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

Shade-loving native plants for South Carolina
January 08, 2008 - I am looking to incorporate a native plants section in my backyard. Shade seems to be a limiting factor in some parts, especially where I would look to create a natural hedge bordering my neighbor's...
view the full question and answer

Recommendations for native shade plants in sandy soil
July 30, 2007 - I live in Rockport, TX, and would like to plant a small, shaded triangular corner (bounded on 2 sides by wooden fence)in my front yard. The area has limited southern exposure due to shading by live o...
view the full question and answer

Austin Shade Plants for Pots
March 28, 2010 - I live in a condo in Austin Texas so I don't have any flower beds or yard space. I would like to put a few large pots of plants and flowers on my front patio but it's mostly shaded during the day. W...
view the full question and answer

Enough sun from San Marcos TX
February 22, 2013 - I would like to plant both Lantana urticoides and Salvia farinacea in area that only has morning to 1pm sun..Will this amount of sun be enough?
view the full question and answer

Erosion Control for Shady Ditches
January 24, 2013 - What plants can you recommend for erosion control along shady ditches in Northwest Indiana?
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