Bermuda Grass & Shade: What Is The Best Shade Tolerant Bermuda?

Bermuda grass is a cosmopolitan grass as it can thrive in a number of different conditions. In the southern part of the United States, it has long been the predominant turfgrass used on sports fields, golf courses, and ornamental lawns. Bermuda Grass in Shade Tolerance Sunlight Requirement Learn More.

Bermuda Grass & Shade What Is The Best Shade Tolerant Bermuda
Bermudagrass is an important turfgrass in the southern and transition zones of the United States.

Photo by Christopher Sessums

This is because Bermuda grass generates a very dense, high-quality turf cover and is adapted to withstand a wide variety of soil texture, fertility, pH, and temperatures. In addition, Bermuda grass has excellent wear and drought tolerance.

Bermuda grass, however, has a very low tolerance for shadow, which limits its widespread use and is one of its biggest drawbacks.

Bermuda grass needs lots of light for a healthy turf—at least 8 to 10 hours per day. Any less is going to impact the appearance and vigor of your lawn and make it more prone to diseases. The presence of tall trees surrounding a yard and filtered light can also affect the turf quality of Bermuda grass.

However, there is no need to worry if you have a shady lawn surrounded by trees! All you need is a shade tolerant variety of Bermuda grass that requires less sunlight to produce a desirable or acceptable turf.

Read on to learn more!

Bermuda Grass & Shade

Bermuda Grass & Shade
Bermudagrass can flourish in a wide range of conditions but does not tolerate shadow well.

Photo by woodleywonderworks

Compared to other types of turfgrass, such as Zoysia and Ryegrass, the light requirements of Bermuda grass are significantly higher. This is because Bermuda grass prefers full sun.

And, since it can withstand high temperatures, prolonged periods of drought, and dry soil, growing it in full sun throughout the warmer months is not a problem at all. 

It does not, however, do well in the shade. It is because less sunlight leads to reduced photosynthesis, which in turn results in a decrease in the quantity of energy that is available to the grass. This slows the growth rate and makes the grass less tolerant of heat, cold, dampness, and disease.

However, some kinds of Bermuda grass have enhanced tolerance to shade or reduced sunlight exposure. 

Nonetheless, the performance of these Bermuda grass variants is still not as good as that of Zoysia or Ryegrass. One such shade-tolerant variety of lawn grass is the TifGrand Bermuda, which was developed by the Tifton Experiment Station.

And another such variety is the one that was developed by Super-Sod, a part of Patten Seed Company.

RELATED: What Are Different Bermuda Grass Types, And Which Is Best For A Lawn?

Effects Of Shade On Bermuda Grass Lawns

Effects Of Shade On Bermuda Grass Lawns
Bermudagrass does not like shade, and it will not persist in full shade.

Photo by Andrea Dunlap

Also, keep in mind that even though some Bermuda grass types advertise themselves as being “shade tolerant,” it is deemed by many experts as marketing hype rather than actuality.

Also, even with genetic manipulation, agronomists have only been unable to change the nature of Bermuda grass from full sun to total shade.

The most they can do is to make it tolerant to partial shade. So, if there is a dense canopy surrounding your grass, you will begin to notice some symptoms that are not acceptable. Here are a few signs that Bermuda grass is not receiving a sufficient amount of sunlight:

Reduced Tolerance To Disease

Parts of a Bermuda grass lawn under shade become prone to turf diseases such as moss, root problems, fungal infections, and other similar issues.

This is because dew stays on the grass blades for more extended periods of time in shady areas as compared to regions that are exposed to sunlight for longer periods of time.

Thinning Turf Or Lawn

If your Bermuda grass does not get enough sunlight, your lawn will start to thin out as the grass will experience less photosynthesis, resulting in reduced lateral development.

This will cause your lawn to thin out. As a result, your lawn will also become more inviting to weeds such as dandelions, crabgrass, and quackgrass.

Abnormally Elongated Stems

Bermudagrass lawns begin to show extended leaves, internodes, and stems when they are exposed to low light conditions. Low light conditions are typically defined as less than 60 percent of the sunlight needed for healthy turf growth.

How Do You Grow Bermuda In Shade?

How Do You Grow Bermuda In Shade
Bermuda grass prefers full sunlight to grow into a thick, lush lawn and is not shade-tolerant.

Photo by Richard Parker

Trees and turfgrass are two landscaping elements that do not function well together; you will need to choose one or the other. However, most people don’t like hearing that, so here are some ways that you can encourage Bermuda grass to thrive under shade:

Raise The Mowing Height

If you mow Bermuda grass at the same height as you would in sunny places, the grass will not be able to produce sufficient food for itself. So, to prevent stress on the plant, the height of the cut should be between 2.25 to 2.5 inches in the shaded areas.

However, the mowing height in sunny locations can range anywhere from half an inch to two inches, depending on the species of Bermuda grass you have.

Keep Foot Traffic Low

To prevent people from strolling on your lawn, we also recommend that you construct sidewalks in the area. You can also install barricades in the areas of your lawn that are shaded to prevent animals and children from harming the grass in such areas.

As a result, the Bermuda grass will be subjected to less stress, which will allow it to flourish even in conditions where there is more shade.

Raise And Thin Tree Canopies

If trees in your yard are the source of shade, it may be possible to increase the amount of light that reaches the turfgrass by trimming the tree canopies.

However, as sunburn limbs are a big worry for many of the shade trees that are found in southern locations, lifting the tree canopies should be done gently and with utmost care.

Reduce Water & Fertilizer

Bermuda grass grown in shade experiences stress and cannot tolerate the same levels of soil nitrogen as Bermuda grass grown in typical sunlight conditions. As a result, you ought to think about feeding such a lawn less frequently.

Additionally, you should water such a yard less often. Again, it is because the water in the shade evaporates less slowly.

Reduce The Turfgrass Area

Reduce the quantity of turf in your yard by converting shady parts to mulched or landscaped sections. If you do remove the turf in these areas and there are established trees that rely on the water from the sprinklers, I strongly advise watering these trees a bit extra.

Shade-tolerant Bermuda Grass Varieties

Shade-tolerant Bermuda Grass Varieties
TifGrand Bermuda is frequently used as sports turf and delivers exceptional quality in shady lawns.

Photo by pin

If you have done all of the above and still cannot seem to establish a good enough and satisfactory turf, as a last resort, you can try planting a shade-resistant Bermuda grass variety.

The following is a list of some of the most shade-tolerant types of Bermuda grass that are available for purchase in the US markets:

Super-Sod’s TifTuf Bermuda Grass

The TifTuf Bermuda grass from American lawn product manufacturer Super-Sod is likely the most well-liked “GMO” variety available right now.

While TifTuf still possesses the well-known drought resistance of Bermuda grass, the scientists at Super-Sod claim that they were able to give the grass up to 50% more tolerance to shade.

The TifTuf shade-resistant Bermuda grass needs 4 to 5 hours of sunlight each day, well-draining soil, and little competition for soil resources. The tolerance is due to thinner leaf blades and a larger surface area than typical Bermuda grass.

TifGrand Bermuda Grass

It has been claimed that the hybrid Bermuda grass variety known as TifGrand, which can be acquired through Evergreen Turf, can flourish with as little as four to five hours of direct sunlight every day.

However, it is crucial to note that the quantity of daylight hours is not the only factor to consider; the quality of the daylight hours is also essential.

Even if there are filtered rays of sunshine for eight hours out of the day, your Bermuda grass will probably still be damaged. So, you might need to re-sod your lawn every two to three years to maintain a healthy turfgrass stand.

ST-5 Bermuda Grass

ST-5 is a hybrid Bermuda grass that was developed to flourish in environments with higher levels of shadow. It is one of the most shade tolerant varieties of Bermuda grass, and up to 90 percent of its growth can occur in shady conditions.

However, the increased shade tolerance comes at the expense of turf density, as ST-5 Bermuda is a slow-grower and does not spread as much or as rapidly as typical Bermuda grass.

RELATED: How To Make Bermuda Grass Thicker, Greener, and Fuller | A Beginners Guide

Grow An Alternative Turfgrass Species

Grow An Alternative Turfgrass Species
The most shade tolerant varieties of St. Augustine grass are Palmetto and CitraBlue.

Photo by Jay Morgan

If even a shade-resistant Bermuda grass variant is not working for you, there are varieties of grass that can be planted in regions that are shadowed by the sun.

For instance, if you are looking for a grass that grows best in shaded areas during the chilly season, you should consider growing tall or fine fescue. 

However, if you are a homeowner who lives in the southern zone and want to cultivate warm-season grass on a shady lawn, you can go for St. Augustine grass, which can thrive for a maximum of 5 to 6 hours of direct sunlight per day. Another fantastic alternative to consider for warm-season lawns is zoysia grass.

Final Words | Bermuda Grass & Shade

To tell you the truth, Bermuda grass is not a suitable option for shady lawns. Bermuda grass is a kind of grass that can survive without much water even during the warmest months of the year because it is drought-resistant.

However, it can not tolerate shade well and requires a lot of sunlight if it is going to develop into a thick and lush lawn.

For the grass to develop in a healthy manner, full sun exposure of at least four hours every day is required. Therefore, before you plant Bermuda grass, you should test the area with a few plugs to discover whether or not it receives adequate sunlight.

Other than that, I believe Bermuda grass is one of the most resilient turfgrass you can cultivate on your lawn.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Which Bermuda grass is best for shaded areas?

To start with, Bermuda grass does not tolerate shadow very well. So if there are large trees and other obstructions on your lawn that block the sun, you might want to consider using another grass.

But if you’re dead set on Bermuda grass, TifGrand is the most shade-tolerant kind, having been scientifically designed to resist up to 50% shade.

What is the best grass for shaded areas?

Fescue, bluegrass, and ryegrass are some of the best cool-season grasses for shade. On the other hand,  Augustine grass and zoysia grass are the two warm-season grasses that can tolerate shade the best, with Augustine grass being the most resistant.

Centipede grass and Bahia grass also thrive in light pine-tree shade, although not as well as St. Augustine grass and zoysia grass.

Can I grow grass in full shade?

Most lawn grasses require four to six hours of direct sunlight to survive. So, as long as the four hours of light is available, several varieties of grass that tolerate shade can flourish. So as long as you choose suitable grass and take good care of it, you can produce a gorgeous span of lawn in a shaded area.

Which is better, Zoysia or Bermuda grass?

Zoysia and Bermuda grass are both known for their ability to handle significant foot activity, however Bermuda grass is thought to be more robust and can withstand even more foot traffic.

On the other hand, zoysia might not be able to survive continuous foot traffic despite its resilience to wear and tear.

Can you grow grass over tree roots?

To make the soil surrounding the tree roots just slightly looser so that grass can grow, use a garden rake for scratching up the top layer of soil.

However, the grass only requires a few more inches of loose, rich dirt to grasp onto and develop a robust root system to achieve the optimum results. So, please don’t overdo it!

Sources for Further Reading

Bermuda Grass in Lawns & Gardens – Colorado State University Extension Service

Bermudagrass Management Guidelines – Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California

Bermudagrass, is it here to stay? – Utah State University Yard and Garden Extension Service

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Morgan Daniels

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