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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.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Tuesday - April 06, 2010

From: latrobe, PA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Groundcovers
Title: Ground cover for a clay/shale bank in PA
Answered by: Anne Bossart

QUESTION:

We have a 200ft x 30ft bank in front of our house (PA) the soil is made up with clay and shale. what ground cover will grow fast

ANSWER:

You don't include enough details for us to give you very specific recommendations, but we can point you in a directions where you will be able to decide which plants to use.

For instance, you didn't mention whether you are in an urban or suburban setting and how "manicured" you would like the bank to look.  Nor did you mention what the light exposure is or how deep the soil is.  The only thing we can really assume is that the conditions are dry due to runoff.

Were you thinking you would like to create a mass of the same plant type or a mixed planting of shrubs, ornamental grasses and perennials?

Your plant choices will be limited by your sun exposure and soil depth and even if you plant drought tolerant plants, you will need to water them until they are established (or longer if you want them to fill in quickly).

You can begin the selection process by visitng our Native Plant database. If you do a Combination Search for Pennsylvania and select dry conditions along with the appropriate light condition, it will generate lists of Shrubs, Perennials (herbs) and grasses that are native to your area.  Each plant in the list is linked to a detailed information page with images.  You will want to select plants that are vigorous and spread by underground runners to fill your arrea quicker.  Take the lists to your local nursery and see what they can recommend and supply.

Here are a few suggestions:

Grasses

Ammophila breviligulata (American beachgrass)

Bouteloua curtipendula (sideoats grama)

Panicum virgatum (switchgrass)

Perennials (Herbs)

Anaphalis margaritacea (western pearly everlasting)  (this can be a vigoros spreader)

Monarda fistulosa (wild bergamot)

Oenothera fruticosa ssp. glauca (narrowleaf evening-primrose)

Tradescantia virginiana (Virginia spiderwort)

Shrubs

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (kinnikinnick)

Comptonia peregrina (sweet fern)

Mahonia repens (creeping barberry)

Rhus aromatica (fragrant sumac)

Rosa carolina (Carolina rose)

Symphoricarpos orbiculatus (coralberry)

 

 

 

 
 

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