Lawn Care Question from Janie in Burke VA: “How do I grow grass in the shade?”

oak tree

Ah, the age-old question of growing grass in those dark spots on your lawn.  What’s the secret to growing grass in a shady area?  Is it even possible? If you live in Burke, McLean, Herndon – heck, anywhere in Northern Virginia – there might be a solution. Let’s dive into some of the options we have.

Bench in the shade of an oak tree

If you’ve ever attempted to grow grass in the shady parts of your lawn, you know the struggle.  Grass needs sunlight to grow, along with food and water.

Let’s start by saying that if the area doesn’t get more than 4 hours of sunlight per day, you’re probably out of luck.  There’s no sense in trying to force grass to grow where it simply won’t.  So make sure that the affected area at least has a fighting chance.

Can you get more light in the area?  You can always try pruning to thin out whatever canopy is preventing sunlight from coming down.  However, this may come at the expense of a beautiful, lush tree.

If you’re getting closer to 6 hours of sunlight, you may have a chance.  First, you should be doing everything to your lawn: proper mowing, aerating, fertilization.  Assuming you’re keeping a healthy lawn, there are some special treatments you should give to the shady area.

First, plant grass seed blends that are designed for shady areas.  After this seed is established, make sure to water the area extra throughout the year.  Often shady parts of the lawn miss out on water not only because of the canopy above them, but because of the tree roots sucking up all the water.  Finally, take special care to mow the shady spots a little higher.  This gives the grass more surface area to absorb sunlight.

It’s definitely an uphill battle, and sometimes you just may not be able to get your lawn to grow in these shady areas.  In these cases, mulch or rock beds are ornate ways to decorate what would otherwise be a bare patch of lawn.  Thanks to Janie from Burke for bringing up this question and inspiring the blog post!


Scott Johnson

Scott is a research analyst and writer for the LawnStarter blog. He's a lawn care expert, avid gardener, and dog lover.