En Español

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Saturday - May 03, 2014

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Erosion Control, Shade Tolerant, Grasses or Grass-like, Herbs/Forbs, Shrubs, Vines
Title: Shade tolerant plants for erosion from Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford


I live in Austin and my house backs up to Shoal Creek. I am looking for a native creeping vine or something that will grow on the shaded bank to help prevent erosion. It should be able to tolerate the flooding that happens 5-7 times per year.


We are going to start, going to our Native Plant Database and,  using the selection list on the left-hand side of the page, check Texas, "grass or grass-like" for HABIT, "perennial" for DURATION, "shade" (2 or less hours of sun a day, or "part shade" (2 to 6 hours of sun) for LIGHT REQUIREMENTS and 1-3 ft for HEIGHT. We started with grass or grass-like because, with long fibrous roots, grasses are usually the best bet in controlling erosion. We will make additional searches for the HABIT of "herb" (heraceous blooming plant), "vine" and "shrub," using the same specifications. You can then follow each plant link to our webpage on that plant to learn if its growing conditions match those in your garden. And you can use the same method to look for more plants, maybe with different specifications, that will suit your purposes  better.  Before we put any plant on your list, we will check the USDA Plant Profile Map on that plant to ensure that it will grow in or near Travis County. Texas is a very big state, and there are a lot of very different climates, soils and rainfall amounts, so you want to make sure you are planting something where it will grow. The fact that your slope is shady does limit the number of choices.

Bouteloua curtipendula (Sideoats grama)

Carex blanda (Eastern woodland sedge)

Nolina texana (Texas sacahuista)

Smilax pumila (Sarsaparilla vine)

Aquilegia canadensis (Eastern red columbine)

Asclepias tuberosa (Butterflyweed)

Athyrium filix-femina (Common ladyfern)

Berlandiera lyrata (Chocolate daisy)

Capsicum annuum (Chile pequin)

Mahonia repens (Creeping barberry)

Symphoricarpos orbiculatus (Coralberry)

Leucophyllum frutescens (Cenizo)


From the Image Gallery

Sideoats grama
Bouteloua curtipendula

Eastern woodland sedge
Carex blanda

Texas sacahuista
Nolina texana

Sarsaparilla vine
Smilax pumila

Eastern red columbine
Aquilegia canadensis

Asclepias tuberosa

Common lady fern
Athyrium filix-femina

Chocolate daisy
Berlandiera lyrata

Chile pequin
Capsicum annuum

Creeping barberry
Mahonia repens

Symphoricarpos orbiculatus

Leucophyllum frutescens

More Herbs/Forbs Questions

Winter trimming of Greggs mistflower
November 11, 2007 - Do I cut my gregg's mist back to the ground for the winter or just leave it alone?
view the full question and answer

Native Texas Plants for a Terrarium
October 08, 2014 - I have a 55-gallon aquarium that I would like to make into a terrarium. Are there any Texas native plants that would do well in the limited artificial light of the tank? The plants should be of varyin...
view the full question and answer

Spriranthes sp. blooming on rocky hilltop
November 13, 2015 - I am not sure if my previous question went thru, so I am submitting it again. How unusual is it to find a few blooming specimens of Spiranthes sp. on a rocky hilltop west of Loop 360 near Bee Caves R...
view the full question and answer

Yucca blades damaged by weedeater in Hellertown PA
July 05, 2011 - Can I cut off the blades of a Yucca plant that have been eaten on the edges with a weed wacker and are very unsightly looking? Can they be cut back to the flower shaft?
view the full question and answer

Native Plants for Shaded North Slope in Ohio
January 03, 2013 - I have a shaded north hillside which needs erosion control plants. Mostly moss and very thin grass grows there now. Please help!
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center