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Wednesday - July 30, 2008

From: Birmingham, AL
Region: Southeast
Topic: Wildflowers
Title: Planting for steep slope in Alabama
Answered by: Barbara Medford


I am looking for a plant for a steep slope down to a creek in our backyard in Birmingham Alabama It will get some morning sun but will be in the shade in the afternoon. I was thinking of wildflowers for the color but am not sure if their root system is deep enough to prevent erosion of the slope.


Wildflowers will be wonderful for that slope, with a couple of caveats. First, most wildflowers are annuals, reseeding themselves. They will bloom an average of 1-2 months and then the color will be gone. They will set seed, drop it and die. Second, most annuals do not have very good root systems. Grasses are the best plants for controlling slopes, many of them are perennial, and they will hold their place and look good even in the winter. With a judicious combination of the two, you can form a wildflower meadow that will be attractive, if not colorful, 12 months of the year, and perform the task of holding the soil. Not having full sun all day is a drawback for the wildflowers, especially, but there are some that will do all right in your sun situation. We're going to call that part shade, which we consider to be 2 to 6 hours of sun a day.

First, read our How-To Article on Meadow Gardening. Then, go to our Recommended Species, click on Alabama on the map, and Narrow Your Search by selecting first for herbs (herbaceous plants), all durations, and part shade. This will give you a list of native flowering plants that should be successful under your specified conditions. Then, repeat your search, this time selecting grasses or grass-like plants for habit, and perennial for duration. You can follow each plant link to our webpage on that plant, and read what kind of soil it likes, when it blooms, how much moisture it needs, etc. Many of them have propagation instructions. We are going to follow the above procedure and select some suggested plants that we feel would work for you. By planting a variety of plants, instead of only one as you asked for, you have some insurance. For whatever reason, some might not prosper but others will do very well. When you have made your selections, go to Suppliers, type in your town and city in the Enter Search Location box and you will get a list of seed companies, nurseries and landscape professionals in your general area. They all specialize in native plants, and will be able to further advise you on the best choice for your area.


Coreopsis tinctoria (golden tickseed) - annual

Monarda citriodora (lemon beebalm) - annual

Phlox divaricata (wild blue phlox) - perennial

Rudbeckia hirta (blackeyed Susan) - annual

Gaillardia pulchella (firewheel) - annual

GRASSES - these are all perennials

Panicum virgatum (switchgrass)

Andropogon gerardii (big bluestem)

Bouteloua curtipendula (sideoats grama)

Coreopsis tinctoria

Monarda citriodora

Phlox divaricata

Rudbeckia hirta

Gaillardia pulchella

Panicum virgatum

Andropogon gerardii

Bouteloua curtipendula




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