En EspaŅol
Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Mr. Smarty Plants - Plants to control hillside erosion in Virginia.

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

Plants for ditch bank to stop erosion
June 13, 2008 - I have a huge ditch on my property. The ditch bank is about 5,000 sq ft. There is a lot of erosion and I am looking to correct the problem. Is there any type of SEED, I am not looking to plant mature ...
view the full question and answer

Groundcover for erosion control in Missouri
July 23, 2008 - Can you suggest a ground cover to stop erosion on a slight slope in my backyard? I live in Missouri - the soil is very poor in this area and has lots of rock underneath the soil. The yard drains int...
view the full question and answer

Plants to stabilize sandy slope in Massachusetts
September 23, 2011 - Dear Mr. Smartypants, I am working on a small public housing project in Chelmsford, MA, northwest of Boston. We have a steep, sunny and SANDY slope and I am stumped as to what to recommend that wi...
view the full question and answer

Need to stabilize a south facing slope in Henderson, NC
April 30, 2010 - Hi, I have a south facing slope that is heavy clay with rock under it. It gets a lot of sun. I have planted a few bushes and some ground cover, but with all the snow and rain we had this past winter, ...
view the full question and answer

Reconsideration of previous question from Hays County TX
February 21, 2014 - QUESTION: Please reconsider this question that I sent to you last week. Our home address is in Bastrop County, but the Blanco River property that we own is in Hays County near Wimberley. Our proper...
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