Question of the Week – Number Two: December 17, 2020

After years of growing successfully, our St. Augustine finally gave way to increasing shade as trees grew larger.

“What grass can I use in heavy shade?”

This is the most common lawn question I get. You’re evidence that it even comes up in mid-winter. Trees grow larger, shade grows heavier, and grass thins and dies.

St. Augustine is Texas’ most shade-tolerant turfgrass, but even it requires 4 to 6 hours of direct sunlight daily just to hold its own, 6 to 8 if you want it to grow and cover.

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You’re wasting time and money if you keep trying to resod the area, and you’re really spinning your wheels if you try quack products that claim they can help you grow grass in heavy shade. It’s not about nutrients, microbes or anything other than light.

The point is, turfgrass won’t grow in heavy shade. That’s exactly why Astroturf was developed 55 years ago.

You need to switch to a shade-tolerant groundcover such as mondograss (“monkeygrass”), purple wintercreeper euonymus, Asian jasmine, liriope or English ivy.

Mondograss can be planted at any month of the year. I plant fist-sized clumps on 8- to 10-inch centers into well-prepared landscaping soil. Given good care and attention, they usually cover within 12 to 18 months.

I’ve planted literally thousands of mondograss clumps beneath the large oaks and pecans in our landscape. Its big advantage to the others is that it has no runners, so leaves are easy to blow out of it in fall. You can also dig and divide it, to cut the costs of getting it started. And, it roots quickly so it’s great at preventing erosion.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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