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Saturday - January 17, 2009

From: Rio Rico, AZ
Region: Southwest
Topic: Erosion Control
Title: Plants to stop erosion in Arizona
Answered by: Barbara Medford


I'm looking for a plant to stop erosion; I have big wash outs that are starting to erode my yard so I guess I'm looking for deep rooting plants. I live south of Tucson, Arizona. If you can advise me I would be grateful.


Generally, the best plants for erosion control are grasses. They have fibrous roots that can really grip the soil and keep it from washing away. These are not going to be turf grasses, some of them grow several feet tall; the taller they are, the longer their roots are, thus the advantage. If you have a large area, you can even have groundcovers, wildflowers, shrubs and trees in the mix. See our How-To Article on Meadow Gardening to get some suggestions. However, at this point, we are just going to suggest some grasses native to your area. Consider contacting the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension office, Santa Cruz County, AZ. The Home Page has contact information, and you can also check their site on Horticulture. If you are having this problem, probably others are, also, and the Extension Office should have some ideas more specific to your area. 

Follow the plant links to the webpage for each individual plant, and find out what the sun, water and soil needs of each grass are, and choose for your location. We will find these grasses by going to our Recommended Species section, click on the state of Arizona on the map, and then click NARROW YOUR SEARCH,  select "Grasses and grass-like" under Habit. This gave us 26 grasses native to Arizona from which to choose. You can then follow each plant link to a webpage on that plant for more information on amount of sun and moisture needed, type soil, etc. All should be commercially available, but if you have difficulty locating the ones you want, go to our Native Plant Suppliers section, type in your town and state in the "Enter Search Location" box, and you should get a list of native plant nurseries, seed companies and landscape consultants. 

Achnatherum hymenoides (Indian ricegrass) - 1 to 2 ft. perennial

Aristida purpurea (purple threeawn) - 1 to 2 ft. perennial

Bouteloua curtipendula (sideoats grama) - 2 to 3 ft. stem, perennial warm season grass

Bouteloua dactyloides (buffalograss) - 3 to 12", can actually be used as a turf grass

Bouteloua hirsuta (hairy grama) - 10 to 18" perennial

Eragrostis intermedia (plains lovegrass) -  1 to 3 ft. perennial

Pascopyrum smithii (western wheatgrass) - 15 to 30" cool season perennial

Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem)

Achnatherum hymenoides

Aristida purpurea

Bouteloua curtipendula

Bouteloua dactyloides

Bouteloua hirsuta

Eragrostis intermedia

Pascopyrum smithii

Schizachyrium scoparium



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