How to get grass to grow under trees – expert tips for a luscious shade lawn

It can be challenging to get grass to grow out of the sun, but these tips will help you achieve a green carpet under your trees

Get grass to grow under trees
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Trees can be a joy to grow in the backyard. They add height, bring lots of wildlife and offer natural shade. However, the shade they create can also make it hard to grow care for a lawn under their canopies.

'It can be tricky to get grass to grow happily under trees. A tree will cast a big shade, prevent rain from reaching ground level and compete with the grass for water and nutrients,' says Drew Swainston, former professional gardener and gardens content editor at Homes & Gardens. 

Essential lawn care and understanding of how to work with garden shade can help you grow grass under a tree canopy. Learn more with our expert tips on how to get grass to grow under trees.

Get grass to grow under lawn

(Image credit: Jon Lovette via Getty Images)

How to get grass to grow under trees

It can be hard to grow grass under trees but it doesn't mean it's impossible. We've compiled expert tips to help you grow lawn under your tree canopies successfully.

1. Choose shade tolerant grass seed

Grass in shade

(Image credit: Jena Ardell via Getty Images)

If you want grass to thrive in shade, you need to choose shade-tolerant grass

'The first thing to do is choose shade-tolerant grasses - such as fescue or zoysia -  as they will be more happy with the limited light under the tree’s canopy,' says Drew.

These grasses will happily grow out of the sun and allow you to achieve a green carpet even in shade. You can find shade-tolerant grass seed online, like this fescue grass seed from Amazon.

You might also choose to plant shade plants or spring flowers for shade beneath your tree to add color and interest to this lawn area.

Drew Swainston
Drew Swainston

Drew qualified as a journalist and wrote for many websites and publications, before studying for a horticulture qualification. He worked as a professional gardener for several years, specializing in kitchen gardening. He's now bringing his expertise and passion to Homes & Gardens as a member of our team. 

2. Prune and remove lower tree branches

Prune tree branches

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As well as choosing grass that can grow in shade, you can help encourage grass to grow by providing more light.

'Pruning lower branches from the trees will increase the amount of light that gets to the grass,' says Drew.

You should prune tree branches using essential gardening tools like these loppers from Amazon to allow more light through to your grass.

Choosing the right time and knowing when to plant grass seed can also increase the amount of light it receives.

'If you sow grass seed in fall, when deciduous trees drop their leaves, this will mean it has access to more light to help get established,' says Drew. 

3. Water and feed your lawn regularly

Water lawn

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Of course, you need to nurture your grass for it to grow healthily.

'You must also accept that extra watering will be required to keep the grass under trees thriving - especially during dry periods,' says Drew.

Using a sprinkler, like this sprinkler from Amazon, can help when you need to water your lawn. Researching how long to water your garden with a sprinkler can also ensure you provide sufficient water to the grass under your trees.

'You will need to feed grass annually if you want lush and healthy grass growing under trees,' Drew adds.

Knowing how to fertilize a lawn can help boost grass growth and help you achieve a luscious lawn even in shade. 

You can find a range of lawn food online, including this lawn fertilizer from Amazon.


What is the best ground cover for under trees?

While it is possible to grow shade-tolerant grass under trees, you may opt for other shade-tolerant ground cover plants. These include creeping dogwood, hardy geranium and heuchera. When choosing what to grow under your trees, it's important to take into consideration whether the plants can thrive in shade.

It can be tricky to get grass to grow under trees due to the shade and barrier from rainfall they create. However, some essential care can help you achieve a thriving green carpet even in challenging areas. 

If you want to get the rest of your lawn also looking its best, you might find our expert guide to repairing patches in grass helpful.

Tenielle Jordison
News Writer (Gardens)

Tenielle is a News Writer in the Gardens team at Homes & Gardens with five years of journalistic experience. She studied BA Journalism, Media and English Literature and MA Magazine Journalism at Cardiff University. Before coming to Homes & Gardens, Tenielle was in the editorial department at the Royal Horticultural Society and worked on The Garden magazine. She is passionate about sustainable living and likes to encourage gardeners to make greener choices to help tackle the effects of climate change with a trowel in hand. Tenielle is also a houseplant lover who is slowly running out of room for her ever-growing collection.