Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

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.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Friday - July 02, 2010

From: Dubuque, IA
Region: Midwest
Topic: Erosion Control, Shade Tolerant, Ferns, Grasses or Grass-like, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Plants for steep slope in shade in Iowa
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I work for a small non-profit shelter here in Dubuque, Ia. that has a very steep slope behind the building that needs some sort of plant or grass planted to stop erosion. The slope gets little to no sun. Any suggestions?

ANSWER:

Depending on how steep your slope is, you might 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 sown under the erosion-control material grow up through the matting when they germinate. You can also 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.

For plant recommendations, let's start with grasses since the extensive fibrous roots of grasses are very effective in holding soil in place. Since I don't know anything about your site's available moisture and soil composition, you will need to read the "Growing Conditions" area of each species to be sure they are compatible with your site.  I  have chosen plants native to Iowa that will grow in shade (less than 2 hours of sun per day).

Grasses and grass-like sedges:

Carex blanda (eastern woodland sedge)

Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats)

Muhlenbergia schreberi (nimblewill)

Digitaria cognata (fall witchgrass)

Carex pensylvanica (Pennsylvania sedge)

Herbaceous flowering plants:

Asarum canadense (Canadian wildginger)

Aquilegia canadensis (red columbine)

Hydrophyllum virginianum (eastern waterleaf)

Rudbeckia hirta (blackeyed Susan)

Maianthemum racemosum ssp. racemosum (feathery false lily of the valley)

Ferns:

Athyrium filix-femina (common ladyfern)

Dryopteris cristata (crested woodfern)

Polystichum acrostichoides (Christmas fern)

You can search for more plants that meet your criteria by visiting our Iowa Recommended page.  You can use the NARROW YOUR SEARCH option on the sidebar to make choices, e.g., select 'Shade..." under LIGHT REQUIREMENT.

 

From the Image Gallery


Eastern woodland sedge
Carex blanda

Inland sea oats
Chasmanthium latifolium

Canadian wild ginger
Asarum canadense

Eastern red columbine
Aquilegia canadensis

Virginia waterleaf
Hydrophyllum virginianum

Feathery false lily of the valley
Maianthemum racemosum ssp. racemosum

Crested woodfern
Dryopteris cristata

Christmas fern
Polystichum acrostichoides

More Shade Tolerant Questions

Shade Tolerant Grasses and Groundcovers for Waco TX
March 15, 2013 - What is the best shade-tolerant grass? What is the best shade-tolerant ground cover?
view the full question and answer

Small evergreen shrubs for part shade in Texas
January 31, 2015 - Mr. Smarty Pants, I'm, for some reason, at odds with myself about a shrub decision. I have need about 8 ft of hedge-like evergreen shrub(s) that I can maintain around 4ft to go under a window. It...
view the full question and answer

Native grasses for dry shade in North Central Texas
March 09, 2008 - I live in North Central Texas and have an area that is 80% shade and a dry soil condition. What native grasses would be suitable for this location?
view the full question and answer

Shade tolerant plants for Waynesville MO
April 09, 2013 - We moved to Waynesville, MO (gardening region 6) and when we bought our house there was a nice looking gardening area in front of the house. It is shaded moderately by a Redwood Tree and was "occupie...
view the full question and answer

Shade trees with a tap root
July 31, 2009 - I need a list of shade trees with a tap root system. I would also like the tree to grow at a medium to fast rate. I will be planting near a concrete wall and do not want the roots to do any damage to ...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.