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Sunday - June 27, 2010

From: East Syracuse, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Erosion Control, Grasses or Grass-like, Herbs/Forbs, Shrubs
Title: Plants for a steep slope in New York
Answered by: Nan Hampton


We just installed a swimming pool in our back yard, which is at the top of a south facing slope. After the pool was installed the slope is now 3 ft higher and very steep (unmowable). I'd guess steeper than a 45 degree angle. The over all area is about 45 ft wide and 12 ft high. The area was back filled with a gravely dirt mixture to ease the slope. And we will soon be adding topsoil on top of that. We'd like to plant the area with a variety of native plants, grasses and shrubs to avoid any erosion. Do you have any suggestions? Thank You.


With your steep slope and with new loose top soil, it sounds as if you would benefit from using some sort of erosion control blanket. The erosion-control fabric works by slowing the runoff water and allowing sediments to fall out rather than be washed away. Seeds are sown under the erosion-control material and grow up through the matting when they germinate. You can insert plants into the soil by cutting through the matting. The roots of the plants that are growing through the erosion-control material anchor the soil to stop the erosion. If you use erosion-control blankets made of biodegrable material, they will eventually disappear leaving the plants to control the problem.  Most nurseries carry these erosion control blankets.

Let's start with grasses since the extensive fibrous roots of grasses are very effective in holding soil in place.  Here are some native New York grasses that should do well:

Andropogon virginicus (broomsedge bluestem)

Bromus kalmii (arctic brome)

Carex blanda (eastern woodland sedge)

Carex pensylvanica (Pennsylvania sedge)

Deschampsia cespitosa (tufted hairgrass)

Elymus canadensis (Canada wildrye)

Eragrostis spectabilis (purple lovegrass)

You can add other plants to the grasses, but since I don't know how much sunlight you have on your slope and how much moisture there is in the soil, I can only make general suggestions.  You should check the GROWING CONDITIONS for each recommended plant to be sure that they match the conditions at your site. Here are some plants that grow in or adjacent to Onondaga County, New York that would be suitable to add to the slope.

Hypericum prolificum (shrubby St. Johnswort)

Actaea rubra (red baneberry)

Ceanothus americanus (New Jersey tea)

Lupinus perennis (sundial lupine)

Monarda didyma (scarlet beebalm)

Monarda fistulosa (wild bergamot)

Sibbaldiopsis tridentata (shrubby fivefingers)

You can find other possibilities on our New York Recommended page.

Here are photos from our Image Gallery:

Andropogon virginicus

Bromus kalmii

Carex blanda

Carex pensylvanica

Deschampsia cespitosa

Elymus canadensis

Eragrostis spectabilis

Hypericum prolificum

Actaea rubra

Ceanothus americanus

Lupinus perennis

Monarda didyma

Monarda fistulosa

Sibbaldiopsis tridentata




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