March 02, 2012

by Charlie Neumeryer,
Victoria County Master Gardener

edited by Charla Borchers Leon,
Victoria County Master Gardener
Gardeners' Dirt
Large Live Oak trees with a thick canopy and low limbs make growing turf very difficult. Notice the lack of vegetation beneath this tree.
This Amerishade sprig displays its characteristics of a deep green color, dwarf growth habit and closely spaced nodes that help create a thick lawn. It is a shade-tolerant St. Augustine cultivar.
This close-up shot of Shadow Turf displays the density of the turf and its true green color. It is a shade-loving cultivar in the zoysiagrass family.
Everyone loves beautiful, healthy trees. They are visually appealing, create cool zones during hot summer months and provide habitat for various types of wildlife. However, there are some drawbacks.

In Texas, we love our turf and pride ourselves on lush, green lawns. To a certain extent, healthy trees with a dense canopy and healthy, thick lawns are mutually exclusive.

When I give presentations on turf, generally, the first question I get goes something like this: "I have this big live oak tree, and I can't get grass to grow under it. What kind of grass grows best in this situation?" The usual answer is, "Cut down the tree, or give up on the grass." That is sort of a flip answer, but in many ways it is true.

New turfs for shade

Dense shade and lush lawns are generally incompatible. While there are various cultivars of St. Augustinegrass and zoysiagrass that do relatively well in the shade, two cultivars, Amerishade and Shadow Turf, have recently been developed specifically for shady areas.

Amerishade - St. Augustinegrass licensed to King Ranch

Amerishade is a shade-tolerant St. Augustinegrass that was developed by the Scott's Company and licensed exclusively to King Ranch Turfgrass. King Ranch selected Amerishade for its ability to thrive in shady areas.

*Amerishade - Deep green and dense

A dark, green grass with medium texture, Amerishade has a semi-dwarf growth habit with smaller blades and shorter internodes, setting it apart from other varieties of St. Augustine.

The several sprigs of Amerishade I planted last fall are a deep green with leaves that are smaller than the typical St. Augustinegrass. With blades about 11/2 to 1 3/4-inch long, they are spaced very closely together on the stolon so the turf is very dense.  The recommended mowing height is 1 to 3 inches.

According to extension turfgrass specialists Dr. David Chalmers and Dr. James McAfee, in their publication, "Turfgrass Selection for Texas," St. Augustinegrass in general is the most shade tolerant of the warm season grasses that grow well in our area. Chalmers did note that Amerishade looks "as good or better than other St. Augustinegrasses in relation to shade tolerance" - an option to consider.

Amerishade - Grown at Wharton Farms

Grown locally in Wharton at Wharton Farms, it is propagated in open fields, so it can take some sun also. The grass costs $225 per pallet not including shipping and taxes, and will cover 450 square feet. According to King Ranch employee Steve Roushey, the Amerishade blends well with other varieties of St. Augustinegrass so that there is not much noticeable difference in the lawn where the two types of St.Augustine grasses meet.

Shadow Turf - A Zoysia grass developed by Turfallo/Texas Tech University

Shadow Turf, another shade-loving turf, was developed by nurseryman Mark Ivey for Turfallo to be compatible with Tech Turf, a sun-loving turf they developed in conjunction with Texas Tech University. According to Trent Ryan who works for Turfallo and its parent company Frontier Hybrids, Shadow Turf is a type of Manila grass, which is in the zoysiagrass family.

Zoysiagrasses in general are adapted to our local area, and there are three varieties growing in the Victoria Educational Gardens. According to Chalmers and McAfee, zoysiagrass has moderate-to-high shade tolerance, about the same water requirement as St. Augustinegrass, but better drought tolerance. Zoysiagrass also has a lower disease potential.

*Shadow Turf - Promising shade tolerance

The National Turfgrass Evaluation Program showed the performance of Shadow Turf was consistent with the performance of other zoysiagrasses, although shade tolerance was not evaluated. In a study conducted by Dr. Aaron Patton from the University of Arkansas entitled "Selected Zoysiagrass Cultivars: Turf Quality and Stress Tolerance," Patton notes that in a greenhouse study simulating a 90 percent shade situation, the cultivars Diamond and Shadow Turf had good shade tolerance while other zoysiagrass cultivars did not fare as well.

*Shadow Turf - Grown near Lubbock as plugs

Shadow Turf is grown in Abernathy, which is just north of Lubbock. It is established by plugs rather than seeding or sod. Plugs can be purchased from distributors across the state or ordered directly from the company at Priced at $89.90 plus tax and shipping, each flat contains 72 plugs, so for a 504 square-foot area plugged at 12-inch intervals, the Turffalo website recommends seven flats that will run approximately $630.00. Ryan indicated that the company will start shipping Turffalo products in March.

New turfs survive in sun, are bred for shade

These two relatively new turfs offer options to homeowners who want a thick turf in all areas of their lawns. Both cultivars look promising, but more testing must be done, specifically in the area of shade tolerance. Although both do well in the sun and shade, the biggest differences are in their pricing and in the texture - the St. Augustinegrass cultivar will be coarser than the zoysiagrass cultivar. As is always the case, the homeowner must look at all the options and choose a turf that suits specific growing conditions.
Turfgrass varieties growing in full sun plots are shown dormant in January at Victoria Educational Gardens. Brown Bermudagrass varieties are in the front, St. Augustine in the back left, and zoysiagrass varieties are on the right.
St. Augustine cultivar
Deep green color
Moderately susceptible to insects
Subject to brown patch
Moderately drought tolerant
Mow weekly at 1 inch to 3 inches
Plant using sod, sprigs or plugs

Zoysiagrass cultivar
True green color
Moderately susceptible to brown patch
Good drought tolerance
Plant using plugs
Mow at two to three inches
Use reel versus rotary mower

Go to webpage and click on PDF to view brochure
The Gardeners' Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas AgriLife Extension - Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901; or, or comment on this column at