotts Turf Builder Grass Seed Sun and Shade Mix at The Home Depot, on Amazon, or at Target.

Runner-Up

Best Grass Seed For Shade Option: Pennington Smart Seed Dense Shade Grass Mix
Photo: amazon.com

This shade-tolerant blend thrives in low-light areas of the yard. Pennington’s Smart Seed for dense shade contains improved varieties of tall fescue and fine fescue that can grow in areas that receive 2 to 6 hours of sunlight per day, making it suitable for spots on the north side of a fence or house.
The seed is coated to help absorb and retain moisture during the germination phase and to feed the new seedlings after they sprout. Penkoted seeds also help protect new seedlings from disease. The fescue varieties in this blend produce a more resilient lawn that can withstand foot traffic better than other shade-tolerant grass varieties. The 7-pound bag covers up to 1,750 square feet.

Product Specs

  • Seed type(s): Tall fescue, fine fescue
  • Coverage: Up to 1,750 square feet
  • Coated: Yes

Pros

  • Tolerates dense shade that receives 2 to 6 hours of sun per day
  • Improved varieties to better withstand foot traffic
  • Coated for moisture retention and to feed seedlings

Cons

  • Not intended for sunny spots

Get Pennington Smart Seed Dense Shade Grass Mix on Amazon, at The Home Depot, or at Walmart.

Best For Dense Shade

Best Grass Seed For Shade Option: Scotts Turf Builder Grass Seed Dense Shade Mix
Photo: amazon.com

For those trouble spots that are so shady that shade-tolerant grass seeds can’t grow, check out Scotts Turf Builder Grass Seed Dense Shade Mix. It can withstand even dense shade in areas that receive no more than 3 hours of sunlight per day. These seeds are treated with Scotts WaterSmart coating to absorb moisture and retain it during the germination process, which helps reduce the risk of the seeds’ drying out before they sprout. The coating also feeds the new seedlings to help get them off to a good start.
Unlike sun/shade blends, this grass seed is for shade only and can’t abide bright, sunny areas. If other areas of the yard are sunny, consider seeding them with a tall fescue variety that tolerates sun to establish a uniform look throughout the yard. This 20-pound bag covers up to 8,000 square feet. Other bag sizes may be available.

Product Specs

  • Seed type(s): Blend of tall fescue varieties
  • Coverage: Up to 8,000 square feet
  • Coated: Yes

Pros

  • Tolerates as little as 3 hours of sun per day
  • Coated seeds to retain moisture
  • Starter fertilizer included

Cons

  • Shade-only blend

Get Scotts Turf Builder Grass Seed Dense Shade Mix on Amazon, at The Home Depot, or at Target.

Best For Light Shade

Best Grass Seed For Shade Option: Scotts Turf Builder Grass Kentucky Bluegrass Mix
Photo: amazon.com

Create a seamlessly smooth lawn that extends from the sunny areas into lightly shaded spots that receive 6 to 8 hours of sunlight per day with Scotts Turf Builder Kentucky Bluegrass Mix. This blend contains improved bluegrass varieties designed to thrive in multi-light situations.
These seeds are coated with Scotts’ WaterSmart PLUS coating that absorbs and retains moisture to keep the seeds from drying out during germination. The coating also contains fertilizer to boost young seedling growth. A 7-pound bag of Scotts Bluegrass Mix can cover an area of up to 4,725 square feet. Additional sizes may be available.

Product Specs

  • Seed type(s): Bluegrass varieties
  • Coverage: Up to 4,725 square feet (7-pound bag)
  • Coated: Yes

Pros

  • Grows in sun and light shade
  • Seed coated for moisture retention
  • Contains starter fertilizer

Cons

  • Not suitable for areas that receive less than 6 hours of sunlight

Get Scotts Turf Builder Grass Kentucky Bluegrass Mix on Amazon, at The Home Depot, or at Ace Hardware.

Best Drought-Resistant

Best Grass Seed For Shade Option: WaterSaver Grass Mixture with Turf-Type Tall Fescue
Photo: amazon.com

The WaterSaver Grass Mixture contains the only turf-type fescue that develops rhizomes (stems that branch horizontally under the soil), which helps the grass spread and gives it added resistance in slight drought conditions. A blend of tall fescue and rhizomatous tall fescue (RTF) seeds, the grass develops into a thick lawn that can stand up to increased foot traffic and repair itself through rhizome spread.
WaterSaver grows in both sunny and moderately shady areas that receive 4 to 6 hours of sunlight per day. This seed is not coated, so it goes further—a 1.5-pound bag can cover up to 4,356 square feet. Other sizes may be available.

Product Specs

  • Seed type(s): Tall fescue and rhizomatous tall fescue
  • Coverage: Up to 4,356 square feet
  • Coated: No

Pros

  • Spreads through rhizomes
  • Drought resistant
  • Tolerates sun and moderate shade

Cons

  • Rhizomes can spread into flower beds

Get WaterSaver Grass Mixture with Turf-Type Tall Fescue on Amazon, at The Home Depot, or at Tractor Supply.

Most Disease Resistant

Best Grass Seed For Shade Option: Jonathan Green Mixed Full Shade Grass Seed
Photo: acehardware.com

In lawns with a history of disease, such as brown patch or leaf spot, growing a lush stand of grass poses a problem, but Jonathan Green’s Dense Shade Mix is designed to change that. The seed is produced from endophyte-enhanced strains of grass, which contain beneficial mycelium (mushroom-based) fungi that help the grass resist diseases. In general, treatment with endophytic fungi results in grass types that show improved vigor and resistance to insect infestation.
This specific blend contains a mix of fescue, ryegrass, and bluegrass. It produces a healthy dark green lawn that tolerates medium-to-dense shade conditions. It doesn’t perform as well in bright sunny spots. The seed is uncoated, and a 1-pound bag covers up to 4,200 square feet.

Product Specs

  • Seed type(s): Endophyte-enhanced blend of fescue, ryegrass, and bluegrass
  • Coverage: Up to 4,200 square feet
  • Coated: No

Pros

  • Resists disease and insect infestation
  • Tolerates as little as 2 hours of sun per day
  • Produce rich green color

Cons

  • Not suitable for sunny areas

Get Jonathan Green Mixed Full Shade Grass Seed at Ace Hardware or on Amazon.

Best For Repairs

Best Grass Seed For Shade Option: Scotts EZ Seed Patch & Repair Sun and Shade
Photo: amazon.com

Lawn disease, insect infestations, excavations to repair buried lines—all can damage lawns, leaving them sparse or patchy. Scotts EZ Seed Patch and Repair is formulated for reseeding trouble spots when reseeding the entire lawn is not an option. The blend contains fescue and Kentucky bluegrass seeds to use on problem spots in sunny or shady areas.
To address the problem of seeds washing away, Scotts has amended the mix with a tackifier—an ingredient that helps the seeds adhere to the soil. The product also contains mulch, which absorbs and retains moisture during the germination process, and fertilizer to help tiny seedlings grow. The 3.75-pound bag can seed up to 85 square feet.

Product Specs

  • Seed type(s): Fescue, bluegrass
  • Coverage: Up to 85 square feet
  • Coated: No

Pros

  • Designed for bare spots
  • Contains mulch and fertilizer
  • Helps keep seeds from washing away

Cons

  • Not suitable for use in seed spreader

Get Scotts EZ Seed Patch & Repair Sun and Shade on Amazon, at The Home Depot, or at Target.

Fast Establishment

Best Grass Seed For Shade Option: Scotts Turf Builder Rapid Grass Sun & Shade Mix
Photo: amazon.com

Some types of grass seed, such as buffalo, are slow to germinate and grow, but not Scotts Turf Builder Rapid Grass Sun & Shade Mix. It contains a proprietary blend of bluegrass, ryegrass, and fescue chosen for their quick-growing properties. Plus, the seed adapts to both sunny and shaded areas of the yard.
Scotts amended this fast-growing grass seed with fertilizer to get the seedlings off to a strong start, and the company promises results in just 21 days. It’s uncoated seed, and a 5.6-pound bag can seed up to 2,800 square feet. Other sizes may be available.

Product Specs

  • Seed type(s): Bluegrass, ryegrass, fescue
  • Coverage: Up to 2,800 square feet
  • Coated: No

Pros

  • Germinates and grows quickly
  • Suitable for sunny and moderately shaded areas
  • Added fertilizer

Cons

  • Not coated to retain moisture

Get Scotts Turf Builder Rapid Grass Sun & Shade Mix on Amazon, at The Home Depot, or at Target.

Best For High Traffic

Best Grass Seed For Shade Option: GreenView Fairway Formula Grass Seed
Photo: homedepot.com

Grasses that grow in the shade are often on the tender side. GreenView Fairway Formula is formulated to withstand increased foot traffic without suffering damage. Fairway Formula contains no added fertilizers or mulches, and it’s a bare-seed product—no coating of any sort. The entire blend consists of improved Kentucky bluegrass seed varieties.
For the highest level of traffic resistance, grow Fairway Formula in the upper half of the U.S. in either sunny or moderately shaded areas that see at least 4 hours of sunlight per day. This blend comes in a 7-pound bag that covers up to 7,000 square feet.

Product Specs

  • Seed type(s): Kentucky bluegrass
  • Coverage: Up to 7,000 square feet
  • Coated: No

Pros

  • Increased resistance to foot traffic
  • Grows in sun or moderate shade
  • Dark green color

Cons

  • No fertilizer included
  • Won’t thrive in warm regions

Get GreenView Fairway Formula Grass Seed at The Home Depot.

Also Consider

Best Grass Seed For Shade Option: Pennington One Step Complete Dense Shade Grass Seed
Photo: amazon.com

Small areas, such as the bare ground beneath a shade tree, can be successfully planted with Pennington One Step Complete Dense Shade Bare Spot mix, which contains a blend of fescue varieties that can be grown in cooler and warmer regions. The seed is coated to absorb and retain moisture during the germination phase, and its professional-grade fertilizer helps seedlings grow.
One Step is shade tolerant and can grow in areas that receive as little as 2 hours of sunlight per day. The mix also contains finely shredded wood mulch that retains moisture and offers a bit of cover for the seeds to help keep them from washing away before they sprout. A 10-pound bag covers up to 150 square feet.

Product Specs

  • Seed type(s): Fescue varieties
  • Coverage: Up to 150 square feet
  • Coated: Yes

Pros

  • Grows in dense shade
  • Retains moisture during germination
  • Contains mulch and fertilizer
  • Grows in warm and cool regions

Cons

  • Not suitable for sunny spots

Get Pennington One Step Complete Grass Seed on Amazon, or at Walmart, or at The Home Depot.

Our Verdict

While any of the grass seed blends in this lineup are suitable for a variety of shady areas, Scotts Turf Builder Sun and Shade checks all the boxes: It’s ideal for sun and moderate shade, and the seeds are coated to enhance germination and strong blade growth. Another top pick, Pennington Smart Seed Dense Shade Grass Mix, grows in areas that receive as little as 2 hours of daily sunlight and offers protection from diseases and insect infestation.

How We Chose the Best Grass Seed for Shade

We extensively researched dozens of grass seed products before selecting the ones in this lineup. We considered manufacturer reputation—both Scotts and Pennington are nationally known for their grass-breeding research programs—yet also looked closely at other companies that produce quality seeds. We judged the seed blends for versatility and their ability to withstand different levels of shade. Grass seed varieties that didn’t grow well in even light shade were eliminated.

While we gave attention to added ingredients, such as fertilizers and coatings that help ensure uniform germination, we didn’t eliminate non-coated seeds as long as they offered high germination rates. Fertilizer can always be added to the soil separately.

FAQs

Growing grass in shady spots of the yard can be tricky, but today’s shade-tolerant seed blends can help. Those looking to establish a lawn where sunlight is limited may still have some questions. Keep reading for answers to some of the most common.

Q. When should I seed my shady lawn? 

Warm-season grasses do best when planted in the spring after nighttime temps are above freezing, and cool-season grasses do well when planted in the fall.

Q. Will my grass grow if it’s in the shade?

It all depends on the grass type and the amount of shade. Grass that grows in the shade still needs at least 2 hours of sunlight per day.

Q. How long does it take for grass to grow in shade?

Fescue varieties are the quickest to germinate, as soon as 2 weeks in some cases. Buffalo grass seed can take 3 weeks or longer to germinate, and it grows slowly.

Q. How often should I water shade grass?

Water as frequently as necessary to keep the soil damp—but not soggy—until the seed germinates. After that, water as needed to keep the soil from becoming completely dry for the next three weeks. After that, water once per week.

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