Will Bermuda Grass Tolerate Shade | Best Types to Grow

Bermuda is one of the most popular warm-season grasses for residential lawns. It excels at many things, including drought and cold tolerance. Bermuda grass also holds up well to general wear and tear, making it ideal for high-traffic areas like golf courses.

Those looking for a durable, low-maintenance lawn are easily won over by the qualities of Bermuda grass. However, there is one key area where Bermuda falls short. If your lawn experiences even moderate shade, you may want to think twice before relying on this grass for the lush yard of your dreams.

In this article, I’ll explain how well, if at all, Bermuda grass tolerates shade. I’ll also offer expert advice on getting the most from your Bermuda grass in shady areas, as well as some alternatives that may be a better match for your lawn’s needs.

Will Bermuda Grass Tolerate Shade?

Bermuda grass is one of the least shade-tolerant of all turf grasses. So, despite its many other benefits, it is not recommended for shaded lawns.

It may be possible to grow Bermuda grass in partial shade but this is rarely ideal. You’ll want to ensure the area gets the bare minimum hours of sunlight for Bermuda grass to survive before proceeding. I also recommend selecting a cultivar known for improved shade tolerance for the best results.

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How Much Sunlight Does Bermuda Need?

On average, Bermuda grass requires at least 4 hours of direct sunlight just to survive. However, most cultivars need at least 7 hours of sunlight per day to truly thrive.

Because Bermuda grass is adapted to hot, sunny climates, it requires several hours of light each day to perform basic functions. Vital processes like photosynthesis suffer in shady conditions. In other words, trying to grow healthy Bermuda grass without enough sunlight is like trying to raise healthy livestock without enough feed.

How Much Sunlight Does Bermuda Need

Is Your Bermuda Getting Enough Sun?

Unless your lawn is entirely shade-free, I don’t recommend just guessing at the number of hours of sunlight it receives each day. If you want to plant Bermuda grass (or are curious if your current lawn is getting enough light), taking the time to measure the daily sun exposure is a worthwhile investment.

To get started, you’ll need a clear day when the lawn can be monitored from sun up to sun down. I recommend checking the sun exposure hourly. 

You can simply note whether the lawn is in direct sunlight or shaded at each hour. Or you can record additional details such as whether the shade is partial or full. It may be easiest to divide the lawn into sections since some areas will likely receive more or less shade than others.

At the end of the day, you can reference your notes to determine how many hours the lawn was sunlit versus in shade. Even if your property receives too little sunlight for Bermuda grass, this experiment will tell you exactly how much shade the ideal turf grass must be able to tolerate to grow on your lawn.

Effect of Shade on Bermudagrass Lawns

Bermuda grass’ preference for a bright, sunny location is far from arbitrary. Without adequate sunlight, Bermuda grass will suffer considerable health consequences. While more serious symptoms take time to surface, you’ll likely notice signs of poor health very early on in your lawn’s life.

When it comes to using Bermuda grass for a residential lawn, unhealthy turf is far from ideal. I’m willing to bet that you want a lawn that is thick and green, not leggy and discolored. The latter is a likely scenario if you grow Bermuda grass where it doesn’t receive enough sunlight.

Thin Patchy Lawn

A thinning lawn is often one of the clearest signs that turf grass is struggling. When grown in the shade, Bermuda grass cannot photosynthesize properly. The result is weak grass that may completely die out in some patches.

Thinning grass is not just a problem because it looks bad. A patchy lawn leaves space for weed seeds to land and germinates in the exposed soil. Since shaded Bermuda grass is already relatively unhealthy, your lawn will have a very hard time competing with such weeds.

Leggy Growth

When grown in low light, Bermuda grass often produces leggy growth. This is a common phenomenon seen in all light-deprived plants. In essence, the elongated stems are the grass’ attempt to reach whatever sunlight may be available to it.

Susceptible to Disease

Yet another potential consequence of growing Bermuda grass where there is too little sunlight is a greater risk of disease. Bermuda grass that receives inadequate sunlight generally has a compromised immune system.

These weakened defenses compound the fact that many pathogens thrive in shady areas. In my experience, fungal diseases are common problems in shaded Bermuda grass lawns.

Tips for Growing Bermuda In Shade

Growing Bermuda grass in an overly shady yard is an uphill battle generally not worth fighting. Instead, the advice below is intended to help you maintain a happy and healthy lawn even in areas that may be partially shaded by tall trees and other objects.

Mowing Long or Short

Mowing any type of grass places stress on the plant itself. You can minimize the stress placed on shaded Bermuda grass by raising your mower blade slightly above the recommended height. 

According to Clemson University, the ideal mowing height for Bermuda grass is typically between 1 and 2 inches tall. When mowing Bermuda grass in shaded areas, I recommend maintaining a height of at least 2 inches.

Do not wait too long between mowing sessions. You should only cut one-third of the grass’ height at a time. Cutting any more at a time will put undue stress on your lawn.

Good Fertilization

Maintain your lawn’s health by fertilizing at least once per year with an appropriate high-nitrogen formula. Though this practice won’t make up for the lack of sunlight on your lawn, it will keep other health problems at bay.

Keep in mind that grass growing in the shade requires less fertilizer than grass exposed to direct sunlight. This is largely because grass naturally grows more slowly in shaded areas. To prevent overfeeding, I recommend applying half the amount of nitrogen fertilizer to shaded Bermuda grass versus that growing in the sun.

Low Foot Traffic

While Bermuda lawns are cherished for their tolerance of heavy foot traffic, it’s important to note that shaded grass is not as durable. To preserve your lawn’s health, I recommend minimizing foot traffic in shaded areas whenever possible.

One great option is to install stepping stones in areas where your lawn is heavily shaded. This will allow traffic to pass over the grass without damaging it. (Unfortunately, this strategy isn’t as effective if young children and pets are responsible for much of your lawn’s wear and tear.)

You can take things one step further by finding other uses for the shaded sections of the lawn. For example, the shadiest parts of my backyard have been converted into low-maintenance garden beds. I would rather look at happy hostas and ferns than try to keep turf grass alive. 

Prune Hedge Growth to Reduce Shadows

Perhaps the most obvious way to improve the health of Bermuda grass is to remove as much shade as possible from your lawn. This can be accomplished by pruning overgrown shrubs and trees, removing large debris, and strategically placing items like patio umbrellas where they won’t cast shadows onto the grass.

Of course, this won’t be possible in many cases. If your lawn is shaded by nearby buildings, mature trees, or other permanent structures, I highly suggest investing in a different type of grass altogether. It is much easier to tailor grass to suit your property versus doing things the other way around!

Best Types of Shade-Tolerant Bermuda

Specific Bermuda grass cultivars have been developed by geneticists for many reasons, including improved shade tolerance. However, the quest for a true shade-loving version of Bermuda grass is still underway.

TifGrand Bermudagrass is the most shade-tolerant cultivar currently available to homeowners. This hybrid reportedly grows in up to 50% shade but individual results may vary. Other cultivars with notable shade tolerance include Celebration and Tifway 419 Bermuda grass. 

Despite these advancements, no Bermuda grass currently exists that is well-suited to shady areas. Even TifGrand Bermudagrass performs best in full sun. While opting for one of these cultivars may produce better results in light shade, you shouldn’t expect to grow healthy Bermuda grass in full shade anytime soon.

Alternatives Grass For Shaded Areas

Bermuda grass is far from the only high-quality turf option out there. If your lawn is partially or entirely shaded, then you’ll get better results by opting for one of the varieties below instead.

The best warm-season grasses for low-light areas are St. Augustine and zoysia. If you’re searching for grass suitable for cooler transitional lawns, I recommend perennial or annual ryegrass.

Completely replacing your Bermuda lawn with a new grass type isn’t always necessary. If you already have Bermuda grass growing in your lawn, I highly recommend experimenting with overseeding the area with more shade-tolerant grass seed. Ideally, the new turf variety will fill in shaded areas where the Bermuda grass has thinned out.

St. Augustine 

Out of all warm-season grasses, St. Augustine boasts the best shade tolerance. However, this grass still needs at least 4 hours of sun per day. 

St. Augustine is a great option for any warm-climate lawn that receives partial shade throughout the day. If your lawn is particularly shady, I recommend planting a more shade-tolerant cultivar for the best results. CitraBlue and Palmetto are the two St. Augustine cultivars most often recognized for their performance in shade.


Zoysia grass is another warm-season turf species that tolerates shade better than most. Like both Bermuda and St. Augustine, however, zoysia grass still needs at least 4 hours of sunlight each day to survive. 

According to Clemson University, zoysia grass often thins out in dense shade. This grass is most appropriate for sunny lawns that have small patches of shade created by trees and other objects.

Emerald zoysia grass is a hybrid cultivar often utilized for its improved shade tolerance. El Toro and JaMur are two more cultivars known for growing well in moderate shade.

Perennial Ryegrass 

Perennial ryegrass is a relatively shade-tolerant variety that can survive off of only 4 or 5 hours of sun per day. According to the University of California, it will tolerate light shade but strongly prefers full sun.

Keep in mind that, unlike Bermuda grass, perennial ryegrass is not a warm-season variety. Rather, it is often used for winter overseeding in areas where Bermuda grass goes dormant in the cooler half of the year.

Whether or not perennial ryegrass is truly suitable for shaded areas is up for debate. Personally, I’ve had success using a seed blend containing ryegrass in my own shaded backyard. However, it’s hard to say how much of the resultant grass is ryegrass versus another variety in the mix.

Fine Fescue

Fine fescue is frequently touted as the most shade-tolerant of all turf grasses. While fescue is technically a cool-season grass, it thrives in the transition zone (a.k.a. the coldest segment of the Bermuda grass range).

Fine fescue encompasses several varieties, each with its own attributes. Of these, Chewings fescue is regarded as the most shade tolerant. Many lawns utilize a blend of fine fescue and perennial ryegrass with great success.

The biggest drawback to using fine fescue in place of Bermuda grass is its lack of extreme heat tolerance. This grass often goes dormant when temperatures exceed 90°F, which may be a dealbreaker for those living in particularly hot climates.

FAQs Bermuda Grass in Shade