Best Types of Shade Grass for Northern Illinois
In this post, we discuss the best types of grass varieties to plant in shady areas in the Chicago and northern Illinois area.
Getting your grass to grow in the shade can be of the biggest challenges for homeowners who want a perfect, uniformly green and healthy lawn.
In order to succeed at growing grass in shady areas, you will need to make sure to cover all the right bases in your lawn care regimen. Keep reading to learn the tips you’ll need.
Will grass grow in the shade?
Four to six hours of dappled or filtered sunlight are required to fuel the growth of a healthy lawn. Certain shade-tolerant grass types grow as long as the light shines on them within that time frame, and it doesn’t always have to be full sun.
What types of grass grow better in shade?
If you’re looking for grass seed that is shade-tolerant, always choose ones that are adapted to your region. A blend or mix of seeds may work for you; in case one type fails to root, you will still have the others that may do well. It is not a good decision to get the cheapest grass seed mix to save money; it’s better to pay for a top quality blend, especially for shady areas.
In northern Illinois and the Chicagoland area, varieties of “cool season grasses” will generally do best.
Best grass for shady areas in Illinois
- Fine fescue blend
- Rough bluegrass
- Non-grass options: ground covers, ferns, wildflowers or mulch
Best grass for shade/sun mix areas
- Kentucky bluegrass
- Fine fescue blend
- Tall fescue blend
Related: Types of lawn grass in Illinois
Could pruning my trees increase the sunlight beneath?
Removing the interior branches of trees will open up the canopy, permitting more sunlight to pass through to the ground beneath, as well as improve circulation to the center of the tree. Removing the lower limbs allows the sunlight to reach the soil beneath.
You may need to contact a specialist if you need to prune larger trees and make sure it’s done right. When and how to trim your more fully grown trees can require experience and learning.
Related: How to grow grass under a tree
Do I need to mow grass differently in shady spots?
Sometimes, especially for shady areas, it can be better to let your grass grow slightly longer in order so it can get more sun and better crowd out competition. The leaf area of you grass can gain more of the sunlight if you mow it 1/2 to 1 inch higher than sunny areas. For those of you who love to mow and keep your grass short, this might not sound like an ideal situation but your grass will appreciate it.
It’s a good idea to alternate mowing directions each time you mow. When you get your mower ready in the spring, check the height of the blade to prevent scalping shade-grown grass. Grass in shady areas cannot tolerate even one scalping: it thins them, and they may not recover.
Related posts: Lawn mowing tips
Do I need to water lawn under a tree more than lawn in the sun?
Your turf beneath a tree may need more frequent irrigation. The grass under your tree will be competing with the tree’s root system for water. You should water these areas deeply to encourage deep grass roots for a healthy lawn around your trees.
Rainfall doesn’t always penetrate the tree canopy to reach the soil beneath, and tree roots absorb the moisture that is available. Drier soil can be the result of this happening. The extra watering can help the grass in these areas.
Should I water more in other shady areas?
If your shade is caused by a building, you don’t need to water more frequently.
Grass that is in shady areas doesn’t use water as quickly as their sunny counterparts. Water only as needed.
Related posts: Tips for proper watering
The lawn I have growing in the shady spots is thin, What are my options?
The growing conditions and lawn care for grass in the shade can be challenging. You can decrease the foot traffic to help keep the grass stress-free. Adding stepping stones can be one remedy.
You can overseed once or twice a year, in mid-spring or early fall for cool season grasses in northern Illinois.
Related: Why Is It Better To Wait Until Fall For Lawn Aeration And Overseeding?
Do the shady areas get as much fertilizer as the other areas?
Turf that is under trees require light fertilization in early spring before leaves fall, and not anymore until early fall.
Sunny lawns need one-half to two-thirds less nitrogen as grasses in shady areas.
What about weed killers?
If you are experiencing weed problems, make one general broadleaf application in the fall. Minimizing stress on the grass in shady spots will increase your chances at a beautiful, healthy lawn. Minimizing herbicide use is important to remember, but you may spot-spray weeds when needed. Make certain to read the label to guarantee the trees won’t be harmed.
Related posts: Roundup free weed control with Green T
I’m still having issues growing grass, what can I do?
If you can’t seem to get grass to grow in shady areas, even after putting in the extra effort outlined above, you may need to try an alternative to grass.
Look into shade tolerant ground covers that could grow well on your lawn. There are many varieties and some of them are specifically intended for shady areas. This will fill in the area below your trees with a pleasing green cover. It is also likely to be lower maintenance than grass would be in these difficult areas.
You could also try covering the bare patches with mulch or woodchips. Bark, pine straw or wood chips are all natural options, and they can look good underneath trees. In shady spots, light-colored mulches are easier to see. You can also add stepping stones and stone borders to add interest.
Does the type of tree affect my chances of growing a certain type of grass under it?
When dealing with shade issues and acidic soil, it’s easier to grow grass beneath deciduous trees than evergreens that branch to the ground. The type of deciduous tree can influence grass growing success greatly.
Pine trees offer filtered light through a higher canopy, which makes growing grass beneath them easier. Hard maples make growing grass underneath virtually impossible because they have dense canopies and shallow roots. Oak and Dogwood are also hard species to plant underneath their branches. Sycamore, Locust, ornamental pears and crabapples, elms and others make planting and maintaining a carpet of lawn underneath a breeze.
We hope these tips will help you get the green healthy lawn you want!
To get your lawn looking its best, request a quote online or call Green T at 630.231.0007 to have a professional plant the best grass for your lawn.
Wikipedia – Seedland – University of Illinois Extension – Outside Pride