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Mr. Smarty Plants - Groundcovers for a slope in MA

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Sunday - April 04, 2010

From: Boston, MA
Region: Northeast
Topic: Groundcovers
Title: Groundcovers for a slope in MA
Answered by: Anne Bossart

QUESTION:

We live in Eastern MA. We have a hill behind our house that was previously mulched. Slope is 45 degrees in direct sun, clay soil. We have another hill by the road side that is partially shaded with 60 degree slope and same type of soil. We are looking for types of groundcover that will grow well in these areas and prevent erosion. We have been told creeping junipers are one option. Any other ideas?

ANSWER:

Yes, Juniperus horizontalis (creeping juniper) is one option (and it is a native plant), but don't you think there is already enough of it scratching gardeners and catching windlblown debris on this planet?

There are plenty of other choices and by choosing a variety of plant types (grasses, perennials and shrubs) you will be able to create a garden that is not only attractive to look at but provides habitat and increases ecosystem diversity.  The fibrous root systems of grasses make them ideal slope plants and many have very attractive "flowers" that persist through the winter.  There are quite a few suitable perennials and shrubs as well; you will want to select those that spread via underground runners.

Your plant choices will ultimately be limited by what you find in the nurseries but you can create a wish list by visiting our Native Plant database. By performaing a Combination Seach for Massachusetts on that page and selecting dry conditions (that is generally the case on a slope, even with clay soil) and  sun to part shade, you can generate lists of grasses, perennials (herbs) and shrubs that will do the job for you. The lists are linked back to detailed information pages with images.

Here are some plants selected from those lists that should work for you.

Grasses

Panicum virgatum (switchgrass)

Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem)

Sporobolus heterolepis (prairie dropseed)

Perennials

Achillea millefolium (common yarrow)

Coreopsis lanceolata (lanceleaf tickseed)

Echinacea pallida (pale purple coneflower)

Monarda fistulosa (wild bergamot)

Oenothera fruticosa ssp. glauca (narrowleaf evening-primrose)

Shrubs

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (kinnikinnick)

Hypericum prolificum (shrubby St. Johnswort)

Rhus aromatica (fragrant sumac)

Rosa carolina (Carolina rose)

Symphoricarpos orbiculatus (coralberry)


Panicum virgatum

Schizachyrium scoparium

Sporobolus heterolepis

Nemastylis tenuis

Coreopsis lanceolata

Echinacea pallida

Monarda fistulosa

Oenothera fruticosa ssp. glauca

Rhynchospora colorata

Hypericum prolificum

Rhus aromatica

Rosa carolina

Symphoricarpos orbiculatus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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