En EspaŅol

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
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
rate this answer
8 ratings

Monday - September 29, 2008

From: Phoenix, AZ
Region: Southwest
Topic: Erosion Control
Title: Plants for erosion control in arid region
Answered by: Nan Hampton


In semi arid south west (Phoenix), the drainage is managed by creating incised channels. Typically, the dirt channel can erode with even very low velocities of moving water. To reduce erosion therefore vegetation needs to be established. This is difficult due to lack of adequate and consistent rain runoff. Any suggestion on what kind of vegetation ( ground cover, grass etc) could be used so that gradually it establishes (with minimum infrequent rain) a strong root structure causing a stable environment for handling rain runoff.


Grasses would be your best bet for erosion control since their extensive fibrous root systems do a good job of holding the soil.  Here is a list of grasses that are native to Arizona and will withstand dry conditions.  To get them established you may have to do some minimal watering at first, but then they should be able to handle dry conditions and hold the soil when it rains.

Achnatherum hymenoides (Indian ricegrass)

Aristida purpurea (purple threeawn)

Bouteloua eriopoda (black grama)

Bouteloua gracilis (blue grama)

Bouteloua hirsuta (hairy grama)

Eragrostis intermedia (plains lovegrass)

Dasyochloa pulchella (low woollygrass)

Hilaria belangeri var. belangeri (curly-mesquite)

Muhlenbergia emersleyi (bullgrass)

Sporobolus airoides (alkali sacaton)

Here are some suggestions for low growing shrubs that would also do well in the area.  You will note that some are specifically suggested for erosion control.

Artemisia frigida (prairie sagewort)

Calliandra eriophylla (fairyduster)

Krascheninnikovia lanata (winterfat)

Melampodium leucanthum (plains blackfoot)

Zinnia grandiflora (Rocky Mountain zinnia)

Fallugia paradoxa (Apache plume)

If you would like to see more native plants that are commercially available for Arizona, visit our Recommended Species page and select Arizona from the map there.

Achnatherum hymenoides

Bouteloua eriopoda

Dasyochloa pulchella

Sporobolus airoides

Artemisia frigida

Calliandra eriophylla

Krascheninnikovia lanata

Melampodium leucanthum

Zinnia grandiflora

Fallugia paradoxa



More Erosion Control Questions

Use of native grasses as erosion control in Austin, TX
June 20, 2006 - We're in Austin, TX and trying to keep our neighborhood lot as natural as possible; however, our lot is eroding and depositing mud and dirt onto the sidewalk whenever it rains. We're looking for an ...
view the full question and answer

Erosion control for shady slope in Kentucky backyard
August 28, 2013 - I live in northern Kentucky (near Cincinnati). I have an area in my backyard that has slope. It is next to an ash tree and is very shady. Water erosion has washed away the top soil and pretty much no...
view the full question and answer

Holding soil on a bank in Goldsboro, NC
July 25, 2010 - I live in Goldsboro, NC on a small ridge with a very steep bank on one side of our property. What native plants can we plant on the bank to help hold the soil. Also, what would be best to plant on t...
view the full question and answer

Native Streambank Plants for SE Pennsylvania
July 18, 2013 - I help manage a nature preserve in southeastern Pennsylvania. Along the stream the banks have been beaten down by a large number of visitors for their educational activities such as stream studies. Th...
view the full question and answer

Native plants for creekside erosion control
December 16, 2006 - I need advice on what native plants I can use to slow erosion by my creek. The watershed for a large area ends up at my place, and nothing is growing where most of the runoff flows. I've got braken...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center