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

Turf grass for part-time home from Louisville KY
April 28, 2012 - We have a small yard at a remote location with cistern water, and need a turf grass for a yard, clay soil, which I am willing to amend. It will receive sporadic attention as my husband and I do not l...
view the full question and answer

Plants for a dry hillside in central Texas
March 07, 2010 - We need to plant some plants or grasses on a 3/4 acre sloaping hillside which does not get watered. Any recommendations for native grasses or plants which don't need care and will keep the lot from e...
view the full question and answer

Erosion Control Shrubs and Groundcovers for Steep NY Wooded Slope
November 28, 2015 - I need to cover a couple of very steep slopes in upstate New York that are partially wooded and near a brook. The slopes are about 130 feet back from the brook. Someone estimated that there is a coupl...
view the full question and answer

Trimming of native muhly grasses
February 11, 2008 - Do pine muhly, gulf muhly, and bull muhly need an "annual haircut"? I started wondering after reading that Lindheimer's muhly does not have to be cut back each year. I cut back all my non-muhly n...
view the full question and answer

When should I plant bermuda grass seeds?
February 10, 2010 - When should I plant bermuda grass seeds?
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center