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
3 ratings

Wednesday - November 21, 2007

From: Alexandria, VA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Erosion Control
Title: Plants to control hillside erosion in Virginia.
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Good Morning, Mr Smarty Plants, I need your advice and guidance. I live in a condo complex in Virginia and we have a hill/slope that is eroding. It also has two very nice tall trees that partially shade the soil. The soil is poor quality, many rocks, and washes away when it rains or snows. If my memory is correct, I had heard there was certain types of wildflowers that will hold the soil. What type of perennial wildflowers can we use that will grow in poor soil on a slope? Or do you have any other recommenations on what to plant on a slope/hill that would look beautiful and reduce errosion. Thank You for your assistance E. Hogan

ANSWER:

Good morning to you from Mr. Smarty Plants!

Grasses are what you need to get started with erosion control on your hillside. They are the best plants for controlling erosion because of the extensive fibrous root systems they develop.

Here are several attractive grasses native to Virginia that will grow in partial shade:

Bouteloua curtipendula (sideoats grama)

Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats)

Elymus canadensis (Canada wildrye)

Eragrostis intermedia (plains lovegrass)

Melica nitens (threeflower melicgrass)

Panicum virgatum (switchgrass)

Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem)

Tridens flavus (purpletop tridens)

The cheapest way to carry out your project is by sowing grass seeds. However, since you would be sowing the seeds on a slope, you will probably find that rain will wash the seeds away before they have had a chance to germinate. You might be able to find grass plugs available for sale. They will be more expensive than the seeds but would have a better chance of setting their roots before rain could wash them away. Another (alas, more expensive) possibility is to use erosion control blankets to stabilize the erosion area. The erosion-control fabric works by slowing the runoff water and allowing sediments to fall out rather than be washed away. Seeds are sown under the erosion-control material and grow up through the matting when they germinate. You can insert plants into the soil by cutting through the matting. The roots of the plants that are growing through the erosion-control material anchor the soil to stop the erosion. If you use erosion-control blankets made of biodegrable material, they will eventually disappear leaving the plants to control the problem. You can read about a stream bank stabilization project implemented by the Department of Environmental Services, Arlington, Viriginia. Although their problem was not exactly the same as yours, they did use the erosion control blankets with great success.

You might also consider sowing seeds of several wildflowers along with your grass seeds. Here are a few suggestions. You can find more from the list of recommended species for Virginia.

Coreopsis lanceolata (lanceleaf tickseed)

Echinacea purpurea (eastern purple coneflower)

Gaillardia pulchella (firewheel)

Hypericum prolificum (shrubby St. Johnswort)

Penstemon canescens (eastern gray beardtongue)

You can look for nurseries and seed companies that specialize in native plants for your area in our National Suppliers Directory.


Bouteloua curtipendula

Chasmanthium latifolium

Elymus canadensis

Eragrostis intermedia

Melica nitens

Panicum virgatum

Schizachyrium scoparium

Tridens flavus

Coreopsis lanceolata

Echinacea purpurea

Gaillardia pulchella

Hypericum prolificum

Penstemon canescens

 

 

More Erosion Control Questions

Native plants and grasses for river bank from Rosanky TX
February 19, 2014 - Our property owners association would like to know what native plants/grasses to plant on the Blanco River bank in our river park to help prevent erosion. Some banks are steep and some areas are a gra...
view the full question and answer

Plants for slope in central Alabama
July 26, 2011 - Our home is atop a 20-25' eastern facing sandy loam slope in central Alabama. It was previously covered w/ kudzu. After 3 yrs. of eradication of the kudzu we are ready to plant with native grasses/pl...
view the full question and answer

Groundcover for a Sunny, Steep Slope in Maryland
April 29, 2013 - I need a groundcover for a sunny dry steep slope in Towson, Maryland. The slope goes from the parking lot down to a deck area.
view the full question and answer

Riverbank retention in VA
March 26, 2012 - I need some groundcover/bank retention for a Virginia riverbank in mixed sun and shade. I want to plant something native to VA. the area is out of the water but subject to occasional (4-5 times per y...
view the full question and answer

O.K. to grow grass under a live oak?
November 26, 2014 - Is it a bad idea to plant grass around a mature live oak? We have erosion issues and trying to keep mulch in the beds around the tree groves is a challenge, even with edging. Much of the native dirt...
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