Bermuda grass grows and spreads fast when well fed and irrigated, but not so much when sunlight exposure is not right. So, just how much sunlight does Bermuda grass require? Can you grow it in shade?
Bermuda grass is not shade-tolerant and will prefer full sunlight to grow into a thick and dense lawn. Being a drought-tolerant grass species, Bermuda grass does well even in hot months with less water. Provide at least 4 hours of full sun exposure for the grass to grow healthy.
Below, I’ve identified some of the best shade-tolerant Bermuda grass varieties, as well as how to help common Bermuda grass thrive in shaded areas.
Does Bermuda grass grow in shade?
Bermuda grass does not like shade and will perform poorly when established in shaded areas. If you grow one sample of Bermuda grass in full sunlight and another in partial light or shade, the full sunlight-exposed sample of grass will grow and spread faster and healthier.
Yes, Bermuda grass will grow in shade but at a very slow rate and with an unsightly appearance because it is one of the least shade tolerant turfgrass species.
If there are tall trees and bushes surrounding your lawn, your turfgrass will not get enough sunlight. The leaves of the taller plants shading a Bermuda lawn prevent sunlight from reaching the grass below them. As such, the turfgrass grows by stretching upwards in an attempt to reach the sunlight above, as opposed to growing and spreading laterally. This results in the spindly, thin, unsightly appearance that’s characteristic of Bermuda grass that’s grown in shaded areas.
What’s more, in shaded Bermuda lawns, the taller trees choke out the turfgrass by competing for soil moisture and leaving inadequate soil moisture to support Bermuda grass root establishment. As such, the Bermuda roots grow shallow, consequently leading to a slower growth rate and a thin lawn.
Bermuda grass light requirements
Bermuda grass prefers full sun – all day long. If you’re establishing a bermudagrass lawn in a partially shaded lawn, it will require at least 4 hours of direct sunlight exposure everyday for the grass to thrive even if the variety is indicated as shade-tolerant.
You can tell that your Bermuda grass is not getting enough sunlight exposure when you notice the following signs:
- Long stems – if the stems, shoots, and internodes of your Bermuda grass plants appear longer than normal, they’re most likely suffering from insufficient sunlight.
- Thinning lawn – with less sunlight exposure due to shading, Bermuda grass will prioritize vertical growth over lateral growth. This leads to an awful, thinned appearance, with visible bare patches on the lawn; as opposed to the more visually appealing look of a normal, dense Bermuda lawn.
- Reduced resistance to pests and diseases – With less sunlight exposure in shaded lawns, the Bermuda turfgrass can’t photosynthesize as much as it should- leaving the grass plants with insufficient energy to facilitate pest and disease resistance.
What’s more, with less sunlight moisture/dew that’s present on the surface of the Bermuda leaf blades takes longer to evaporate. It’s this moisture that invites moisture-loving fungi and moss to invade your lawn.
Shade–tolerant Bermuda grass
If you love the fast-spreading nature and dense appearance of Bermuda lawns, but don’t want to cut out the taller trees on your lawn or prune their foliage, you can opt for a shade-tolerant Bermuda grass variety.
Below are some of the most shade-tolerant Bermuda grass varieties that you can choose from:
TifGrand Bermuda Grass
TifGrand is arguably one of the most shade-tolerant Bermuda grass hybrids. This Bermuda grass variety can be identified by its dark green hue and fine leaf texture.
TifGrand can tolerate up to 50% of shade under the right conditions of soil and sunlight. Apart from its shade-tolerant qualities, TifGrand Bermuda also boasts good drought-resistance and wear tolerance
Discovery Bermuda Grass
Another Bermuda variety whose shade-tolerance is superior compared to common Bermuda is Discovery Bermuda grass. This Bermuda variety is not only revered for its ability to thrive under limited shading, but for its distinctive dark blue-green color.
ST-5 Bermuda Grass
ST-5 is a Bermuda grass hybrid that has been scientifically developed to thrive even under shaded conditions. With a shade-tolerance of up to 90%, it’s the most shade-tolerant Bermuda grass variety.
However, the added shade-tolerance comes at the expense of turf density, as ST-5 Bermuda is a slow-grower and doesn’t spread as much or as fast as common Bermuda grass.
How to grow Bermuda grass in shaded areas
It’s hard to argue against the fact that Bermuda grass grown on a shaded lawn can never grow to be as lush and dense as Bermuda grown a lawn with full sunlight access. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t implement a few measures to help your shaded Bermuda grass to thrive.
To successfully grow Bermuda grass in a shaded lawn, consider implementing the strategies below:
1. Improve Sunlight Exposure
You can enhance the amount of sunlight your Bermuda turf is exposed to by trimming down some of the foliage from the taller trees shading the grass. Opening up tree canopies by pruning not only allows more sunlight to reach the turf, but also enables improved air circulation to the grass.
2. Raise the mowing height
While a reduced mowing height is usually recommended for increased lateral growth for Bermuda grass growing under normal sunlight conditions, the opposite is recommended for shaded Bermuda grass.
When mowed at a higher height, the shaded Bermuda grass is left with larger leaf blade surfaces to capture as much of the limited sunlight as possible for photosynthesis.
Ideally, you should avoid cutting off more than one-third of the total length of the grass leaf blades.
3. Reduce fertilizer and watering frequency
Minimal sunlight exposure causes shaded Bermuda grass to stress and become less-capable of tolerating the same amounts of soil nitrogen that Bermuda that’s growing under normal sunlight conditions would. As such, you should consider applying fertilizer less frequently for such a lawn.
Additionally, you should consider reducing the frequency with which you irrigate the lawn. This is because shaded Bermuda grass grows relatively slowly due to insufficient sunlight for photosynthesis; and slow-growing plants typically require less water.
4. Restore the pH Balance of your Lawn Soil
In lawns that are heavily-shaded, soil pH imbalance occurs at a faster rate. Soil pH imbalances consequently trigger weed and moss invasions, as the more acidic soil suits them. The optimal pH for Bermuda grass to grow properly is a neutral pH of 5.8-7.
Apply lime to your lawn to help restore the pH and make it suitable for Bermuda grass to grow and thrive even under partial sunlight.
READ MORE: WHEN TO APPLY LIME TO YOUR LAWN
- Patrick O’Brien and Christopher Hartwiger, USGA: New Shade Tolerant Bermudagrass Arriving Soon
- Frank M. Watson, CAES Newswire: TifTuf Bermuda grass ideal for home lawns
- David M. Kopec, Extension Turfgrass Specialist, Arizona State University: Lawns Grass Selection for Shade