Grass Growing Under A Large Tree
(Image credit: Christina Gessler)

Everyone wants to enjoy a nice, lush lawn, including those of us with a tree or two in the yard. If you have trees in your yard though, it's a safe bet that you think, "Why can't I grow grass under a tree?" While growing grass under a tree may pose a challenge, it is possible with the proper care.

Why Can't I Grow Grass Under a Tree?

Grass seldom grows well under trees due to the shade. Most types of grass prefer sunlight, which gets blocked out by the shade casted from tree canopies. As trees grow, the amount of shade increases and eventually the grass beneath begins to die. Grass also competes with trees for moisture and nutrients. Therefore, the soil becomes drier and less fertile. Rain shielded from the tree's canopy can also limit the amount of moisture in the soil. Mowing can lessen the chance of grass survival as well. Grass under trees should be mowed slightly higher than other areas of the lawn to help retain moisture levels. Another factor making it difficult to grow grass under trees is excessive leaf litter, which should be raked regularly, especially in fall and spring, to encourage more light to reach grass.

How to Grow Grass Under Trees

With proper care and determination, you can successfully grow grass under a tree. Choosing shade-tolerant grasses such as fine fescue is about the only way to ensure the healthy growth of grass under trees. The grass seeds should be sown in early spring or fall and watered daily. This can gradually be reduced once grass has taken hold, but should still be watered deeply at least once or twice a week. Other than choosing shade-tolerant grasses, you should increase the amount of light by pruning the tree's lower branches. Removing lower branches allows more sunlight to filter through, making it easier for grass to grow. Grass under trees should also be watered more, especially during periods of dry weather. It may be a good idea to fertilize the area more frequently as well, about two to three times a year. Growing grass under a tree can be difficult but not impossible. Planting shade-tolerant grass while increasing the amount of both water and light should be enough to successfully grow and enjoy lush, green grass under trees.

Nikki Tilley
Senior Editor

Nikki Tilley has been gardening for nearly three decades. The former Senior Editor and Archivist of Gardening Know How, Nikki has also authored six gardening books.