En EspaŅol

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?


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
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
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


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.


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

Plants for erosion control in Georgia
May 17, 2010 - Hello, I have a question regarding water run-off coming from the neighbors yard as my yard is below their yard. What kind of ground cover would grow very quickly (low to ground) to help with the r...
view the full question and answer

Plants for erosion control in Pittsburgh, PA
August 22, 2009 - I have a terraced high side lot(front of house). I currently have Yuccas growing, but they are too invasive. Can you suggest plants, shrubs, or ground covers that are not as invasive and will still ...
view the full question and answer

Native plants of dune erosion control in Michigan
May 30, 2008 - We care for Lake Michigan dune near our home in New Buffalo and would like to provide erosion control with native species that will also enhance the beauty of the dune with long lasting flowers. The ...
view the full question and answer

Ground cover for a slope in MD
August 04, 2011 - Looking for a groundcover to hold a shady slope undercut with tree roots in Maryland and to prevent further erosion.
view the full question and answer

Native plants for erosion control in South Dakota
December 04, 2008 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants: I live in the Black Hills of South Dakota at about 5000 feet ASL. My house is on a steep hill. I had to clear a perimeter around my house of all the pine trees for fire supp...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center