Will Zoysia Grass Grow in Shade? (What Type?)

Trees increase the aesthetic value of your lawn, they also provide a nice shade to relax in. However, the shade presents the biggest challenge when choosing the best lawn grass to grow. So, will Zoysia grass grow in shade?

Yes, Zoysia can thrive in light shade. Growing a shade-tolerant Zoysia cultivator, fertilizing, watering, controlling pests and diseases, minimizing traffic, pruning dense tree branches and mowing high can increase the survival rate of the grass in shade.

Will Zoysia Grass Grow in Shade?

When selecting the best type of lawn grass, you may want to choose the one that is suitable to your weather condition and tolerance to shade, drought, insects and diseases attack.

Zoysia grass is a shade-tolerant species that can thrive in areas with low light conditions. However, it still prefers areas that receive direct sunlight. We cannot say that it’s a shade-loving grass.

Zoysia grass is a warm-season grass that requires at least 3 to 4 hours of direct sunlight per day to develop and grow healthy. Therefore, it is a suitable choice for areas experiencing partial shade such as under tall trees and near tall buildings.

However, not all types of Zoysia grass thrive in shade but few cultivators such as Empire Zoysia, Geo Zoysia and Meyer Zoysia. Many of the Zoysia grass problems typically result from choosing the incorrect cultivator of Zoysia for your area.

What Zoysia grass is the most shade-tolerant?

There are several cultivars of Zoysia grass to choose from. They have distinctive characteristics that are suitable for different growth conditions. If your lawn has plenty of shady patches, there are various Zoysia grass varieties which thrive in low light conditions.

Innovation Zoysia

Innovation Zoysia grass was developed by researchers at Kansas State and Texas A&M Universities. This variety has better shade tolerance ability and is easy to maintain. It has an appealing dark green color, medium-to-fine texture and a soft feel.

Empire Zoysia

Empire Zoysia grass is a Brazilian Zoysia japonica developed to tackle a wide spectrum of conditions. It has a moderate shade tolerance and improved drought resistance. It’s also a low-maintenance grass with a blue-green color.

Geo Zoysia

Geo Zoysia grass is a bred between Zoysia Japonica and Zoysia tenuifolia. It has excellent shade tolerance as compared to other Zoysia grass varieties. It’s one of the most beautiful turf grasses with a deep green color.

Meyer Zoysia

Meyer Zoysia is a medium-bladed Zoysia grass that is common in the southern United States. It’s partially shade tolerant. It’s also adapted to transitional zones with both hot and cold temperatures.

Zeon Zoysia

Zeon Zoysia is an improved Zoysia grass variety with an increased shade tolerance. It is also resistant to pests and diseases as compared to other Zoysia grass varieties. It has a medium green color that is suitable for high and low temperatures in transitional zones.

Zorro Zoysia

Zorro Zoysia grass has superior shade tolerance as compared to other warm-season grass. It has a dark green color that is suitable for residential lawns. It also has an excellent fall retention color which is an ideal choice for southern areas of the United States.

El Toro Zoysia

El Toro Zoysia has a light green color with medium blades. It forms a dense canopy that can handle high traffic. It’s an ideal shade tolerance choice. It’s also resistant to diseases and long periods of drought.

How to Grow Zoysia Grass in Shade

It’s challenging to grow grass in a shade. For instance, if it’s grown under trees, it will have to compete for nutrients, oxygen, water and other natural resources. Although Zoysia grass can grow under low light conditions, it requires some special care to flourish and grow healthy.

Below are some of the tips on how to grow Zoysia grass in shade:

1. Prune the trees to increase light infiltration

Zoysia grass varieties like Zeon, Innovation, Geo, Meyer and El Toro which are tolerant to low light conditions, require at least 4 hours of direct sunlight. Prune tree branches that are below 8 feet to allow the grass to receive morning and evening sunlight when the sun is low.

2. Choose the right mix of grass seed

Growing Zoysia grass in a shade successfully starts by choosing the right mix of grass seed. Grass seed companies are producing different blends of grass seed that are designed for different shades or sunlight levels. For instance, a “dense shade” mix is suitable for areas that are receiving less than 6 hours of sunlight per day.

3. Fertilize appropriately

Fertilize shaded areas with a fertilizer containing higher ratios of potassium as compared to nitrogen and phosphorus. Potassium enhances tolerance to shade while boosting the grass against pest and diseases attack. Applying high nitrogen levels in shaded areas can promote more succulent growth that is prone to fungal infections.

4. Know when to water

Grass in shady areas tends to retain more moisture as compared to those exposed to direct sunlight. Therefore, you should only water when the soil feels dry. Watering excessively in shady areas can promote the growth of fungal infections that are characterized by brown patches in lawns or slimy spots on leaves.

5. Minimize traffic on the grass

Grass in shady areas is susceptible to damage and will definitely take a long time to recover. Therefore, it is ideal to minimize walking, playing, dragging chairs and lying in these areas. It’s also important to limit access to pets, stray dogs and cats in shady areas.

6. Increase mowing height

It’s also ideal to increase the mowing height of the grass in shady areas. Grass in these areas requires a large leaf surface area to conduct photosynthesis from the little sunlight they get. The grass may also take a long time to recover when you mow too close to the soil surface.

7. Control lawn diseases promptly

Lawn grass in shady areas will remain wet for long hours during the cool season. This means that the grass is likely to suffer from fungal infections. Be sure to check for yellow, white or brown spots or rings on the leaves. If present, treat the disease as soon as possible to minimize stress on the grass.

Also read: How to make Zoysia grass spread and fill in fast.

Final Thoughts

Having shady patches on your lawn doesn’t mean that you cannot enjoy healthy lush green grass. Choosing the best cultivars of Zoysia grass and providing the required care can help you to achieve this dream.


  1. University of Florida: Growing Turfgrass in the shade
  2. University of Missouri: Establishing and Maintaining Lawns in Low Light
  3. Mississippi State University Ext: Selecting and Managing Turfgrass for Shade

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