Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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?

Share

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Wednesday - August 26, 2009

From: Charleston, WV
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Erosion Control
Title: Erosion control in Charleston WV
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I live in Charleston, WV and just purchased a home that has a hill side out back that has some erosion occurring. I was wondering what would be the best ground cover to plant in my area to control the soil erosion? Editor's Note: After this question was answered and published, we received an additional question via e-mail: "Thank you for answering my question. I used the search tool that you suggested and found some grasses that should be beautiful around my house and seem to be able to remedy my problem! The hill side I have an erosion problem with is a pretty large area, roughly 200'x100', so would it be best if I used multiple types of grasses to control the erosion or should I just stick to one type of grass?" We have added our answer to the second question below.

ANSWER:

The best ground cover for erosion control in any area is grasses native to that area. These are not going to be the "mowing type" grasses, but taller, ornamental grasses. They can be cut back to about 6 inches in the Spring, and they are mostly self-propagating from both roots and self-seeding. The long fibrous roots of the grasses will grab onto the soil and keep it from eroding, and help to hold moisture and nutrition in the soil where it's needed. We will go to our Native Plant Database, go down to "Combination Search," search on West Virginia, and "Grasses or grasslike plants" under habit and then click on "Submit Combination Search." You didn't say if you had sun or shade on your slope, so we will select some grasses that would suit one or the other or both. We will also check to make sure these grasses are native in and around Kanawha County, so we know they are adapted to the soils and climate. You can use the same technique to make your own selections, possibly adding in Light Requirements or Soil Moisture in the specifications you select.

Answer to second question: Oh, absolutely, more than one variety. The last thing you want is a monoculture, I don't care of what. You would get a variety in textures, colors, even between the deciduous and the evergreen, The first one from our original list we would recommend is the Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats). I'm always happy when I'm doing a grass question (usually an erosion question) and inland sea oats happens to grow in the area where the customer gardens. But I sure would go also with the Elymus canadensis (Canada wildrye) with those great plumes, the Hordeum jubatum (foxtail barley) with the foxtails, and at least one of the bluestems, or maybe both Andropogon gerardii (big bluestem) and Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem) for height and verticality. How neat to have that much space to put all those gorgeous grasses in. It's nice to hear from a satisfied customer on that kind of question.

Grasses for Erosion Control in Charleston WV

Andropogon gerardii (big bluestem) - 4 to 8 ft. tall, warm season perennial bunchgrass, medium water use, sun or part shade

Carex stipata (owlfruit sedge) - perennial sedge, 2 to 3 ft. tall, medium water use, sun

Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats) - 2 to 4 ft., clump-forming perennial, medium water use, part shade or shade

Elymus canadensis (Canada wildrye) - cool-season grass, 2 to 4 ft. tall, medium water use, sun or part shade

Elymus villosus (hairy wildrye) - 3 to 6 ft. tall

Hordeum jubatum (foxtail barley) - 1 to 3 ft. tall, perennial

Muhlenbergia schreberi (nimblewill) - 1 to 3 ft. perennial, part shade or shade

Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem) - 15 to 24 inches tall, low water use, sun or part shade

From our Native Plant Image Gallery


Andropogon gerardii

Carex stipata

Chasmanthium latifolium

Elymus canadensis

Elymus villosus

Hordeum jubatum

Muhlenbergia schreberi

Schizachyrium scoparium

 

 

 

More Erosion Control Questions

Shrub or Vine for NH Slope
May 11, 2013 - I'm looking for a native plant/shrub/vine that can be used to control erosion on a relatively steep slope in New Hampshire. Do you know of any?
view the full question and answer

Plants for steep lakeside bank in Minnesota
January 17, 2012 - I am new to MN and would like to plant some pretty plants on my steep lakeside bank. What type plants and flowers should I plant to prevent erosion, but not block the lake view?
view the full question and answer

Plants for curb appeal from Birmingham AL
June 16, 2011 - My front yard is on a down hill slope. Can you recommend some plants that would be good for creating curb appeal that will be planted up against the house? We need some that are short around 2 feet ...
view the full question and answer

Erosion on sandy bank in Wisconsin
June 24, 2008 - I live in Sand Creek Wisconsin. As the name states SAND. I have a problem with rain eroding the sand hill sides. Looking for some type of plant or plants that will help with the erosion problem.
view the full question and answer

Erosion control in Spicewood TX
March 20, 2013 - I am from a small community along the Colorado River a few miles East of Marble Falls. We are looking for a ground cover/grass to prevent erosion on on our beach front. We had planned to use Bermuda G...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.