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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.

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Monday - May 31, 2010

From: Hudson, OH
Region: Midwest
Topic: Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Plants for a sunny sloped roadside in Ohio
Answered by: Anne Bossart

QUESTION:

I am looking for a solution to a slope that cannot be easily mowed. Our yard is flat until you get about 15 feet from the road at which point it angles up to a small 5 foot area next to the road. I would like to find something low maintenance to plant that I could use in this 70'x10' area that can survive the amount of snow that it may get from overflow from the road yet still look nice if looked at from any angle. It does get about about 6 hrs of sun during the day. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

ANSWER:

You mention that the plants have to deal with snow piled on them by a snowplow so I imagine you are dealing with a certain amount of road salt as well.

Because of those conditions I would recommend not using shrubs (structural damage due to the snow load and salt damage, especially to evergreens) at all.

Your best bet are ornamental native grasses and prairie plants.  The grasses are statuesque enough to have the same visual impact as shrubs, are tough enough to withstand roadside conditions, have fibrous root systems to hold the slope and only need to be cut back once a year (late winter). They will also "stand" and look great througout a winter when you don't have too much snow.  The prairie perennials are typically deep rooted and drought tolerant so your planting will need very little attention once it is established.

Planting the perennials in drifts between the grasses will create a very pleasing effect from all views.

Here is a list of some Tallgrass Prairie Wildflowers and Grasses that should work for you.  Each plant has a link to a detailed information page on our Native Plant Database. You can find more plants for your garden by doing a Combination Search for Ohio and then selecting the plant type you are looking for (trees, shrubs, etc.) and your soil and light conditions. You can also find more information about Tallgrass Prairie and Savannah ecology (the ecosystem type you will be trying to establish) by doing and internet search.  This is one site you will find informative.

Andropogon gerardii (big bluestem)

Elymus canadensis (Canada wildrye)

Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem)

Sorghastrum nutans (Indiangrass)

Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly milkweed)

Anemone cylindrica (candle anemone)

Campanula rotundifolia (bluebell bellflower)

Desmodium canadense (showy ticktrefoil)

Monarda fistulosa (wild bergamot)

Rudbeckia hirta (blackeyed Susan)

Solidago juncea (early goldenrod)

Symphyotrichum oolentangiense (skyblue aster)

Verbena stricta (hoary verbena)


Andropogon gerardii

Elymus canadensis

Schizachyrium scoparium

Sorghastrum nutans

Asclepias tuberosa

Anemone cylindrica

Campanula rotundifolia

Desmodium canadense

Monarda fistulosa

Rudbeckia hirta

Solidago juncea

Symphyotrichum oolentangiense

Verbena stricta

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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