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

Thursday - April 02, 2009

From: Low Moor, VA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Erosion Control
Title: Plants to prevent bank erosion in Virginia
Answered by: Nan Hampton


I am looking for good native plant choices for a steep river bank. My driveway is at the top of this slope, so I will need to avoid any plants that would cause erosion. I would prefer low shrubs.


Plants are the ideal solution to stop erosion, not to cause it, and Mr. Smarty Plants has some suggestions.  First of all, if your slope is really steep, you might want to consider using erosion-control blankets.  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.

Grasses are excellent plants to use on a slope to stop the erosion because of their extensive fibrous root systems which hold the soil in place.  The challenge is to find grasses and other plants that will grow well in your space.  You can intersperse shrubs with the grass to make an attractive ground cover.  Unfortunately, I don't know what the sunlight and moisture conditions of your slope are.  I will, therefore, offer some plants that have very broad light and moisture requirements.  If some special conditions exist, you can search for your own plants by going to our Native Plant Database and doing a COMBINATION SEARCH choosing 'Virginia' and the appropriate selections from the other categories.

Grasses and sedges:

Andropogon virginicus (broomsedge bluestem)

Carex blanda (eastern woodland sedge)

Carex pensylvanica (Pennsylvania sedge)

Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats)

Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem)

Low-growing shrubs:

Comptonia peregrina (sweet fern)

Ceanothus americanus (New Jersey tea)

Hypericum prolificum (shrubby St. Johnswort)

Artemisia ludoviciana (white sagebrush)

Andropogon virginicus

Carex blanda

Carex pensylvanica

Chasmanthium latifolium

Schizachyrium scoparium

Comptonia peregrina

Ceanothus americanus

Hypericum prolificum

Artemisia ludoviciana




More Erosion Control Questions

Non-native daylilies for steep hill in Manassas VA
April 25, 2013 - Would like to plant steep hill w perennial flowering plants like daylily. The daylily farm said this would work great but not sure if we should lay landscaping fabric and poke through holes to plant ...
view the full question and answer

Groundcover plants for erosion problem in Orlando
June 01, 2009 - Hi, I live in Orlando, and have a terrible erosion problem on one side of my back yard. Every time it rains, I lose my yard under the fence! The area is part sun. Can you please suggest a plant or ...
view the full question and answer

Plants to prevent erosion in IL
August 02, 2012 - We just got done building a house and have leveled all of the dirt piles. We do have a row of straw bales to help prevent the dirt from washing onto the neighbors property. It is the wrong time of ye...
view the full question and answer

Native border plants to stop erosion
February 18, 2015 - I need native border plants to assist in stopping soil erosion due to water run off from rain and the Catawba River.
view the full question and answer

Hillside Erosion in Pace FL
July 17, 2015 - I have a hillside that slopes down about 10 feet to a spring fed pond. The pond drains into Escambia Bay. We have 2 dams with culverts to control the flow of water. Last year during a torrential ra...
view the full question and answer

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