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How to Replace a Lawn with Shade Perennials

Ask This Old House landscape contractor Roger Cook offers some alternatives to grass in a shady spot.

Steps for planting shade perennials:

  1. Shady areas are tough for grass growing.
  2. A soil test will dictate which nutrients need to be added to the soil.
  3. Some grass seed will tolerate light shade.
  4. All grasses require a lot of water to be healthy.
  5. Grasses under a tree canopy will struggle as the tree gets larger.
  6. Ground covers like Pachysandra, Ferns, and Ivy will do well in the shade, but ivy can spread quickly. All ground cover also require patience. Roger says “the first year they sleep, the second year they creep, the third year they leap!”
  7. Flowering plants like hosta are another choice for the shade.


Shade tolerant grasses, ground covers, and perennials are all available at home centers and garden centers.