Looking After Lawns In The Shade

    The vast majority of lawns have some shaded areas. This might be due to the position of your house or other trees and shrubs in the garden. Unfortunately, most grasses found in the UK don’t do very well in the shade. However, there are a few things you can do to promote the healthy grass growth and look after your lawn in shady areas. 

    Problems caused by the shade

    There are two main problems shade causes your lawn: it blocks out the sunlight and reduces the ground temperature. This means that it generally takes grass longer to grow and the conditions are not optimal for lush greenery.

    Grass requires a temperature of 6*C to grow and shady areas will naturally take longer to reach this temperature. As such, the grass in this area will not sprout or grow as quickly as the lawn in full sun. 

    Why are trees and bushes a problem?

    Grass needs a good supply of water to grow healthily but trees and bushes can interfere. Not only are these bigger plants competing for the water, but their large canopies prevent much rain landing here in the first place.

    Trees and bushes are also competing for the nutrients in the soil and their leaves grow to maximise the amount of sun they get, blocking it out for the plants growing below. Most grass species in the UK struggle to compete on this scale. 

    What happens to grass grown in shade?

    As the grass struggles to get the water and nutrients it needs, a lawn grown in a shady area is more susceptible to disease, mould and moss. The grass that does grow will be very fine and easily damaged as it will wilt faster in warm weather and cannot grow strongly enough to resist frost either.

    Lawn care strategies for shady lawns

    Though shade will cause problems for your lawn, it is still possible to achieve a healthy look with a little more thought, care and attention.

    Thin overhanging branches

    As overhanging branches are one of the main causes of shade, it makes sense to thin them out to allow more sunshine through.

    Depending on the tree, you should prune in early spring or at the end of summer. Never prune a tree that contains nesting birds - wait for them to move on first.

    Remove larger branches at the trunk but leave thinner branches. The aesthetic is still important, here, so keep stepping back to monitor your progress and plan before you cut. 

    Raise the canopy of trees

    If your garden contains tall trees, you can prune them to raise the canopy. Removing branches that are less than 2-3 metres from the ground is a good rule. Again, think about how you want the tree to look as well to reach a compromise.

    Raising the canopy will allow more sunlight to reach your lawn without compromising the health and look of your tree. 

    How to water a shaded lawn

    The way you water plants influences the way that their roots grow. Given that a tree is most likely to win the majority of the water you give, you should water thoroughly and infrequently. This will encourage the tree to root deeply and ensure that you grass gets enough too.

    By watering this way, your tree should start taking water from much deeper channels and your grass will get the top layer. 

    Buy shade resistant grass seed

    While normal grass seed might be okay with all of these steps, it might be more efficient to buy the best lawn seed for shade instead. This may be a little more expensive, but it is much more likely to thrive on its own.

    You can also over seed using this grass seed in shady areas where your regular grass has grown thinly. The two types of seed are happy to coexist together. 

    Adjust your cutting height and frequency

    Shaded lawns should be cut less frequently and much less severely. Aim for a minimum cutting height of 6cm but try to allow closer to 9cm for most of the year. Adjusting the height while mowing is easy when using any of the Flymo electric lawn mowers

    Remove grass clippings

    In other areas of the lawn, you should be encouraged to leave grass clippings to provide nutrients. However, in shaded areas, it is better to remove them as they will block even more sunshine. 

    Remove moss growth

    Moss loves a good shady area and if your grass is thinning out, it will move in. Before you put down any new seed, scarify the area to get rid of the moss first. You can use a regular lawn rake to do this or use an electric lawn rake like the Lawnrake Compact 3400 for faster results.

    Growing lawns in the shade

    If you have a shady area and would like to try growing a lawn, there are a few things you can do get the best results. 

    Which grass seed to choose

    The type of grass seed you choose will have an enormous impact on how well your lawn does. 

    Best grasses for wet shade

    Bent grass (agrostis) is often chosen for damp shady areas as it requires a lot of water to thrive. This type of grass is often used on golf courses as the blades are quite fine. Mix it with a few other types of seed to get a nice range of grasses for a thick lawn. 

    Best grasses for sun and shade

    Fescue (festuca) is a good grass to choose for sun and shade as it is very adaptable and will fill in the gaps where other grass seeds are struggling. There are a variety of types of fescue so feel free to mix and match. 

    Best grasses for dry shade

    Fescue is also tolerant of dry shade but is best used with other types of grass seed as it is a tuft grass so doesn’t form a dense turf on its own. 

    How to care for your shaded lawn throughout the year

    Your shaded lawn will require care all year round. Here is what you should do.


    • Remove moss growth and scarify
    • Overseed your lawn with a shade resistant grass seed as necessary
    • Start mowing in late spring, but keep the height as high as possible - never remove more than 25% of the height at a time


    • Water deeply and infrequently, especially in hot weather
    • Mow less frequently than your sunny lawn
    • In late summer into early September, allow the grass to grow and strengthen before autumn


    • Overseed your lawn with a shade resistant grass seed as necessary
    • Stop mowing to allow the lawn to recover
    • Remove fallen leaves from the lawn


    • Remove any fallen leaves or detritus on the lawn
    • Try not to walk on it at all during the rainy season.