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

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
3 ratings

Wednesday - July 23, 2008

From: Pleasant Hill, MO
Region: Midwest
Topic: Erosion Control
Title: Groundcover for erosion control in Missouri
Answered by: Nan Hampton


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 into a creek bed at the back of my property.


Grasses do an excellent job of erosion control because their extensive fibrous root system holds the soil very well. You don't say whether your backyard is shaded or not, but I will suggest several attractive grasses and indicate what their light requirements are.

Grasses These all are 1-3 ft tall.

Bouteloua curtipendula (sideoats grama) sun, part shade, shade and moist or dry soil

Bouteloua gracilis (blue grama) sun and dry soil

Elymus canadensis (Canada wildrye) sun, part shade, shade and moist or dry soil

Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem) sun, part shade and dry soil

Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats) part shade, shade and moist or dry soil

Sedges These look very much like grass, but tend to be shorter. They also have fibrous root systems that hold soil.

Carex pensylvanica (Pennsylvania sedge) sun, part shade, shade and dry to moist soils

Carex stipata (owlfruit sedge) sun and wet or moist soils

Ferns These are attractive for moist areas with shade. The Christmas fern will also grow in the sun.

Athyrium filix-femina (common ladyfern) part shade, shade and wet or moist soil

Osmunda cinnamomea (cinnamon fern) part shade and moist or wet soil

Polystichum acrostichoides (Christmas fern) sun, part shade and moist or dry soil. This fern is evergreen.

Bouteloua curtipendula

Bouteloua gracilis

Elymus canadensis

Schizachyrium scoparium

Chasmanthium latifolium

Carex pensylvanica

Carex stipata

Athyrium filix-femina

Osmunda cinnamomea

Polystichum acrostichoides



More Erosion Control Questions

Recommendations for a steep slope in Arlington, VA
September 10, 2015 - I have a side yard area about 35' long and 10' wide. It is very steep and get full sun. I recently I removed all the weeds down to dirt. I want to do low maintenance plants with mulch.
view the full question and answer

Plants for steep bank in Pennsylvania
July 12, 2011 - What do I do with a very steep bank with hard clay soil to stop erosion and to look nice. Is there a ground cover that would help?
view the full question and answer

Erosion control in Ft. Wright KY
June 02, 2010 - My house sits on a hillside. On the back and behind a somewhat large concrete deck there is a retention wall that protects the deck, but after that there is this large area (at least 24X20 ft), that ...
view the full question and answer

Grass for erosion control
July 19, 2008 - I have a very shaded sloped back yard. I have not been able to get grass to grow due to the shade. There are approximately twenty 30-40 ft. Oaks in the yard. The yard slopes toward the house. I wo...
view the full question and answer

Native plants for controlling erosion in Fairmont WV
August 30, 2010 - I'm interested in finding native plants, either perennials or grasses, that would help control erosion on a fairly steep slope. The area is partly shaded.
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center