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?

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Friday - June 13, 2008

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

QUESTION:

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?

ANSWER:

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

Plants to prevent erosion on slope in Texas
June 19, 2010 - We have an erosion problem developing on the low side of a gently sloping hill. We are in clay soil at the base of the hill with oaks and pines. We have a right of way that is without trees forty fee...
view the full question and answer

Ground cover that won't hide snakes from Asheville NC
June 29, 2012 - I have an unusual situation: several bare areas in an otherwise wooded area, which receive partial sun, and are not near water -- it rains here frequently, but the soil can become quite dry at times. ...
view the full question and answer

Low growing annuals for OK shaded slope.
January 26, 2016 - I have a heavily shaded slope on the north, west, and south side of my home. Can you suggest some low growing annuals (flowering, or not) that would allow me to beautify my property.
view the full question and answer

Shrubs and small trees for a slope in NY
May 21, 2012 - We are looking for a living wall made of shrubs / small trees - no more than 25' for the top of a steep creek bed. We are looking for the best erosion preventing types.
view the full question and answer

Native grasses for erosion control in Harlingen, TX
March 12, 2009 - I like to know what type of fast growing grass, ground cover or trees I can put on a slope for erosion control in Harlingen Texas the slope receives afternoon Sun
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center