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
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

Thursday - April 03, 2008

From: Tulsa, OK
Region: Southwest
Topic: Turf
Title: Erosion control in lawn in Tulsa, Oklahoma
Answered by: Barbara Medford


Hello Mr. Smarty Plants! I have an erosion control question. I have a growing problem with erosion on one side of my house. The soil from the side of my house slopes down about 8" in about 3 feet to the privacy fence. I am having a big problem with the soil eroding away right under the fence. There is a gap of 3 to 4 inches in some places. The water pools just on the other side of the fence in my neighbors backyard, which could be part of the problem. But I think it's more of the water running down the slope and under the fence. I haven't been too concerned about it for a couple of years, but I now have a small dog who is beginning to get curious about what's on the other side of the fence! I am up for about any suggestion, but I think that some sort of grass or fern would be my choice. The area is fairly shady most of the day which is probably why there isn't a lot of grass in the area. Do you have any suggestions? Thank you very much!


That's quite a lot of slope in such a short distance. You can't put a retaining strip under the fence, because there are probably zoning rules requiring that you not block drainage. Obviously, the drainage has found its own course, and is following it energetically. Is this rain water coming off an unguttered roof, by any chance? That can definitely cause a heavy water flow and loss of soil. Hopefully, a selection of shade tolerant native plants will at least slow this loss of soil, and help to hold the water where you want it. We found some blooming plants, grass and grasslike plants, one creeping juniper and some ferns, all of which will tolerate quite a bit of shade and help to hold soil in place. By no means could you use all of these plants, they are suggestions that fit your situation. Click on each plant link and read the webpage for height, duration, etc. on each plant. If you wish to know more about that plant, go down to the bottom of the page and click on "Search Google for (name of plant)". Then, you can use your own judgment in selecting which plant or assortment of plants will best serve your purposes.


Juniperus horizontalis (creeping juniper) - Images


Phlox divaricata (wild blue phlox)

Viola pedata (birdfoot violet)

Antennaria parvifolia (small-leaf pussytoes)

Ipomoea pandurata (man of the earth)

Salvia lyrata (lyreleaf sage)

Phyla nodiflora (turkey tangle fogfruit)


Carex texensis (Texas sedge)

Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats)

Elymus hystrix var. hystrix (eastern bottlebrush grass)

Eragrostis intermedia (plains lovegrass)

Poa arachnifera (Texas bluegrass)


Adiantum pedatum (northern maidenhair) - Images

Argyrochosma dealbata (powdery false cloak fern) - Images

Athyrium filix-femina (common ladyfern)

Botrychium virginianum (rattlesnake fern)

Dryopteris marginalis (marginal woodfern)

Viola pedata

Antennaria parvifolia

Ipomoea pandurata

Salvia lyrata

Phyla nodiflora

Carex texensis

Chasmanthium latifolium

Elymus hystrix var. hystrix

Eragrostis intermedia

Poa arachnifera

Athyrium filix-femina

Botrychium virginianum

Dryopteris marginalis




More Turf Questions

Alternative for HABITURF® in Contra Costa County, CA
September 17, 2014 - We live in Kensington, just north of Berkeley, in the San Francisco area. We intend to get rid of our water consuming lawn and we are wondering what kind of alternative you would suggest. You don't s...
view the full question and answer

Native buffalograss in sandy loam
April 19, 2008 - I am in the Austin area and want to plant Native Texas Buffalo Grass in sandy loam from the Colorado River bed. Will this work?
view the full question and answer

Plants to prevent erosion in IL
August 02, 2012 - We just got done building a house and have leveled all of the dirt piles. We do have a row of straw bales to help prevent the dirt from washing onto the neighbors property. It is the wrong time of ye...
view the full question and answer

Small perennials & grasses for a naturalized lawn
October 26, 2009 - I am looking for native perennials and grasses that will grow no more than 8 inches tall that can be used in a naturalized lawn in Michigan. What 5 plants would be your first choice?
view the full question and answer

Native lawn grass for El Paso
April 24, 2011 - I am new to the El Paso area and my front and back yards are currently mostly dirt with a tiny bit of dying (thank goodness) bermuda grass. I want to seed both yards with something that will grow well...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center