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

Wednesday - July 30, 2014

From: Camano Island and Orcas Island, WA
Region: Northwest
Topic: Rain Gardens, Groundcovers, Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Groundcover for a wet hillside in the San Juan Islands
Answered by: Larry Larson

QUESTION:

I live on Orcas Island in WA state. We have a place on the water and want to plant something that is no taller than 2-3 feet, lower if possible, on a hillside. The hillside gets lots of sun, yet also has a lot of water in the ground since the mountain near us drains down toward the sea. We'd like to cover the hillside, about 3-5 feet wide and 20 feet long with a type of ground cover or plant that will fill the area. I looked at butterfly weed, but that doesn't seem to be a WA state type of plant. Any other ideas for wet ground, full sun, ground type cover plants?

ANSWER:

  Mr Smarty Plants doesn’t have a lot of material on the San Juan Islands, so I’m going to look at similar areas and check if their recommendations work at Orcas Island.  Here are a few Mr Smarty Plants question/answer pairs that have useful discussion and suggestions.  I have extracted just a few of their suggested groundcovers that are adapted to full sun and wet or moist soil and are indicated to grow as a native in the San Juan Islands.

  Farthest afield is “Plants to replace Polygonum cuspidatum ( Japanese knotweed) which was actually written from Wisconsin.  This discussion suggested both Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (Kinnikinnick) and Cornus canadensis (Bunchberry dogwood), which are also native to NW Washington and the Islands.

  “Groundcover for Oregon gravel path” suggests Fragaria chiloensis (Beach strawberry) and Fragaria virginiana (Virginia strawberry) and even closer to home  “Low maintenance, shade tolerant groundcover for Pacific Northwest”  recommended  Linnaea borealis (Twinflower) and Mahonia nervosa (Cascade barberry).   All of these are groundcover or low shrubs, are adapted to full sun and wet to moist soil.  In addition, they are indicated to be native to the San Juan Islands according to the USDA.

  Another method we use is a direct search.  The Wildflower Center maintains a set of "Recommended Species” for many states and ecoregions.  This is the list for Washington State. On the left hand side of the web-page, one can search the collection for several attributes.  When I did that for “grass & grass-like” aspect, full sun and wet or moist soil, the search revealed three more candidates.  They are  Carex stipata (Awlfruit sedge), Distichlis spicata (Saltgrass) and Trisetum spicatum (Narrow false oat).

  Those are my suggestions for your groundcover.  I also found these locally interesting question/answer pairs.    “Grass for Seattle Arboretum”, is of course close, but has recommendations for different applications and climate.  Resources for Camano Island is directly applicable, but “just” contains a number of excellent reference books and information for that area.

 

From the Image Gallery


Kinnikinnick
Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

Bunchberry dogwood
Cornus canadensis

Beach strawberry
Fragaria chiloensis

Virginia strawberry
Fragaria virginiana

Twinflower
Linnaea borealis

Awlfruit sedge
Carex stipata

More Grasses or Grass-like Questions

Ground cover to control erosion in Montgomery County, Texas
February 24, 2014 - 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 quick...
view the full question and answer

Drought affecting non-native Zoysia grass in Austin
November 06, 2011 - Due to the extreme drought here in Austin this year and the watering restrictions our Zoysia lawn has suffered and appears to be dead in many areas of our lawn. Will it come back? Is there anything w...
view the full question and answer

Dividing Gulf muhly in Leander TX
October 16, 2010 - I purchased a 1-gallon pot of Gulf Muhly (muhlenbergia capillaris) and am wondering if I can divide the clump in order to make my purchase go further. And, regarding that method of propagation, could...
view the full question and answer

Native landscaping in Austin
August 24, 2009 - I am planning to convert a pretty large portion (app. 500 sq feet) of my front yard from St. Augustine to an area with native and well-adapted plants. I have solarized the area to kill off grass and ...
view the full question and answer

Muhlenbergia dumosa safe for horses from Austin
May 13, 2014 - Is Muhlenbergia dumosa safe for horses? Will horses eat it? I have a client who has a mini-horse who visits her property on occasion, and I want to ensure that what I plant is both safe for the hors...
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