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?

Share

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

Sunday - May 18, 2014

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Erosion Control, Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Fast-growing ground cover for creekside
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Hi Mr. Smarty Plants. I live in Austin Texas and am looking for an aggressively spreading ground cover or grass to plant along a small creek on the back of my property in order to help with soil erosion. Something that grows not-too-terribly tall would be nice so we can still walk around back there. Also the area is quite shady because of the trees growing along the creek now. As in shady to the point that even the horseherb (Calyptocarpus vials) that I planted there has failed to thrive. Any suggestions?

ANSWER:

Grasses are very good for erosion control because of their extensive fibrous root system.  Most grasses prefer the sun; but there is one grass, Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats), that loves the shade and grows well in moist or dry soils.  The species page says it can grow 2 to 4 feet high, but it usually stays within the 2 foot range.   It is a clumping grass and a perennial.   If you buy plugs to plant, you can space them so that you can easily walk between them; however, they will eventually spread to fill in the intervening space if you allow them.  In the winter they will turn brown but still look attractive with their drooping seed stalks.   You will probably want to trim them in the spring to allow room for the new growth.

Sorghastrum nutans (Indiangrass) is another grass that grows well in the shade.  It is also a perennial but during most of the year it is low-growing.   It can reach a height of 8 feet with its attractive flower/seed stalk.

Nolina texana (Texas sacahuista) is grass-like, but not technically a grass.   It is evergreen and grows in clumps in part shade.

Other possibilities for shade plants that will aid in preventing erosion are some of the sedges.   These recommended below are evergreen and grow well in the shade. 

Carex blanda (Eastern woodland sedge) grows to about 1 foot tall.  Here is more information from Illinois Wildflowers.

Carex cherokeensis (Cherokee sedge) also grows to about 1 foot tall.   Here is more information from Missouri Botanical Garden.

Carex planostachys (Cedar sedge) grows to less than 1 foot.   Here is more information from Uvalde Texas A & M Agrilife Research & Extension Center.

 

From the Image Gallery


Inland sea oats
Chasmanthium latifolium

Indiangrass
Sorghastrum nutans

Texas sacahuista
Nolina texana

Eastern woodland sedge
Carex blanda

Cherokee sedge
Carex cherokeensis

Cedar sedge
Carex planostachys

More Grasses or Grass-like Questions

Plants for steep slope in shade in Iowa
July 02, 2010 - I work for a small non-profit shelter here in Dubuque, Ia. that has a very steep slope behind the building that needs some sort of plant or grass planted to stop erosion. The slope gets little to no s...
view the full question and answer

Native wildflower habitat for North Carolina
January 24, 2007 - I am from North Carolina and have been gradually establishing a wildflower spring garden. I now have a beautiful display of bluets and cornflowers that grace my front yard in the spring. Most of this...
view the full question and answer

Comments on previous answer on non-native invasives from Raleigh NC
March 27, 2014 - https://www.wildflower.org/expert/show.php?id=7827 This answer is incorrect. Please have someone review it to remove the two invasive species you are encouraging people to plant by calling them nati...
view the full question and answer

Plants to stop erosion on creek side
July 05, 2011 - I need plants for a westside slope to a creek that will help with erosion, need fast growing and likes lots of sun. Thank you, Mr. Smarty Plants
view the full question and answer

Grasses for moist, steep hillside in Tupelo MS
July 01, 2010 - I have a very steep bank that I have pampas grass planted in spots. It must be a natural spring in the bank because it stays very wet and runs into the street below. Can you suggest something to pla...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center