Most varieties of lawn grasses thrive in brightly lit, sunny locations. This can leave lawn areas under trees and beside structures looking sparse and unhealthy. Choosing a grass type that tolerates shady conditions provides an attractive, even cover in these areas. Centipede grass is one type of grass that survives in areas that don’t receive bright sunlight.
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Centipede grass is a warm-season grass that spreads through the formation of above ground runners. It is a variety of warm-season grass, meaning it is green during the active summer months and brown during the dormant winter months. Centipede grass flourishes in the warm, humid southern states, such as Georgia and Florida.
Centipede grass tolerates moderate shade. Unlike many types of grass, centipede grass can grow in areas that receive as few as eight hours of sunlight each day. It also withstands continual filtered sunlight, as long as the shaded areas make up no more than 30 percent of the surface of the lawn area. While centipede grass tolerates more shade than many varieties of warm-season grasses, the accompanying reduction in air circulation, as well as the increase in humidity and soil moisture can take a toll on the overall health and appearance of the grass.
Centipede grass tends to grow slowly in shaded areas. In addition to blocking the sunlight, nearby trees can compete with centipede grass for soil nutrients. Trimming up the overhead branches to remove branch crowding will allow for the maximum amount of sunlight and can improve the health and color of the shaded centipede grass. Overhanging trees also tend to shed leaves over the underlying grass, increasing the risk of decomposing vegetation and fungal diseases.
Centipede grass in shady locations requires special care. Due to the slower rate of growth, it needs less fertilizer than grasses grown in bright sunlight. Centipede grass that grows in shaded areas also requires less frequent watering, due to the lack of sunlight and heat, elements that assist in evaporation. Testing the nutrient levels in the soil prior to fertilizing will help you avoid over fertilizing, a problem that can damage your centipede grass. Shady locations also require less frequent mowing.