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

Tuesday - November 24, 2009

From: Chatham, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Groundcovers
Title: Ground cover for New York sloped area
Answered by: Nan Hampton


I'm looking for native ground covers (vines?) for steep, heavy shale sloped areas as well as a ground cover in gently sloped area, preferably not higher than 6 inches. All that I've found is non-native to this area. Thank you.


Here are some low-growing woody plants native to your area that would make a good ground cover under the conditions you describe.  I don't, however, know what your amount of sunight is.  You will need to check the "Growing Conditions" given for each species against the conditions at your site.

Parthenocissus quinquefolia (Virginia creeper)

Rubus pubescens (dwarf red blackberry) and more information with photos

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (kinnikinnick)

Cornus canadensis (bunchberry dogwood)

Empetrum nigrum (black crowberry)

Gaultheria procumbens (eastern teaberry)

Vaccinium angustifolium (lowbush blueberry)

Grasses and/or sedges would also work well on slopes and are very effective in controlling erosion since their fibrous root systems hold the soil very well.  Their drawback, however, is that most are taller than 6 inches.  Here are a few of the shorter ones you might consider:

Carex blanda (eastern woodland sedge)

Carex pensylvanica (Pennsylvania sedge)

Muhlenbergia schreberi (nimblewill)

Deschampsia cespitosa (tufted hairgrass)

Eragrostis spectabilis (purple lovegrass)

Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem)

Parthenocissus quinquefolia

Rubus pubescens

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

Cornus canadensis

Empetrum nigrum

Gaultheria procumbens

Vaccinium angustifolium

Carex blanda

Carex pensylvanica

Muhlenbergia schreberi

Deschampsia cespitosa

Eragrostis spectabilis

Schizachyrium scoparium




More Groundcovers Questions

Groundcover for under live oak in Mississippi
August 26, 2013 - I need a non-invasive ground cover to plant under my live oak.
view the full question and answer

Groundcover for Lighthouse Point FL
April 13, 2012 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants: I am looking for mowable ground cover for part of my back yard. Due to a Mahogany tree, a hammock, surrounding foliage and a fence, there is alot of shade in the area, alon...
view the full question and answer

Groundcover for foot traffic in dry shade from Prineville OR
May 12, 2013 - I live in central Oregon. I have an area under a large elm tree that slopes on all sides and has lots of foot traffic and no sun. (my kids have a swing in the tree and play around it a lot.) It's a v...
view the full question and answer

Ground cover under live oaks
June 18, 2012 - I have some areas under Live Oak trees (maybe 200 sq. ft.)that remain bare, in spite of trying Habiturf. Soil is dry, poor and shallow. Can you suggest a living ground cover that would not require m...
view the full question and answer

Drought tolerant plants for IN
August 23, 2011 - What are some plants that would do well in an east facing area near my front door? I live in Indianapolis IN. I need something that is drought resistant and will fill in a 4x3 foot walled off area th...
view the full question and answer

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