Lawns have the difficult task of balancing sunlight for healthy lawn growth and shade for enjoyment and the results of trees and structures. Some plants need direct sunlight all day to thrive, whereas others are more shade tolerant and can get away with fewer hours of sunlight per day. When choosing grass for your new turf, make sure it is the right grass for shade.
If you live in the hot south US, there is a good chance you have Bermuda grass since it is one of the most heat and drought-tolerant grass options. This turf can take hours of sunlight, hot direct sunlight, and will hold up all summer long.
But when light conditions change, is Bermuda grass shade tolerant, and if so, how much sun will it need to survive? Let’s find out.
Will Shade Harm Bermuda Grass?
A lack of sun will harm Bermuda grass and, over time, could lead to fungal diseases, brown patches, and damage from diseases. Without 4 hours of direct sunlight a day, this warm-season grass will not survive. A lack of sunlight will quickly become noticeable on leaf blades and leaf surfaces. Elongated growth, thinner leaves, and pale discoloration can usually be observed.
Grass varieties like Bermuda grass are not shade tolerant and will die if light conditions change drastically through tree growth or building development. Dense shade will mean the end of your turf, but a partially shaded lawn may be able to adjust with an increased mowing height. Grass under trees can be exposed with pruning, or perennial ryegrass can be sown with Bermuda in shady areas of lawns.
The shade has another effect and keeps water from evaporating. If Bermuda grass is in an area of the lawn that pools water, the shade could further worsen that problem. Wet roots will quickly kill most turf types, and drought-hardy common grass types are even more vulnerable.
Is Full Sun Better for Bermuda Grass?
When it comes to all-day sun grass options, few are better than Bermuda grass. With broader grass blades and dense matting growth, this summer grass grows well but is not shade tolerant. It needs at least 4 hours of sun a day, or else it will quickly start to deteriorate. If you want a full turf of Bermuda grass that can handle traffic and repair itself, you will need 8 hours of direct sunlight every day.
Shaded Grass Tips
If there is already some shade in your lawn and you are getting or have Bermuda grass, all is not lost. There are ways to work with your yard and the turf to grow grass in shade better. Sometimes these tricks can keep your lawn green until you are able to reseed with tall fescue or other fast-growing grass in shade conditions around your lawn. Although you may be able to keep your Bermuda yard intact so why not try out a few of these tips to help the grass grow in the shade?
|Tip||How It Works||Benefit|
|10 am to 2 pm||Strongest Sunlight||Get the most from the limited time of sun rays|
|Morning shade is better than afternoon shade||The afternoon sun has more red light that benefits grass growth and development||Grass will stay green and heal but may not resprout as quickly|
|Aerate Soil to Reduce Fungus Risk||Helps promote new growth by making water and fertilization more effective||New growth can fill in gaps that shading has caused|
|Filtered Shade Vs. Permanent Shade||Resod in permanent shade but adapt and add supplemental irrigation in filtered shade||Shade trees will let some light through that can energize grass blades, but trees with dense canopies can count as a permanent shade too|
|Prune Trees||Reducing the heavy shade of dense canopies during the cool season to let more light get to the grass||This can help the entire lawn go dormant at the same time during the cool season|
|Mow Higher||Mow warm-season grasses closer to the height of cool-season grasses to help the grass grow thicker between cuts||The grass is able to form a dense mat and grow larger between cuts when damage and stress may slow down growth.|
|Reduce Foot Traffic on Shaded Spots||Grass can either grow or heal, and walking on struggling grass will make it weaker||Giving sun-starved turf a chance to grow back can help the grass grow back and handle fluctuating temperatures|
|Precise Fertilization and Watering schedule||Having control over the watering schedule and lawn care routine can help sun-loving turf choices survive shade||The right amount of water and nutrients at the right time promotes fast growth, whereas too much or not enough can stunt or restrict plant development|
Unfortunately, there aren’t many products to add more sunlight to your lawn, but there are some practices that can help you get the most out of the limited sun available. If you have choices of where the sun will hit your turf or what time of day you can get sun on your lawn, then choose full sun from 10 am to 2 pm.
This is the time of the day when the temperature is highest, and the sunlight is the strongest giving your grass the most juice possible.
Aerating the soil and making the right fertilizer choices are good lawn care strategies when your grass is struggling in the shade. Shade-adapted lawn grasses should be able to survive with a boost in soil health and still produce a decent-looking lawn. Less shade-tolerant grass options will want less fertilizer to reduce the chance of weeds outcompeting the Bermuda grass.
Warm-season lawn grass needs regular deep watering to promote healthy root growth and avoid loss from disease.
Soil compaction and foot traffic can make shady conditions worse for Bermuda grass. Reducing walking on and around the grass in shade can help promote better growth and prevent blade damage. Mowing height can also be increased to promote deeper root production. Raising the mower an inch or two when going into the shaded areas can improve turf health.
What Shade Does to Bermuda Grass
Different degrees of shade can cause varying issues for Bermuda grass. As the shade gets longer, more permanent, and denser, the chances of green grass growing decrease. If you cannot make more light enter the area with the grass and are in full shade or prolonged partial shade, you may need to replace your turf. Here’s what happens to Bermuda grass in shade.
In full shade, you will see sickly, weak, thin grass growth and many yellowing spots. Dormant patches will turn brown but not come back to life, and eventually, bare earth and weeds will replace them. Wet areas can form where grass dies and create boggy lawn conditions.
Depending on the type of shade and the time of day Bermuda grass receives full sun, you can have very inconsistent results. Grass that gets full sun from 10 am onwards will grow better than one that only receives morning or late afternoon sun. These lawns will still show thinning, elongated stem growth and be far more disease susceptible than turf in the sun.
When there is no shade, Bermuda grass thrives. It will have a dense green growth and perform as a low-growing, drought-hardy, and heat-resistant turf. Bermuda grass in the sun can handle traffic and will recover quickly from damage as long as ample water is provided. Avoid the shade if you will be sporting a Bermuda grass lawn.