En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Monday - February 24, 2014

From: Montgomery, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Erosion Control, Shade Tolerant, Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Ground cover to control erosion in Montgomery County, Texas
Answered by: Nan Hampton


I am looking for some kind of ground cover to control erosion on a north facing slope in Montgomery County, Texas. The area gets very little direct sunlight. I need something that will establish quickly and is non toxic to horses. The soil is red clay covered with several inches of sandy loam.


Grasses and sedges work well for controlling erosion because of their extensive fibrous root systems.  Most grasses, however, tend to do best in full sun.  There are some that are suited for shade.   Here are a few below that do grow in Montgomery County.  A couple of them will do well in shade and the others would work in part shade.  On the species page for each of them be sure to read the GROWING CONDITIONS section to see if other characteristics meet those of your site.

Shade (less than 2 hours of sun per day):

Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats)

Muhlenbergia schreberi (Nimblewill)

Partial shade (2 to 6 hours of sun per day):

Andropogon ternarius (Splitbeard bluestem)

Carex cherokeensis (Cherokee sedge)

Andropogon virginicus (Broomsedge bluestem)

Elymus canadensis (Canada wild rye)

Elymus virginicus (Virginia wildrye)

Eragrostis intermedia (Plains lovegrass)

Schizachyrium scoparium (Little bluestem)

Sporobolus airoides (Alkali sacaton)

Tridens flavus (Purpletop tridens)

Tripsacum dactyloides (Eastern gamagrass)

Grasses would be the easiest to establish since that can be grown from seeds; but, if you would like some variety other than grasses, here are a few small shrubs that would also work in the shade:

Callicarpa americana (American beautyberry)

Ceanothus americanus (New jersey tea)

Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii (Turk's cap or turkscap)

Symphoricarpos orbiculatus (Coralberry)

Morella cerifera (Wax myrtle)

The ASPCA (American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) has a Toxic and Non-Toxic Plant List – Horses.  You can search it (use the botanical name).   I did not find any of the plants above on either the "Toxic" list of the "Non-Toxic" list.  There is also a Wikipedia site, "List of plants poisonous to equines" that is arranged by scientific (or botanical name).

Native American Seeds in Junction Texas has most of the grass seeds listed above for sale.


From the Image Gallery

Inland sea oats
Chasmanthium latifolium

Cherokee sedge
Carex cherokeensis

Broomsedge bluestem
Andropogon virginicus

Canada wild rye
Elymus canadensis

Virginia wildrye
Elymus virginicus

Plains lovegrass
Eragrostis intermedia

Little bluestem
Schizachyrium scoparium

Alkali sacaton
Sporobolus airoides

Purpletop tridens
Tridens flavus

Eastern gamagrass
Tripsacum dactyloides

Turk's cap or turkscap
Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii

Symphoricarpos orbiculatus

More Grasses or Grass-like Questions

Grassburs in native lawn in Utopia TX
June 22, 2010 - I recently planted native Texas grass (Buffalograss, blue grama & curly mesquite) at my new house in the hill country. I had to bring in all the top soil. The grass is doing great, but in one area o...
view the full question and answer

Corn gluten on Habiturf from Austin
January 25, 2014 - I live in Central Austin. This past Spring 2013) I replaced my San Augustine lawn with Habiturf. My question concerns corn gluten. It is usually applied in late Jan - mid Feb. Would using corn glu...
view the full question and answer

Texas native plants for cemetery site
February 09, 2005 - I am trying to landscape my mothers gravesite located in far East Texas (just outside of Nacogdoches) and I am looking for some evergreen bushes or any other decorative plants for that area. I am thi...
view the full question and answer

Assessment of Turffalo buffalograss
June 26, 2009 - Hi, I'm in the process of planning what type of turf to get for a new home in NW Austin. Turffalo/Tech Turf has showed up as a great possibility and I saw some mention of it back on March 05, 2008...
view the full question and answer

Plants for a lakeside bank in NC
November 07, 2011 - Our association is looking to plant a huge sloped area that runs down to Lake Wylie. We want to plant something that is good for erosion and that does not grow too tall so that we keep our view of th...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center