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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




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