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ASK THE EXPERTS

What to plant in the shade

POSTED: December 2, 2009 9:06 a.m.

I wish I had a dime for every time someone asked me what type of grass will grow best in full shade.

  

The truth of the matter is no turf type grass will grow well in heavy shade.

  

Grasses differ in their ability to endure shade. Fescue will do much better in shade than Bermuda grass.

  

Some types of turf fescues are more adaptive to shade than others. Fescue blends with Creeping Red fescue do fairly well in shade. It is important to remember areas in full sun during winter months may be in shade of trees during spring through fall.

  

After planting a shade tolerant grass there are a few steps homeowners may take to improve turfgrass performance under shade conditions.

  

• Raise the cutting height to increase the leaf area.

  

• Reduce applications of nitrogen fertilizers.

  

• Use deep and infrequent irrigations to increase a deeper root system.

  

• Remove grass clippings, pine needles and other debris to encourage turf establishment. Fallen tree leaves may smother the grass or provide a home for insect and disease organisms.

  

• Control traffic in shaded areas to protect turf from wear injury.

  

• Maintain a regular weed control program to reduce plant competition and to improve the appearance of the overall landscape.

  

• Light intensity can be improved by pruning the tree limbs below 10 feet or through selective pruning of branches in the crown of the tree. Undesirable trees may be eliminated from the landscape.

  

• In hard to establish situations, use a suitable ground cover. Monkey grass (Liriope Muscari) excels as a ground cover in some shade. English Ivy is also a suitable ground cover, however, it may spread into other areas and can be very hard to control.

  

Many homeowners have found, because of water conservation and overall problems trying to grow plants in shade, it may be best to simply leave the area natural.  Adding pinestraw to shaded areas with Liriope along the border may be one of many answers.

  

For additional information, contact your local County Extension Office at (706) 265-2442.

  

Clark Beusse is the Dawson County extension agent. For more information, call (706) 265-2442.

 

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