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Home HortScience Zoysiagrass Varieties that Perform in Shade
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DALLAS, TX—Turfgrass must be resilient to survive. In shaded areas, especially under dense trees, the grasses can become extremely stressed, jump-starting built-in shade-avoidance responses that can result in a range of undesirable biological changes. A new study of commercial turfgrass cultivars from scientists at the Texas AgriLIFE Research and Extension Center contains valuable information for turfgrass professionals looking for heartier varieties that can thrive in shaded areas.

The team evaluated 10 commercial varieties of zoysiagrass during their 3-year research study. A warm-season turfgrass that is gaining popularity throughout the transition zone and southern United States, zoysiagrass has traditionally used for lawns. Recently, new varieties of have been developed for golf course tees, fairways, and greens.

In the first year of the study the researchers planted zoysiagrass plugs in a nursery of live oak trees that provided 89% shade. Over the next 2 years they evaluated the turf plots for quality, density, color, vertical canopy height, and extent of lateral spread, and ranked the zoysiagrass varieties using a turf performance index, or TPI. The researchers noted that one of the most interesting findings of this study was the wide genetic variability among zoysiagrass cultivars for their ability to persist in heavy shade. "Although all cultivars showed increases in lateral spread during the study, a wide range of spread was observed," they said.

"We found that, although overall turfgrass quality was noticeably reduced by the heavily shaded environment, some cultivars attained acceptable levels during midsummer periods," said B.G. Wherley, the study's corresponding author. 'Royal', 'Zorro', and 'Shadow Turf' zoysiagrass ranked in the top statistical grouping most often throughout the study.

Four of the 10 cultivars that emerged as top performers were Z. matrella cultivars; conversely, four of the bottom six performers were Z. japonica cultivars. "These results suggest that Z. matrellas may be better adapted than Z. japonicas for heavily shaded environments where inputs are conserved," Wherley said.


The complete study and abstract are available on the ASHS HortScience electronic journal web site:

Founded in 1903, the American Society for Horticultural Science (ASHS) is the largest organization dedicated to advancing all facets of horticultural research, education, and application. More information at


Original Article:

Low-input Performance of Zoysiagrass (Zoysia spp.) Cultivars Maintained under Dense Tree Shade
B.G. Wherley, P. Skulkaew, A. Chandra, A.D. Genovesi, and M.C. Engelke
HortScience 46:1033–1037. [Abstract][Full Text][PDF]

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