Why is my Bemudagrass so thin in some places?

Almost every Bermudagrass lawn that we encounter has areas where the grass is thin. What do these lawns have in common? Shade. Bermudagrass needs full sun all day in order to stay thick. If you have a Bermudagrass lawn, then you have probably noticed this phenomenon.

Your Bermudagrass lawn is most likely a hybrid type. Real estate developers in Wake Forest, NC today seem to prefer hybrid Bermudagrasses to other types of grass probably because they are relatively affordable and establish easily from sod. Hybrid Bermudagrasses make a very attractive lawn when cut at the proper height (about 1.5″) and frequency (about once per week), when they receive adequate water (about 1″ per week), and when in full sun (about 8 hours per day). The great thing about Bermudagrass is that it will take a lot of abuse. Cut it improperly or infrequently, let your kids and pets rip and tear on it all summer, neglect to water it. While it may look a little ragged under these circumstances, Bermudagrass will usually survive, and even better, it will repair itself because it spreads aggressively by both underground stolons and above ground rhizomes (runners). Here’s the bad news: It won’t look as nice in areas where it receives shade at some point during the day, and it doesn’t stand a chance where there is less than about six hours of full sun exposure per day.

Lawn areas that are typically thin on a Bermudagrass lawn due to shade are those against the foundation of your house or fence, and under or near trees and shrubs. If your house is within 25-30 feet of your neighbor’s house, the Bermudagrass may be thinner between your houses. Southern exposures of your property are exceptions because they tend to receive more sunlight.

What are some other options for areas that receive less than 8 hours of sun per day? Along foundations, fences, and natural areas, or under the branches of trees in your yard, consider non-lawn features such as shade tolerant shrubs, perennial flowers, or ground covers. For larger areas where you would like to have a lawn, choose a different type of grass. Most Zoysiagrasses and a couple cultivars of Bermudagrass may do okay with 6-7 hours of sunlight. Tall Fescue does well with 5-6 hours of sunlight, but it is a cool-season plant that will not match your Bermudagrass well. Fine Fescues are known to survive with as little as 3-5 hours of full sun.

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