En Espa—ol

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
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

Tuesday - September 08, 2009

From: Accokeek, MD
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Shade Tolerant
Title: Need help with stabilizing a partial shaded slope in Prince George's County, MD.
Answered by: Jimmy Mills and Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

I have a partial shade sloped area about 40 ft. x 100ft; that is at the top of a natural drainage. Slope is maybe 10%. There is a thin layer of topsoil on top of a heavier clay layer (it was pasture). In heavy rain, surface water will move the leaf litter, exposing hard soil. Logs and the modest slope prevent gullies. My goal is to get enough water retention so ferns (eg NY, royal) would typically last through our summer droughts. Amending the soil, using logs, digging holes or terracing are acceptable but synthetic liners or a cistern and pump are not. Iím happy to follow up on any references you suggest.

ANSWER:

Mr. Smarty Plants is having trouble visualizing the situation you are describing, and determining the question you are asking. If you are asking for suggested plants that will help stabilize a 10% slope that has partial shade, he can do that. If you are asking how to engineer a slope that will support the growth of Osmunda regalis (royal fern) or Thelypteris noveboracensis (New York fern) whose habitats are wet soils along streams and lakeshores, in bogs, and in wet meadows, we're not sure he can be of much help.  Given enough shade and soil moisture, these species might work, though.

Your ideas of using strategically placed logs, digging holes (and refilling with rich soil) to capture and hold some water and judiciously terracing all sound reasonable.  Any of these actions will create some micro-habitats that will be conducive to growing some native ferns.  Fern species that might work for your semi-shady slope are Adiantum pedatum (northern maidenhair), Cheilanthes lanosa, Hairy lip fern, Pellaea atropupurea, Purple cliffbrake fern (if your substrate is limestone), Pteris multifida, Spider brake fern and Asplenium platyneuron (ebony spleenwort) or any of a number of native spleenworts.

I would suggest contacting the Prince George's County Office of the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension which should be able to help you with your drainage issue.

For stabilizing the slope, your best bet is to plant native grasses. They have fibrous root systems that hold on to the soil particles. Here are some suggestions for native grasses plus one sedge that should help control erosion.

Andropogon virginicus (broomsedge bluestem)

Bouteloua curtipendula (sideoats grama)

Bouteloua hirsuta (hairy grama)

Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats)

Elymus canadensis (Canada wildrye)

Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem)

Sorghastrum nutans (Indiangrass)

Tridens flavus (purpletop tridens)

Sedge:

Carex pensylvanica (Pennsylvania sedge) 


Andropogon virginicus

Bouteloua curtipendula

Bouteloua hirsuta

Chasmanthium latifolium

Elymus canadensis

Schizachyrium scoparium

Sorghastrum nutans

Tridens flavus

Carex pensylvanica

 

 

 

 

More Shade Tolerant Questions

Starting shade-tolerant ground covers in New York
September 10, 2013 - Hi, I have seen some of the posts for shade-tolerant ground cover on the east end of Long Island and my question is process related. Now that I've identified the grasses/plants I need to keep my fro...
view the full question and answer

Native plants for part shade in North Carolina
February 07, 2009 - I'm thinking about planting a border in front of my house. It's on the north side, so it's fairly shady. One of the main problems with this is that I don't like many common shade plants, so it's ...
view the full question and answer

Plants for narrow moist shade in Dallas
October 05, 2009 - We are looking for plants in a narrow strip next to our house. It is a shady area that holds a lot of water. We would love plants that would help take water out of the soil. Do you have any suggest...
view the full question and answer

Plants for shade, poor soil in Park Ridge NJ
June 17, 2010 - Hello! I live in far northeast New Jersey, by the New York state border. I am looking for plants for areas of my lawn that nothing currently grows in - due to shade and poor soil quality - very rocky,...
view the full question and answer

Evergreen groundcover under pine tree in NY
May 23, 2008 - Hello! I live in upstate NY. I'm trying to find an evergreen ground cover to plant under a pine tree. I believe it's a white spruce (but I'm not postive). I've read conflicting information reg...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center