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Wednesday - June 24, 2009

From: Charlottesville, VA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Erosion Control, Grasses or Grass-like, Shrubs
Title: Plants for a bank too steep to mow
Answered by: Nan Hampton


Like the inquiry made in late June of 2008, mine involves a bank that is too steep to mow. However, ours is facing south. I am looking for a native grass, plant or groundcover. Any suggestions?


As it happens, Mr. Smarty Plants just answered a question from another Virginian looking for groundcover for a steep bank so I can pass those on to you.  Since I don't know your sun/shade situation or you soil type, you will need to compare those to the Growing Conditions listed for each suggested species.

Phlox subulata (moss phlox) grows in sun and part shade, is evergreen and spreads quickly.

Phlox nivalis (trailing phlox) would also be good.

Artemisia ludoviciana (white sagebrush) is semi-evergreen and grows in dry soils.

Cornus canadensis (bunchberry dogwood) requires moist soil.

Mitchella repens (partridgeberry) grows in part shade and shade.

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (kinnikinnick) grows slowly.

The following are grasses and a sedge.  If you are having trouble with, or have had, erosion on your slope, grasses with their fibrous roots are very good at holding the soil:

Muhlenbergia schreberi (nimblewill) grows in part shade and shade.

Muhlenbergia cuspidata (plains muhly) grows in sun.

Carex texensis (Texas sedge) grows in sun and part shade.

You can find more possibilities for grasses by doing a COMBINATION SEARCH in our Native Plant Database and selecting Virginia from the Select State or Province category, 'Grass/Grass-like' from Habit (general appearance) and choices to match your site from Light requirement and Soil Moisture.

If your site is sunny, then Bouteloua dactyloides (buffalograss) might be ideal for it since does not grow tall and requires little watering.  Here is more information about buffalograss from LawnCare.net.

Phlox subulata

Phlox nivalis

Artemisia ludoviciana

Cornus canadensis

Mitchella repens

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

Muhlenbergia schreberi

Muhlenbergia cuspidata

Carex texensis








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