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Tuesday - July 28, 2009

From: Baltimore, MD
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Erosion Control, Grasses or Grass-like, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Need recommendations for native plants on a dry sunny hillside in Baltimore Maryland.
Answered by: Jimmy Mills


Need native recommendations for sunny, dry hillside for ground cover or shrub in Maryland. Mowing the grass is a pain and an energy waster (and I don't want to be tempted to extend some adjacent existing English Ivy). Would like lots of color, if possible. Area is about 40' wide by about 8' tall on an approximate 60 degree slope up. Thanks Mr. Smarty Plants!!


A hillside with a 60 degree slope would certainly dampen my enthusiasm for mowing, but at the same time it would seem to have great potential for significant erosion. To counter the erosion, you need some plants with fibrous root systems that can stabilize the soil, e.g. grasses.

When I say "grasses", you may be thinking of turf grasses that generally require mowing, but there are ornamental grasses of various sizes that do not need to be mowed to be attractive. This site from the University of Illinois Extension has a lot of information about their selection and use. However, be aware that several of the genera that they mention are non natives (Pennisetum, Miscanthus, Molina, Lagurus, and Briza). Planting a combination of ornamental grasses, sedges, and small flowering plants might be the solution to your problem. This article from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden  tells about the use of sedges in lawns.

Lets start by going to our Native Plant Database and scrolling down to Combination Search box and make these selections; select Maryland under State, Grass/grass-like under Habit, Perennial under Duration, Sun under Light Requirent, and Moist under Soli Moisture. Click the "Submit Combination Search" button and you will get a list of 56 native plants in Maryland that match these characteristics.  Clicking on the name of each plant will bring up its NPIN page that contains a description of the plant, its habitat and growing conditions along with images.

For the flowering plants we'll try another approach. Let's go to the RECOMMENDED SPECIES page and select Maryland on the map. This will give you a list of 130 commercially available native plant species suitable for planned landscapes in Maryland. Go to the Narrow Your Search box on the right side of the page and follow the procedure as before, selecting Herb under Habit instead of Grass/grass-like. Clicking the Narrow your Search button will trim your list to 12 . You can alter either list by going back and changing your choices in the categories.

I have a short list of grasses and sedges, and another of herbs that you might consider.

Grasses and Sedges:

Andropogon gerardii (big bluestem)  

Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem)  

Bouteloua curtipendula (sideoats grama)  

Panicum virgatum (switchgrass)    

Carex texensis (Texas sedge)    

Carex pensylvanica (Pennsylvania sedge) 


Calyptocarpus vialis (straggler daisy)  

Phyla nodiflora (turkey tangle fogfruit)   

Salvia lyrata (lyreleaf sage) 

Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly milkweed)  

 Coreopsis tinctoria (golden tickseed) 

Andropogon gerardii

Schizachyrium scoparium

Bouteloua curtipendula

Panicum virgatum

Carex texensis

Carex pensylvanica

Calyptocarpus vialis

Phyla nodiflora

Salvia lyrata

Asclepias tuberosa

Coreopsis tinctoria



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