Almost all commonly grown species of turf grass grow well in full sun, and most species will fare better in sunny locations than they will in the shade. Still, a preference for sunshine doesn't necessarily mean that a grass species is tolerant of the heat and drought that often go along with full-sun exposure in warm climates, and the best grasses for extremely sunny locations may be those species that can handle high temperatures and dry conditions.
Cool-Season and Warm-Season Grasses
Turf grass species are categorized as either warm-season or cool-season types. Cool-season grasses are adapted to climates with cool springs and autumns and cold winters. They grow actively in the spring and fall when temperatures are relatively cool and rain is frequent, and they enter a dormant period during the hottest, driest part of the summer. These grasses are generally used in lawns in the northern United States.
Warm-season grasses are more tolerant of heat than cool-season species, but they are generally incapable of surviving winters in cold climates. They grow actively in the middle of the summer, and they go dormant when the weather cools in the fall.
In areas of the lawn where turf grass is exposed to sun for eight or more hours every day, the grass will also be exposed to high temperatures during the peak of summer heat in warm climates. Tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea) is a cool-season species that is especially heat-tolerant; it is winter-hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 2 to 7, and its heat tolerance will help it to stand up to full-sun exposure in the warmer part of that range.
Warm-season grasses are, in general, tolerant of heat, but a tough species such as Bermuda grass (Cynodon spp.) may be the best choice in locations where conditions are extreme. Bermuda grass is hardy in USDA zones 7 to 10, and it is also tolerant of heavy traffic and salt.
Drought tolerance may also be a concern in sunny locations, since soil exposed to sun tends to dry out quickly. Among cool-season grasses, tall fescue is one of the more drought-tolerant species, and in combination with its heat tolerance, this attribute makes it an excellent choice for sunny spots in northern lawns. Among warm-season species, Bermuda grass can withstand drought, but some varieties may go dormant during dry periods. Zoysia grass (Zoysia spp.) is also drought-tolerant, and because it is hardy in USDA zones 6 to 9, it is well suited to sunny locations in somewhat cooler climates than other warm-season species.