Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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?

Share

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Saturday - January 17, 2009

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

QUESTION:

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.

ANSWER:

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

 



 

More Erosion Control Questions

Plants for steep slope in California
November 13, 2010 - Where do I find out about the specific root structure of various California native plants? Are there shrubs that have tap roots & hence are good for steep slopes? The genus of any such plants that y...
view the full question and answer

Controlling slugs in a Pacific Northwest strawberry patch
February 04, 2013 - Would love to plant various varieties of strawberries on a bank for erosion control and ground cover. How can we keep the slugs at bay? We are in the the Pacific Northwest
view the full question and answer

Replacing non-native iceplant in El Cajon CA
June 11, 2010 - Help! We are clearing fungus dead iceplant on a massive steep bank. Should I avoid replacing it with more iceplant? Would myaporum prostrate be a better option? Fast growing, erosion resistant, zero m...
view the full question and answer

Native plants to preserve soil on river bank
May 28, 2006 - I live in eastern Massachusetts. We have a small stream in our backyard and a woodland area on the other side. Japanese Knotweed is pretty well established on the opposite bank of the stream from our ...
view the full question and answer

Problem garden strip in Austin
May 22, 2014 - Currently I live in the west half of a duplex. There is a small strip of dirt about two feet wide between the wall and the sidewalk in the backyard. It faces west, meaning it only gets sunlight duri...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.