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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

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Replacement for grass under non-native weeping willow from Yorba Linda CA
April 24, 2012 - What would be a good replacement for the grass currently growing under a weeping willow? Something requiring low maintenance, the problem is with mowing over and around the roots.
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Ground cover for a bank in PA
April 28, 2012 - I live in Landisburg, PA, (zone 6). I need to find some ground cover for a primarily full sun bank that is roughly 10-12' down over the embankment and up to 100' long. This area wraps around our po...
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Ground cover for burned acreage in Bastrop, Texas
October 31, 2011 - The fire took 2/3 of the trees on my half acre in Bastrop County. It was mostly wild. What do I plant for ground cover? Do I plant native grass seed in fall? I want to keep it native as possible. ...
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Plants for a sunny sloped roadside in Ohio
May 31, 2010 - I am looking for a solution to a slope that cannot be easily mowed. Our yard is flat until you get about 15 feet from the road at which point it angles up to a small 5 foot area next to the road. I ...
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