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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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Groundcovers for Kingsland TX
October 11, 2012 - I am looking for a list of native ground covers and grasses(not lawn grass).
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Ground cover for heavy dog traffic in Huntsville TX
July 23, 2010 - We have recently moved to Huntsville, TX where our backyard is very shady and has only a small patch of St. Augustine grass and the rest is a dry, sand-like soil. We also have 2 Great Danes and 2 Pugs...
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Erosion Control in Bartlesville OK
May 10, 2012 - What kind of plants can we use to stop erosion and loss of bank on a creek that is mostly shaded? Is there any free advice/plants for people that are losing land due to water levels rising/dropping?
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Groundcovers & Shrubs for Shade in North Carolina
April 30, 2013 - Mr Smarty Pants, My neighbor planted cypress trees as a border between his yard and ours and it is sucking up every drop of water and nutrient. We also have a purple plum in the area which creates ...
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