While most grasses prefer sun, St. Augustine grass is an excellent warm-season grass that tolerates full shade. Velvet bentgrass and red creeping fescue are an excellent cool season grasses that also withstand shade. Poa bluegrass withstands both shade and drought, but its pale green color makes it difficult to plant with other grasses. Zoysia, centipede grass and carpetgrass grow in areas that are mostly shade, but they need some direct sun every day in order to live.
To encourage grass growth, homeowners should consider thinning some of their trees to allow the grass to receive some sun each day, if the trees are the primary source of the shade in their yard. When planting grass seed, homeowners should water it thoroughly and mow it as high as possible to allow it to fully establish itself.
Perennial ryegrass tolerates shade well but is an annual plant. It can grow year-round in the north, but in the southern United States homeowners grow it as a cold weather ground cover. Usually people plant perennial ryegrass as a temporary ground cover that keeps the lawn green during the winter or allows another grass to establish itself.
Homeowners who only need ground cover underneath a few trees should consider other types of ground cover beyond grass. Hosta, cast iron plant, dichondra, sweet Woodruff and Asian jasmine all thrive in shady areas without extensive help.