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Saturday - September 13, 2008

From: Valdez, NM
Region: Southwest
Topic: Shrubs
Title: Planting shrubs on a rocky slope
Answered by: Nan Hampton


I need to plant a rocky slope, facing south and west, to cut down erosion. Other than creating terraces, are there tricks for securing individual shrubs or trees to a slope when planting? What plants to you recommend for zone 4 (near Taos Ski Valley) at 7,500 ft.? I'm assuming the native ones like chamisa, sage brush, Apache plume, but others, too? Thanks! Helga


Planting on a rocky slope is tricky.  First, you are better off if you use shrubs that have meshed or intertwining roots rather than a tap root.  This type of root system is going to hold on to the soil better on the slope than plants with tap roots.  Mr. Smarty Plants found a forum, "Planting shrubs on a hillside", on GardenWeb with several useful suggestions. These include planting the shrubs in a plastic pot with the bottom removed.  The pot on the upside of the slope won't be visible and the edge of the pot on the downside of the slope will hold the soil and the roots in place until the plant is established.  You can then remove the visible plastic pot.  Another suggestion was to use plastic edging on the downslope side of the planting and fill with soil.  The plastic edging can be removed once the plant is established.  Still a more natural setting could be accomplished by making a small rock wall on the downslope side and filling it with soil.  It could be left in place or removed after the plant is established.

The three plants you mentioned—Atriplex canescens (chamiso), Fallugia paradoxa (Apache plume) and the sagebrushes,  Artemisia frigida (prairie sagewort)Artemisia ludoviciana (white sagebrush), Artemisia tridentata (big sagebrush)—are all good choices.

You might also consider using various grasses.  Grasses are great plants for controlling erosion since they have extensive fibrous root systems.  Here are a few suggestions for grasses:

Achnatherum hymenoides (Indian ricegrass)

Bouteloua curtipendula (sideoats grama)

Bouteloua gracilis (blue grama)

Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem)

Sporobolus airoides (alkali sacaton)

Here are more small shrubs that would do well on your rocky slope:

Cercocarpus montanus (alderleaf mountain mahogany)

Dasiphora fruticosa ssp. floribunda (shrubby cinquefoil)

Ericameria nauseosa ssp. nauseosa var. nauseosa (rubber rabbitbrush)

Gutierrezia sarothrae (broom snakeweed)

Mahonia repens (creeping barberry)

Rhus trilobata (skunkbush sumac) and photos and more information

Sphaeralcea coccinea (scarlet globemallow)


Atriplex canescens

Fallugia paradoxa

Artemisia frigida

Artemisia ludoviciana

Artemisia tridentata

Achnatherum hymenoides

Bouteloua curtipendula

Bouteloua gracilis

Schizachyrium scoparium

Sporobolus airoides

Cercocarpus montanus

Dasiphora fruticosa ssp. floribunda

Ericameria nauseosa ssp. nauseosa var. nauseosa

Gutierrezia sarothrae

Mahonia repens

Sphaeralcea coccinea




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