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

Grass to grow in the shade of pecan tree
December 10, 2008 - Dear Mr. Smarty Pants, We have an enormous pecan tree in our backyard that had grass underneath the breadth of the branches, but not around the trunk. The grass isn't doing well (though we did fai...
view the full question and answer

Native shrub for part shade in Austin
April 16, 2009 - I live in SE Austin (Dove Springs area). I have a 3' by 3' area near my front door. It gets morning sun, but not the entire morning because of the tall tree in my front yard. By 11 o'clock or noon,...
view the full question and answer

Deer resistant privacy fence for shade in Hill Country
April 28, 2009 - I am looking for a shrub to plant along a privacy fence that gets 8+ feet tall, fast growing, preferably native, deer resistant, and can tolerate mostly shade. I reside in the Hill Country area. Tha...
view the full question and answer

Ground cover for shady area in north Texas
July 29, 2013 - I'm looking for a ground cover for a mostly shady area where St. Augustine won't grow. I don't want the ground cover to overtake my established St. Augustine in the rest of the yard. The area is un...
view the full question and answer

Colorful flowering plants in shade of live oak in Louisiana
November 29, 2013 - What colorful flowering plants can be grown near the shady base of live oak trees in the Deep South?
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center