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?

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

Sunday - March 21, 2010

From: Chetek, WI
Region: Midwest
Topic: Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Plants for a Steep Bank in Wisconsin
Answered by: Janice Kvale

QUESTION:

We live on a lake with many white and red pines. The steep bank needs something not adversely affected by a buildup of pine needles to hold the sandy soil in place. The bank faces west and the pines are tall so the site receives sun perhaps 4 hours a day.

ANSWER:

Anytime there is a slope or the potential of soil erosion, think first of grasses. Their thick, fibrous root systems tend to hold soil in place. This is a common problem so you may want to peruse previous answers from Mr. Smarty Plants such as this one, which sounds similar to your situation. While some trees are allelopaths, destroying grasses around their bases, the pines do not have this characteristic. In searching for grasses specific for your site, think tall so the grass isn't buried under the pine mulch. To that end, all of the following suggestions range between 2 1/2 and 8 feet tall and will thrive in a part-shade environment. You may need to remove some of the pine needles when getting the grass started. Take a look at our article on Meadow Gardening for seeding advice. Grasses can be mixed with tall flowering native plants to add color.

Elymus hystrix var. hystrix (eastern bottlebrush grass)

Melica nitens (threeflower melicgrass)

Panicum virgatum (switchgrass)

Sorghastrum nutans (Indiangrass)

Tridens flavus (purpletop tridens)

Depending on how steep the grade of the slope, you may want to consider another idea even though the plant is lower growing. Pine needles produce an acid soil environment. In some parts of the United States, pine needles are baled and sold for mulch. Acid soil + natural acid mulch = blueberries! The roots of blueberry shrubs are shallow, fibrous, thick, and prefer sandy soil. Along with some grass to help get them started, they may do the trick especially if you are able to terrace the slope a bit. If you don't want the berries, the birds will.

Vaccinium corymbosum (highbush blueberry) is the native plant from which commercial blueberry cultivars are derived. They may well be growing wild in local Wisconsin conifer forests.

Use our site to find a list of suppliers in your area or use this EPA list for Wisconsin. 

 


Elymus hystrix var. hystrix

Melica nitens

Panicum virgatum

Sorghastrum nutans

Tridens flavus

Vaccinium corymbosum
 

More Grasses or Grass-like Questions

Plants for delineating property line
July 18, 2010 - I have a neighbor who does not mow his grass or take care of a strip that runs between my property and his. I would like to plant some inexpensive, low maintenance, shrubs, that would do well in full...
view the full question and answer

Grasses for a wildflower meadow in Greenville, SC
August 17, 2009 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, I have been establishing a wildflower meadow in Greenville, SC. Our current wildflowers are: Purple Coneflower Perennial Black-eyed Susans Cardinal Flower Butte...
view the full question and answer

Is installing irrigation with Habiturf a good idea in Round Rock Texas?
December 05, 2011 - Mr. Smarty Plants, I am in the process of planning a new lawn in my front yard. We have decided to plant the Habiturf seed mix (thank you, by the way). Originally, we planned on installing a spri...
view the full question and answer

Non-allergenic landscape in Fairfield, CT
April 18, 2009 - I live in Fairfield, CT and need to have a non-allergenic landscape. Can you please list plants, ground covers, and trees/shrubs that would be beautiful, and help in this critical situation? The lan...
view the full question and answer

Evergreen grasslike plants for Austin TX
April 15, 2008 - Hi, I'm in Austin, TX and looking for some evergreen grass-looking plants. Would you explain the similarities/differences between Butterfly Iris and Lily Grass in this regard? Thank you
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
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center