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Monday - November 23, 2009

From: West Mifflin, PA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Erosion Control
Title: Plants for erosion control in West Mifflin PA
Answered by: Barbara Medford


I have recently had a retaining wall rebuilt in my back yard and an above the ground pool installed. My lawn is uneven with no grass and the hillside is very dry dirt with rocks. What type of plant would be low growing, stop erosion and cover the hillside quickly? The area is not large, perhaps 40 ft. long and 10 ft. high. Should I plant grass seed now (Nov, 2009) or wait until spring 2010?


The best plants for controlling erosion are native grasses. We wouldn't recommend planting grass seed now; they will not germinate until warm weather returns anyway, and some could easily be lost in winter rains (which we understand comes out as snow in Pennsylvania) or become not viable. The long fibrous roots of grasses will hold the soil, many are perennial and/or self-seeding. Natives will require less water, fertilizer and maintenance.

You also might consider doing something like a small-scale meadow arrangement, with some colorful wildflowers mixed in. First, read two of our How-To Articles, Native Lawns and Meadow Gardening.  If you have weather that permits playing outside, you can begin, in advance of Spring, to prepare the area as suggested in both articles. Some of the grasses we are going to suggest will be taller, others compact and low. You can mix them for an attractive visual effect, and have something pleasant to look at virtually year round.

Finally, for your hillside, there are some low-growing attractive shrubs native to Pennsylvania, some of which are evergreen, that will give some more color and erosion protection. 

We are going to go to our Native Plant Database and give you some suggestions of herbaceous blooming plants, shrubs and grasses native to Pennsylvania that can be combined however you wish for your purposes. 

Follow each link to the page on that plant for particulars on height, sun requirements and soil moisture. Since we don't know how much sun your area has, you can go back to the database and search using Light Requirements, Soil Moisture and so forth, making your own choices.

Native herbaceous blooming plants for Pennsylvania:

Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly milkweed)

Coreopsis lanceolata (lanceleaf tickseed)

Lupinus perennis (sundial lupine)

Monarda didyma (scarlet beebalm)

Phlox stolonifera (creeping phlox)

Symphyotrichum novae-angliae (New England aster)

Native shrubs for Pennsylvania: 

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (kinnikinnick)

Epigaea repens (trailing arbutus)

Gaultheria procumbens (eastern teaberry)

Native grasses for Pennsylvania: 

Andropogon gerardii (big bluestem)

Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem)

Carex blanda (eastern woodland sedge)

Carex texensis (Texas sedge)

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:

Asclepias tuberosa

Coreopsis lanceolata

Lupinus perennis

Monarda didyma

Phlox stolonifera

Symphyotrichum novae-angliae

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

Epigaea repens

Gaultheria procumbens

Andropogon gerardii

Schizachyrium scoparium

Carex blanda

Carex texensis







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