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
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


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



More Erosion Control Questions

Need suggestions for plants for a 45 degree slope in Falls Church, VA.
January 23, 2013 - Have a 45 degree hillside 50 feet wide by 60 feet long on north side of 26 story building. Very little sun with the need for soil retention plants. Would like a native plant or plants to cover area...
view the full question and answer

Raised beds over lateral lines in Solgohachia AR
January 02, 2010 - I would like to build raised flower beds over my lateral lines. They would be planted with strawberries and perennials. Will this cause any problems with the absorption into the ground or not lettin...
view the full question and answer

Plants for steep lakeside bank in Minnesota
January 17, 2012 - I am new to MN and would like to plant some pretty plants on my steep lakeside bank. What type plants and flowers should I plant to prevent erosion, but not block the lake view?
view the full question and answer

Fast-growing ground cover for creekside
May 18, 2014 - Hi Mr. Smarty Plants. I live in Austin Texas and am looking for an aggressively spreading ground cover or grass to plant along a small creek on the back of my property in order to help with soil er...
view the full question and answer

Plantings for a slope from New Carrollton MD
June 27, 2012 - My house (Maryland, near DC) sits at the bottom of a south facing slope. The soil is very heavy clay. The grade is about 1:20 for about 100 feet (with a steeper part at the top). Part of the hill is i...
view the full question and answer

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