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Tuesday - June 30, 2009

From: Crystal Lake, IL
Region: Midwest
Topic: Erosion Control, Groundcovers, Grasses or Grass-like, Shrubs
Title: Plants for a sandy slope at a weekend cabin in central WI.
Answered by: Anne Bossart


I have a cabin in central Wisconsin where the soil is equivalent to a sandy beach. There are some areas that are nearly impossible to mow because of how steep the incline is. Could you recommend some plants (preferably ground cover or low shrubs) that might work. The area ranges from full sun to full shade. Additionally watering constantly is a problem as it is only a weekend home. Thank you in advance.


Well, you are certainly faced with a challenge.  Although there are plenty of groundcovers and low spreading shrubs that will grow (and thirive) in your conditions, they will all need watering until they are established. It would be advisable to wait until the weather is a bit cooler to plant, if you can't be there to water every few days.

Grasses are ideal for holding even sandy banks as they have fibrous root systems.  If you simply stop mowing, you may find that there are already some attractive native grasses or sedges (Carex) on your slope.  Here are a few more that are suitable:

Ammophila breviligulata (American beachgrass)

Bouteloua curtipendula (sideoats grama)

Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem)

A combination search of our native plant data base yields over 50 recommended shrubs.  Shrubs that spread with stolons are ideal. Here are a few from the list which would be great at a cabin.

Amelanchier stolonifera (running serviceberry) - pictures

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (kinnikinnick)

Ceanothus americanus (New Jersey tea)

Comptonia peregrina (sweet fern)

Gaultheria procumbens (eastern teaberry)

Rhus aromatica (fragrant sumac)

Rosa carolina (Carolina rose)

Symphoricarpos orbiculatus (coralberry)

Vaccinium angustifolium (lowbush blueberry)

Rhus typhina (staghorn sumac)

There are also a couple ferns that would work in a shadier spot:

Polypodium virginianum (rock polypody)

Pteridium aquilinum (western brackenfern)

Ammophila breviligulata

Bouteloua curtipendula

Schizachyrium scoparium

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

Ceanothus americanus

Comptonia peregrina

Gaultheria procumbens

Rhus aromatica

Rosa carolina

Symphoricarpos orbiculatus

Rhus typhina







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