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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

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Monday - May 17, 2010

From: West Chester, PA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Need grasses to stabilize a moderately steep slope in Pennsylvania
Answered by: Jimmy Mills


Hello. We have a moderately steep slope in a shady area that is in need of some help. The grass that is in place there seems to be thriving - nice and green, with good growth. However, kids running in the area, combined with the wheels of the landscapers' equipment, have torn up many areas. What is the best seed or combination to use that would provide (a) shade tolerance, and (b) a measure of 'toughness' that the steep slope requires? Keep in mind that we're located in Southeastern Pennsylvania - not far outside of Philadelphia.


You didn't mention the kind of grass that is place, but let me begin by saying that Mr. Smarty Plants is into native plants, ie. those plants that are not only native to North America, but native to the area in which they are growing. This leaves out most of the turf grasses. For a moderately steep slope, we generally recommend some types of native grasses/sedges to help stabilize the slope with their fibrous root systems.

To get an idea of the native grasses/sedges that occur in Pennsylvania, go to our Native Plant Database Page and scroll down to the Combination Search box. Make the following selections; Pensylvania under STATE or PROVINCE, grass/grass-like under HABIT, and perennial under DURATION. Check Part shade or Shade (as appropriate) under Light Requirement, and Dry under Soil Moisture. Click on the Submit Combination Search button, and you will get a list of native grasses/sedges that are suitable for growth in your state. Clicking on each of the names will pull  up  its NPIN page which contains descriptions and growth requirements as well as images of the plants.

This is a short list of plants from such a search.  Our Suppliers Directory can be helpful in finding sources for the plants or seed.

Bouteloua curtipendula (sideoats grama)

Carex pensylvanica (Pennsylvania sedge)

Carex blanda (eastern woodland sedge)

Panicum virgatum (switchgrass)

Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem)

From our Image Gallery

Bouteloua curtipendula

Carex pensylvanica

Carex blanda

Panicum virgatum

Schizachyrium scoparium



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