When we have trees and shrubs in our yards, or when we live in other high density housing environments, shade from our gardens or surrounding buildings can be a real nuisance for our lawns. No matter what type of turf we grow at our homes, there's just no getting around the fact that our lawns need at least some sunlight every day so that they can survive and thrive in health.
Adding to this problem of shade on our lawns is the fact that some of the cheapest and most common grass brands being sold today, are actually very badly adapted to growing in any type of shade at all. No matter what the brand, grasses like Couch and Kikuyu will always have the worst shade tolerance of our most often utilised lawn grasses. So we can expect that whenever we have a Couch or Kikuyu lawn which is experiencing regular shade each day - often these grasses will die off.
When choosing a new lawn, one of the primary considerations we should consider is to determine the existing shade levels on the proposed lawn area, as well as whether we can expect any new shade creating obstacles to be encroaching over our new lawn in the near future. In most cases these things will be trees that are maturing and still growing, or if we can expect any new high density dwellings to be erected near our new lawn.
If these things are possible, then we should consider a more shade tolerant type of turf, and to not plant either of the least shade tolerant lawn types.
We'll first begin with Zoysia grass, which is most commonly available as brand names of Empire, Nara, and Compadre. Zoysia is a fantastic grass in so many ways, which we won't go into too much detail here, apart than to quickly say that its naturally more disease and pest resistant than other grasses, requires less water and fertiliser than other grasses, is very drought tolerant, and requires less lawn mowing than most other grasses too.
Zoysia has a shade tolerance rating of 40%, which means it can tolerate up to 40% shade each day. This equates to us lawn owners as being a medium shade tolerant lawn which is able to grow healthily in some partial shade.
This is in comparison to Couch and Kikuyu which have the worst shade tolerance ratings, and can only tolerate around 10% shade each day before they begin to suffer bad health or otherwise begin to deteriorate or even possibly die off.
Buffalo grass is the most shade tolerant warm season lawn type in Australia.
The best shade tolerant Buffalo can withstand up to around 70% shade per day, while most other Buffalo grasses can expect to tolerate between 60 - 70% shade levels.
With these things in mind, we can see that if we are expecting to grow a lawn under regular partial shaded conditions, then Buffalo is our first choice, followed by Zoysia as our second choice for less shaded areas, and to try to avoid Kikuyu and Couch in these conditions.
For most of us, the shade ratings for Buffalo grass are all very high, that once we've made the decision to buy Buffalo, then we should be considering buying the best Buffalo we can for our needs.
To learn more about the quality ratings of different Buffalo grass brands, please see the buffalo review article on The Buffalo Lawn Care Site - Australia's Ultimate Buffalo Grass Review.
However, once we believe we should be looking for the most shade tolerant lawn available, then not only should we choose Buffalo, but we should also look for the most shade tolerant Buffalo possible.
And the most shade tolerant Buffalo in Australia is Sapphire Soft Leaf Buffalo.
We've now answered the question about which lawn type is best in shade, as well as which lawn types are worst in shade, as well as naming the most shade tolerant warm season grass brand in Australia.
Now there is just one last very important point when growing any lawn type in any level of shade.
The more shade present on a lawn - the higher we must mow our lawn!
This is the golden rule of growing turf in partial shade, the more shade we have then the longer we need the green leaf of our lawns to be. This extra height of the green lawn leaf allows the lawn to photosynthesise more sunlight each day from a growing environment where direct sunlight is reduced.
Its when this photosynthesis is reduced under partial shade conditions that our lawns begin to starve from lack of food, and then begin to get sick or even to die off.
So the more shade - the longer the leaf, its as simple, and as easy as that.
For those who are concerned with mowing a buffalo lawn high due to possible heavy thatching issues, then rest assured that this will be of very little concern. Buffalo grass thatch grows fastest and gets to its worst and thickest when the turf is grown in full sun. However, when we grow our Buffalo in a little shade, then this thatch layer decreases in line with the amount of shade.
If Buffalo thatch does begin building up, then a short cut back of the turf in the Spring will most usually effectively help deal with the problem, and keep the thatch under control.
Finally, just be aware that all grasses, even Buffalo need some direct sunlight each day, and will most certainly die off if this minimal amount of sunlight is not received.