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Mr. Smarty Plants - Plants for steep slope in Virginia

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Friday - October 24, 2008

From: Lynchburg, VA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Erosion Control, Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Plants for steep slope in Virginia
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Please help! Looking for landscaping ideas for a very large Steep hill. Features: slope is approximately 45-60 degrees, clay soil mixed with fill dirt, lots of deer, partial sun, seeking minimal maintenance, in western-central Virginia. The hill slopes away from house, so I do not want to spend money on elaborate water features, etc that would not be often seen (We have a tiered lawn- flat near house, then sodded path leads around slope to a flat lower level) Thank you for your ideas- I am stumped and don't know where to start! Laura B

ANSWER:

Grasses and sedges would be your best bets for a slope that steep.  You don't say, but I am going to guess that you are having erosion problems down the slope.  The fibrous root system of the grasses are excellent for holding the soil in place.  Another benefit of grasses is that deer generally ignore grasses in favor of other 'browse' plants.  If you really are having erosion problems you might benefit from erosion-control blankets to stabilize your slope.  The erosion-control fabric works by slowing the runoff water and allowing sediment to fall out rather than be washed away. Seeds are sown under the erosion-control material and grow up through the matting when they germinate. Underneath the matting the roots of the plants growing through the erosion-control material anchor the soil to stop the erosion. If you use erosion-control blankets made of biodegrable material, they will eventually disappear leaving the plants to control the problem.

Here are two shorter grasses (<12 inches) that would work:

Bouteloua dactyloides (buffalograss) is a short grass, less than 12 inches tall and requires little water.  it prefers the sun but will grow in part shade.

Muhlenbergia schreberi (nimblewill) another shorter grass that prefers shade or part shade

These are sedges that are less than 12 inches and would work as groundcovers:

Carex blanda (eastern woodland sedge) is often used as an evergreen groundcover.

Carex cherokeensis (Cherokee sedge) is another evergreen sedge that can be used as a ground cover.

Carex pensylvanica (Pennsylvania sedge) is another sedge suitable for a groundcover.

Carex texensis (Texas sedge)

Here are some taller grasses that are attractive:

Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats) is a taller grass, but its large drooping flower spikelets make it a very attractive grass.

Elymus canadensis (Canada wildrye) is another taller grass with attractive seed heads.

Eragrostis intermedia (plains lovegrass)

Hordeum jubatum (foxtail barley)

Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem)

Sporobolus heterolepis (prairie dropseed)

Muhlenbergia capillaris (hairawn muhly)

You could also choose some small perennials to intersperse in the grasses.  You can find a list of commercially available native species for landscaping in Virginia by selecting your state from the map or pull-down menu on our Recommended Species page.

Here are a few photos of some of the grasses and sedges above:


Bouteloua dactyloides

Muhlenbergia schreberi

Carex cherokeensis

Carex texensis

Chasmanthium latifolium

Hordeum jubatum

Schizachyrium scoparium

Muhlenbergia capillaris

 

 

 

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