Sod in the shade

Asked July 5, 2018, 6:55 AM EDT

The lawn company I use had some leftover sod and placed it in my yard at the beginning of June on a bare secion of my yard. They removed the patchy grass/weeds and put a base of top soil first. The area is quite shaded probably 75% of the day as it is on the north side of my home and there is a large tree right above the area. The sod is green still, but the roots have not grown into the ground. At this point, the grass is probably 8-10 inches long as the lawn company will not cut it until it is firmly attached by roots.

Seems like this is not normal. What is the problem that the sod is not rooting? Is it too shady? What will it take to get this sod rooted?

Oakland County Michigan

3 Responses


Success with sod is all about soil prep, fresh sod, and after care.

It sounds like the sod was fresh since it is still growing.

Preparation requires the soil base to be worked 4-6 inches deep.

Topping with soil on a base that is very different- clay or sand- can create a ‘barrier’ effect which roots are not likely to cross.

Frequent shallow watering may keep upper soil layers near a constant saturation point. This condition encourages shallow rooting and promotes weak turf which is susceptible to disease and insect attack as well as damage from traffic. For most turfgrass areas watering deeply 2-3 times per week on clay soils and 3-5 times per week for sandy soils is recommended.

Here is a reference on how to successfully establish a sod lawn-

You are correct that the shaded location is not ideal. At least 6 hours sun is needed. Shaded areas gradually decline. The shaded areas typically need to be over-seeded every year to maintain the lawn. Weeds will be more likely to grow in these areas.

Right now the lawn should be carefully mowed ( using a homewoner style walk behind mower) cutting no more than 1/3of the top of per mowing and waiting 3-4 days before mowing again.

Water deeply as noted above and, once established, consider aerating and top dressing with 1/4- 1/2inch of compost each fall to help incorporate more organic matter into the root zone. Consult an arborist ( to see if thinning the tree is an option so more light reaches the lawn. Thank you for using our service.

Is there any type of grass or ground cover that would work well in this shady area?

There are many plants, some low growing, that can be considered lawn alternatives. Ajuga, lamium, blue sedge, sweet woodruff are examples. Even creeping Charlie and wild violets can be used, though these are aggressive and can spread into sunny areas. Here are some links that give you plant lists that prefer shade and are considered by gardeners who want Alternatives to a lawn—-

See page 16 of the following publication- “Shade under trees”

Before deciding on shade plants we recommend you have a soil test so that you know your soil type, pH and organic matter. Some Shade loving plants do have preferences for certain pH, moisture, and soil type, others are not fussy. You can purchase a soil test self mailer at MSU Extension office in Pontiac Mi

( or order a self mailer kit here—-

We’d be glad to help you select plants if you can tell us the attributes of your soil, moisture level, and how you would like to use the area- to view only or tolerant of foot traffic.