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Friday - February 07, 2014

From: Lorton, VA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Erosion Control, Groundcovers, Grasses or Grass-like, Trees
Title: Erosion Solution for Lorton, VA
Answered by: Larry Larson


We have a steep slope in our common area of our homeowners association. Trees that were planted have died. It is a large area around a pond. What should we plant that will hold the soil? The soil has a lot of clay. Should we also put some topsoil on top? Some members want to install a drip sprinkler system, but others think this will add to the erosion.


   Mr. Smarty Plants has a solution to all of this controversy with the use of native plants to landscape this area.  One of the finer properties of native plants is that they have developed in their environment to not need any irrigation or exceptional care.  To combat the erosion, we suggest grasses or shrubs that have extended root systems, those will help hold the soil in place and reduce erosion.

 Here is a selection of previous Mr. Smarty Plants Questions and Answers which address questions similar to yours:
Stabilizing a lakeside slope from Bracey, VA
Riverbank retention in VA
Native Groundcovers for Spartanburg, SC
Erosion Control for a NC Clay Slope

  These all have similar enough lists of grasses and sedges that I think you can find a reasonable set of erosion resistant plants from these.  You also mentioned that all the trees that were planted died.   This link is to the Recommended Species list for Virginia.  If you use the “Narrow the list” capability on the right hand side – you will find nine shrubs that will thrive in full sun and 33 different trees.  All of these will be well adapted, but will need a little bit of support in the first years as they get established.  The Wildflower Center also has some advice for planting trees and getting them established, this can be found in the “How-to Articles" and the “Step by Step Guides”.  By the way, there should be no need for irrigation once they get going!

Here’s a few pictures of plants that are on these lists I supplied – I think you can find some likely candidates amongst them!


From the Image Gallery

Big bluestem
Andropogon gerardii

Awlfruit sedge
Carex stipata

Pennsylvania sedge
Carex pensylvanica

Common serviceberry
Amelanchier arborea

Wax myrtle
Morella cerifera

Smooth sumac
Rhus glabra

Red maple
Acer rubrum

American holly
Ilex opaca

Virginia pine
Pinus virginiana

More Erosion Control Questions

Plants to hold a slope in NY
May 17, 2010 - We recently built a house (on a hillside) and now are having some drainage issues on a fairly steep slope (a small creek is forming in the swale the excavator made "deal" with the drainage). Yester...
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Non-allergenic landscape in Fairfield, CT
April 18, 2009 - I live in Fairfield, CT and need to have a non-allergenic landscape. Can you please list plants, ground covers, and trees/shrubs that would be beautiful, and help in this critical situation? The lan...
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Erosion control on 30-ft. berms in Manor, TX
February 06, 2009 - The Austin Rifle Club has recently re stacked its over 30ft high backstops. We know their will be erosion to these earthen berms. We need some suggestions on what to plant. Our club is a traini...
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Native plants for erosion control in North Carolina
January 29, 2009 - I have an area on the north side of my house that is a hill with about a 6:1 slope. It also has a set of steps used to get from the front of the yard to the rear yard. It is very shaded. I am havin...
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Preventing erosion on a sloping lot
April 16, 2011 - I am trying to find a native plant to use on a sloped area in my back yard to help prevent the slope from eroding away (zone 7- N. Atlanta, GA). I want something evergreen, between 6 to 30 inches tal...
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