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What To Do When Grass Won’t Grow Under Trees?

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You can’t have a lush lawn without healthy grass. It is important to consider how trees might affect your landscape and turf growing habits. The shady areas don’t sustain thick green blades over time like those on sun-exposed sides do.

It is the reason you notice that the turf under trees is not as fresh and green as the rest of the lawn, or it doesn’t grow in difficult situations. The dry patches in your yard don’t look so appealing.

For this reason, you must be wondering “what to do when grass won’t grow under trees.” We have compiled this guide to resolve this issue; read on!

What To Do When Grass Wont Grow Under Trees

Reasons Why Grass Won’t Grow Under Trees

As you plan your landscaping, it can be challenging to grow grass under trees. To counteract this situation, you must know the factors that hinder grass from growing under the trees. Let’s look at these factors:

1. Shade

Grass loves sunlight. As the tree matures and its canopy develops, less sunlight reaches the ground level. It causes grass to struggle for life or even die off completely.

2. Dense/Close Canopy

A tree’s roots often take up too much space, and water is scarce under these surfaces because of their closed canopy.

3. Lack of Moisture

Grass needs plenty of moisture, which is usually in short supply under the dense tree canopy. A tree canopy can make a lawn more susceptible to dryness because it blocks rainwater from reaching the ground.

The moisture in the air and on top of grass leaves makes maintaining healthy turf difficult. This is why you will often see dead spots under trees.

4. Allelopathy

Allelopathy is a biological process wherein one plant produces biochemicals that can affect other plants in their surrounding area. For example, trees release allelochemicals that act as natural weedkillers and help protect them from being eaten by other vegetation or animals.

However, this same trait could potentially negatively affect landscaping where there are too many competing tree species growing near each other.

It results in an interference effect (opposite) preventing healthy growth. Thus, the grass is difficult/impossible to survive due to its roots not having enough resources for life cycle processes.

5. Foot Traffic

Trees are good for the environment; people usually prefer sitting under trees, so this area receives foot traffic. Heavy foot traffic causes soil to compact.

6. Soil Compaction

Soil compaction stunts grass growth, making roots unable to access nutrients in subsoil close to or at their surface level.

7. Lack of Nutrients

The tree’s roots keep oxygen below ground level, which shrinks plants’ root growth and limits their ability to uptake nutrients from the soil or other supplies near them. It also takes away water absorption capacity by about 60% through its xylem system.

What To Do When Grass Wont Grow Under Trees 2
Why is the grass around the tree dying via

What To Do When Grass Won’t Grow Under Trees?

Trees are a great addition to any yard, but they can also be tricky when keeping grass green under them. Grass has a limited capacity for uptake, so that competition with trees forces its growth rate down.

While some unique circumstances keep grass green without turning brown, examples are light woodlands, forests, and a closed canopy forest. Growing grass under trees can be possible if you take the following measure.

1. Improve Sunlight

The best way to keep your grass healthy is by providing it with the proper amount of sunlight. You can do this in several ways, such as:

  • Pruning lower branches, so they’re no longer shading part of the canopy to restrict from receiving enough UV rays
  • Removing selective branches (taking guide from an expert) to add space for air and sunlight

2. Treat Fungus Growth

Shady spots where air circulation isn’t happening cause fungus to grow. Treat the area with quality fungus fighters like Scotts DiseaseEx Lawn Fungicide – Fungus Control before fungus takes hold.

Scotts DiseaseEx Lawn Fungicide What To Do When Grass Wont Grow Under Trees

3. Mow At Higher Setting

To grow grass under trees, you should mow it at the height of 3 inches. It allows the leaf blades to get longer and have more surface area for photosynthesis without sunlight.

4. Reduce Foot Traffic

Shade-stressed plants can suffer from heavy wear when it is traffic controlled with people and their animals walking all over them. You can reduce this by:

  • Relieving soil compaction around trees
  • Using physical barriers such as dog runs which require a runway of mulch along the fence

5. Use the Grass Seed for Shade

The shade-tolerant and disease-resistant seeds are perfect for growing grass under the trees. Make sure to reseed this shady area three times a year, i.e., spring, summer, and fall.

  • Scotts 18348 Grass Seed gives you the best shade-tolerant grass with lower water and nutrient requirements.
  • St. Augustine grass, fescue grass tolerates more shade than other types.
Scotts 18348 Grass Seed What To Do When Grass Wont Grow Under Trees

6. Reduce Soil Compaction

To grow grass under your tree, reduce soil compaction and improve drainage by core aerating the area. For this plan to work correctly, Liquid Aerating Soil Loosener- Aerator Soil Conditioner must be raked into an existing pit or hole.

Liquid Aerating Soil Loosener Aerator Soil Conditioner What To Do When Grass Wont Grow Under Trees

7. Mulch the Area

Tree roots need to grow through the mulch for grass under trees to survive. Apply a thick enough layer, i.e., 4 to 6 inches deep, of mulching material that includes leaves, pine, and straw to prevent grass from dying back.

8. Give Minimum Fertilizer

Grass growing in the shade will need less fertilizer and is more susceptible to diseases than those on sunny spots. So, it is best to avoid giving excessive fertilizers.


Some people think it’s impossible to grow grass under trees, but this article proves it wrong. To allow the grass to grow under the trees, you should

  • Increase the amount of sunlight to reach the shady area by selectively pruning trees
  • Choose a shade-tolerant grass type
  • Mow at a comparatively higher setting
  • Avoid excessive fertilization
  • Mulch

So, these factors make growing turf pretty easy cases. Share with us below if this sounds like something worth considering!