Explore Plants

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
    
 

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

Saturday - January 09, 2010

From: Aiken, SC
Region: Southeast
Topic: Erosion Control, Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Plants to stabilize a steep bank in South Carolina
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I would like to use native plantings to stabilize a steep bank. The bank is on the side of the gravel road I cut back into the woods and around a 36" pipe going under the road to allow the free flow of a spring head. The bank is only about 5' tall on both sides and 50' long. I headed the ends of the pipe off and put rye grass all over it to get through the winter but with all the rain it is not helping around the pipe. I am looking for something to fit in with the natural look of the woods and grow naturally. I have spent some time on the Recommended Species page but have not been able to find anything. Thank you.

ANSWER:

With all the rain, it sounds as if you would benefit from using some sort of erosion control blanket, especially around the pipe. The erosion-control fabric works by slowing the runoff water and allowing sediments to fall out rather than be washed away. Seeds are sown under the erosion-control material and grow up through the matting when they germinate. You can insert plants into the soil by cutting through the matting. The roots of the plants that are growing through the erosion-control material anchor the soil to stop the erosion. If you use erosion-control blankets made of biodegrable material, they will eventually disappear leaving the plants to control the problem. You can read about a stream bank stabilization project implemented by the Department of Environmental Services, Arlington, Viriginia. Although their problem was not exactly the same as yours, they did use the erosion control blankets with great success.

Now for plants to use for erosion control, grasses are ideal because their extensive fibrous root systems hold the soil in place.  Here are some native grasses that are attractive and grow well in South Carolina:

Sorghastrum nutans (Indiangrass)

Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats)

Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem)

Muhlenbergia capillaris (hairawn muhly)

Andropogon gerardii (big bluestem)

Panicum virgatum (switchgrass)

Here are some other plants that should work well:

Parthenocissus quinquefolia (Virginia creeper)

Ceanothus americanus (New Jersey tea)

Coreopsis lanceolata (lanceleaf tickseed)

Rudbeckia hirta (blackeyed Susan)

Vaccinium stamineum (deerberry)

Vaccinium pallidum (Blue Ridge blueberry) and here are photos

Rubus trivialis (southern dewberry)

All of the above plants are native to Aiken County, South Carolina but since I don't know the particulars of your site (e.g., soil type, soil moisture, available sunlight), you need to check the "Growing Conditions" on each of the species' pages to make sure that they match those of your site.

Here are photos from our Image Gallery for the plants listed above:

 

 

 

 

More Erosion Control Questions

Plants for steep slope in Pittsburgh PA
April 25, 2013 - I have a similar question to one from SC. I live in Pittsburgh, PA. We have a steep slope behind a newly built in pool. What type of plants can I put on the hillside to hold the soil. It gets a ...
view the full question and answer

Plants for erosion control in horse pasture
April 26, 2010 - I have erosion on a slope, southwestern facing, minimal shade in Palos Verdes Peninsula, CA. The soil is rocky and clayish. The hillside is in the middle of a horse paddock and barn. What plants woul...
view the full question and answer

Water seepage problems in basement in Philadelphia
April 09, 2009 - I am interested in stopping/limiting water seepage into my basement by placing water absorbing ground plants along one or both sides. The grass we planted when home was new in July 2007 has taken on o...
view the full question and answer

Grasses for moist, steep hillside in Tupelo MS
July 01, 2010 - I have a very steep bank that I have pampas grass planted in spots. It must be a natural spring in the bank because it stays very wet and runs into the street below. Can you suggest something to pla...
view the full question and answer

Preventing erosion on a sloping lot
April 16, 2011 - I am trying to find a native plant to use on a sloped area in my back yard to help prevent the slope from eroding away (zone 7- N. Atlanta, GA). I want something evergreen, between 6 to 30 inches tal...
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.