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Gardening in the Shade

Grasses

Most turf grasses perform best in the sun. Some cultivars of cool-season grasses such as fescues, ryegrass, and bluegrass have been selected for their tolerance to shady conditions. See G6725, Grasses in Shade, for a listing of shade tolerant turf varieties as well as suggestions for improving turf growth in the shade. Several ornamental grasses and grasslike plants perform well in the shade.

Bottlebrush grass (Hystrix patula)

  • Shade tolerance
    Light to medium
  • Size
    1 to 2 feet tall
  • Green flower spikes resembling bottlebrushes rise 1 to 2 feet above the foliage in summer. Flowers turn brown by late summer, and shatter by late fall. Native woodland plant.

Hakonegrass (Hakenochloa macra)

  • Shade tolerance
    Light to medium
  • Size
    1 to 2 feet tall
  • Horizontal weeping foliage is similar to bamboo. 'Aureola' has yellow foliage streaked with green. Prefers moist soil, but not wet clay.

Maiden grass, Silver grass (Miscanthus sinensis)

  • Shade tolerance
    Light
  • Size
    4 to 6 feet tall
  • Surprisingly tolerant of shade. Variegated cultivars such as porcupine grass, zebra grass, 'Variegatus' and 'Morning Light' are best with morning sun and afternoon shade.

Sedge (Carex sp)

  • Shade tolerance
    Light to medium
  • Size
    6 inches to 2 feet tall
  • Clump forming grasslike plants that grow best in wet soils in the shade. Foliage color ranges from medium green to blue green, yellow, brown, or nearly black.

Soft rush (Juncus effusus)

  • Shade tolerance
    Light to medium
  • Size
    1-1/2 to 2-1/2 feet tall
  • Clumps of medium green grasslike foliage with tan flowers near the ends of stems. Prefers wet, boggy soils.

Tufted hairgrass (Deschampsia caespitosa)

  • Shade tolerance
    Light to medium
  • Size
    1 to 3 feet tall
  • A cool-season clumping grass. Panicles of light green flowers create almost veil-like appearance. Prefers moist soil.

Woodrush (Luzula sp)

  • Shade tolerance
    Light to medium
  • Size
    6 to 12 inches tall
  • Clumps of gray-green to medium green foliage covered by downy hairs. Flowers are white to tan. Prefers moist conditions.

 

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G6911 Gardening in the Shade | Page 5 | University of Missouri Extension