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Friday - June 13, 2008

From: Jackson, TN
Region: Southeast
Topic: Erosion Control
Title: Plants for ditch bank to stop erosion
Answered by: Nan Hampton


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 plants over that much space, that would be good erosion control and also not grow very high so I will not have to mow it?


Grasses are the very best plants to use for erosion control—especially on slopes—because of their extensive fibrous root systems that are very effective in holding the soil in place. Additionally, they are easy to start by seed. There are lots of choices of grasses for Tennessee. You can look at them all yourself if you go to our Native Plant Database and do a Combination Search, choosing 'Tennessee' from Select states and provinces and 'Grass/Grass-like' from Habit (general appearance). From that list I have chosen a few that should do well and be attractive on your site. Most grasses grow 1.5 to 3 feet tall. I've tried to pick out the shorter ones and tried to pick ones that are attractive when mature as well as when they are green and growing. You will need to choose those from the list that fit your available sunlight and soil moisture. Sedges would also work and are usually shorter than grasses and some are evergreen. The problem with sedges is finding seeds for them rather than small plants. After the grass is established and is controlling the erosion, you can add some wildflowers to grow with them.

Bouteloua curtipendula (sideoats grama) 2-3 feet

Carex blanda (eastern woodland sedge) 1-3 feet

Carex cherokeensis (Cherokee sedge) 12-18 inches

Carex pensylvanica (Pennsylvania sedge) 6-12 inches

Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats) 2-4 feet

Elymus canadensis (Canada wildrye) 2-4 feet

Elymus hystrix var. hystrix (eastern bottlebrush grass) 1-3 feet

Muhlenbergia capillaris (hairawn muhly) 1.5-3 feet

Poa arachnifera (Texas bluegrass) 1-2 feet

Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem) 1-3 feet

Read "The Return of Native Grasses to Tennessee" by Andrea Shea from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation for an interesting discussion of native grasses. As stated in this article, you need to be careful about where you get your seeds. You want native seeds that aren't contaminated with invasive species. You can search for seed companies that specialize in native plants in your area in our National Suppliers Directory. On a quick search I found Dropseed Native Plant Nursery in Goshen, Kentucky, Nashville Native LLC in Fairview, Tennessee and Ohio Prairie Nursery in Hiram, Ohio, all of which deal in 100% native plants.

Bouteloua curtipendula

Carex blanda

Carex cherokeensis

Carex pensylvanica

Chasmanthium latifolium

Elymus canadensis

Elymus hystrix var. hystrix

Muhlenbergia capillaris

Poa arachnifera

Schizachyrium scoparium



More Erosion Control Questions

Will not cutting grass make its roots stronger?
May 27, 2009 - I live on a lake that has a hill. There is some problem with erosion on the hillside. Our association wants us to not cut the grass to stop the erosion. How does not cutting the grass help the roots g...
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Fast-growing ground cover for creekside
May 18, 2014 - 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 er...
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Erosion Control for a NC Clay Slope
June 06, 2013 - Hi, We have a large slope on the road edge of our property that has been gradually eroding with spring rains (NC red clay). We would really like to plant something for erosion control but the bank is...
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Stream Bank Erosion Control for Bryan/College Station
August 16, 2012 - I live in the Bryan/College Station area and need a ground cover to abate erosion on the bank of an intermittent stream. The bank is shaded. Do you have any suggestions?
view the full question and answer

Native Plants for Shaded North Slope in Ohio
January 03, 2013 - I have a shaded north hillside which needs erosion control plants. Mostly moss and very thin grass grows there now. Please help!
view the full question and answer

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