Does Zoysia Grass Grow in Shade?

Does Zoysia Grass Grow in Shade

In the Sunny Southern US, it can be hard to find the perfect turf. If you have a wide-open yard with few shade zones and ample irrigation, then there are several warm-season lawn grasses that are perfect for you. But once you start looking at lawns that have cold snaps or places with high heat and shady spots, the number of climate-tolerant grasses starts to dwindle much like the available hours of sunlight. 

To find a perennial grass that can handle the heat, drought, and encroaching shade, look no further than several varieties of Zoysia grass. With the ability to keep a green color and build a healthy lawn, this warm-season grass can be helpful in lawns where other turfs just don’t work.

Read on to see how Zoysia grass fairs in shade vs. direct sunlight. 

Will Zoysia Grow in Shade?

 Most varieties of Zoysia, like Emerald Zoysia, are shade tolerant and need less direct sunlight than other turf types. In hot southern climates, Zoysia grows green with fewer hours of sunlight than turf like Palmetto St. Augustine. Although it is a shade-tolerant grass, Zoysia needs less sunlight per day but will need more light in cooler climates to stay green and avoid dormancy. 

Turfs like Emerald Zoysia have developed a greater shade tolerance and increased resistance to foot traffic but do best in hot shady lawns. If your lawn is in a transitional zone with cold winters that are likely to make a green lawn of zoysia grass go dormant, then you will want to mix in fescue and rye grasses in shady areas.

Scotts Turf Builder Grass Seed and Mulch Combination for Zoysia Grass and a Tough, Durable, Low-Maintenance Lawn, 5 lbs.

Very soon, you will have a warm-season grass variety that has cold tolerance and can develop a dense turf with fewer hours of sunlight per day. 

Zoysia Growing Conditions

In semi-fertile soil types, Zoysia cultivars are slow growing but build dense mats and are good for southern and transitional lawns. If homeowners are trying to use less water and grow green grass that needs infrequent mowing and can grow under trees, then Zoysia grass options are a good choice.

Below are some of the climate conditions Zoysia cultivars grow in and what happens to the turf in each one. 

Climate ConditionEffect on Zoysia Lawn Results 
Hot Temperatures Fast Growth Green and lush with enough water
DroughtDormantYellow or brown until water is restored
Wet PeriodsStunted GrowthYellow grass and sparse sickly growth
Cold TemperaturesDormant Slow growth and yellowing
Full SunFast GrowthGreen and healthy 
Partial ShadeHealthy GrowthGreen and healthy with shade considerations
Full ShadeStunted GrowthYellow and brown grass and sickly growth


The outdoor air and soil temperature Zoysia is exposed to can influence how many hours of sunlight it needs to grow. In colder temperature lawns, a tree restricting midday sun hours could lead to dormant or dead grass, whereas turf in a hot climate could keep a green color even with less watering and tree leaves blocking the sun.

To help Zoysia grass have better cold tolerance, use fertilizer to promote deep roots and make sure the turf gets more sun. 

Moisture Levels

Water available in the soil and the grass and leaves of the plants in your yard can also determine how successful Zoysia grass will be. As a warm-season turf, it can keep its color with less water than other turfs with less drought tolerance. As shade increases, the amount of irrigation should decrease to avoid grass roots from becoming water-logged and oxygen-starved. 

Sunlight Exposure

Increasing sunlight exposure and the number of hours turf can benefit from sunshine will affect how well Zoysia grass performs. Zeon Zoysia needs only a few hours of sun to thrive, whereas others can develop brown spots if the shade tolerance isn’t as pronounced.

Increasing mowing height for grass that gets more shade can help, as does blending Zoysia seeds with cool-season grasses in transitional places in the United States. This makes the whole turf much more shade-resistant and keeps the lawns green color all year round. 

Which Turfs Love Shade?

Shaded Lawns

It isn’t hard to grow a green lawn under shade but trying to get low-sunlight lawns to grow in hot southern climates can be very difficult indeed. Getting a lush lawn in an area prone to lawn weeds or that is requiring major lawn care tasks can be even more challenging. Fortunately, there are some shade-loving turfs that can give you a green, low, maintenance lawn and provide dense, traffic-tolerant growth below are some examples. 

While most lawns need 8-hrs of direct sunlight to thrive, Zoysia is tolerant of shade in hot southern climates where other grasses cannot adapt. A lush Zoysia grass lawn is yours if you make sure it is mowed right and receives the correct water and fertilizer schedule.

In most southern states, Zoysia can have active growth all year round as long as water and nutrients are provided. 

St. Augustine Grass is another warm-season grass that can handle some shade. It also has a dense growth habit and builds deeper root growth than other warm-season turfs. Shaded turf needs a few maintenance adjustments like increased fertilizer and decreased mowing and water frequency to adapt to less sun and less heat stress. 

Ryegrass and fescues can be mixed with either of the above warm-season grasses to add additional green to your lawn. If the growth of grass starts to stall in the shade, these hot temperature tolerant cool season grasses can still provide green turf. This will help your lawn stay a more even green during cooler temperatures and hot summer droughts. 

Where Does Zoysia Grass Grow Best?

The conditions where Zoysia grows best depend on its location in the yard and what the climate is like. If it is a hot climate with long dry periods, most types of Zoysia will thrive in either full sun or shade. But if the climate gets cool, then grass in the shade may not thrive unless certain steps are taken.

If you make the conditions ideal, then Zoysia will stay green all year long regardless of the weather, shade, or traffic it receives. 

In the shade, you can help Zoysia thrive by taking a few extra maintenance steps and adjusting some of your inputs. For example, in the winter, if you start to notice your turf is struggling under the shade, see if you can prune some of the bigger branches of the trees casting the cover. If you can add even a little more light, it might be enough to help your grass grow green again. 

When Zoysia grass is in direct sunlight, it makes sense that the soil will dry out faster, and roots will need a supply of water quite regularly. When temperatures soar and drought sets in, additional irrigation is needed to avoid dormancy. In the shade, the soil will not dry out as quickly, and so irrigation here can be minimized to avoid harmful water-logging or wasteful run-off. Keep an eye on how the shaded turf is handling the adjustments, and add more if underwatering sets in. 

Zoysia is a low-maintenance lawn grass as it is, but in the shade, you can mow about half as often. In some cases, you may not need to hit this grass more than once a month which is great under trees where roots or other lawn bumps may be present.

On average, it is acceptable to let Zoysia grass in the shade now as much as half an inch to an inch taller before cutting. When you do mow, still only trim about a half inch at a time to keep the roots growing deeply. 

If your shaded Zoysia is starting to look yellow and unhealthy, you can also check the thatch build-up. Without much water and sunlight, the grass clippings and other lawn debris that fall can build up and begin to choke out the turf. Performing an annual dethatching can make sure the tangled dead grass is removed, and airflow is restored to the soil and roots.

This process can remove common lawn pests and also makes it easier to aerate. After the thatch is gone, use a core aerator to add holes in your lawn that will act as pores. 

Fertilize and water the aerated lawn to get everything your grass needs to be delivered directly to the roots of the plant. Make sure to follow the correct watering and fertilizing schedule for your lawn and turf, or else you might accidentally add some problems that you will have to fix for healthy turf.

Every spring, reseed with new Zoysia grass or another turf to fill in bare spots that have formed over the winter. If you do all of this, then Zoysia grass will grow in the shade. 

Last update on 2023-02-06 / Affiliate links / Somes Images and Data from Amazon Product Advertising API