En Español

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

Thursday - September 02, 2010

From: Melrose, MA
Region: Northeast
Topic: Shade Tolerant
Title: Erosion control for steep shady hillside in Massachusetts
Answered by: Leslie Uppinghouse

QUESTION:

What would be a good plant for erosion control on a steep, very shady hillside in Massachusetts?

ANSWER:

Choosing a plant for a steep shady hillside might not be as limiting as you would think. The key to choosing the right plant for those conditions is to find a plant that will spread nicely to cover the area and be self-sufficient in care. Meaning you won’t have to risk life and limb crawling up or down the slope to keep the area looking nice.

To do this you need to pay attention to the conditions of the area. It looks like Melrose Mass has an average rainfall of 48 inches evenly spread out throughout the year. If you check the soil in the next week you will be at your wettest month which is November. If your soil remains moist regardless of a recent rain, consider your soil as moist.

You have noted that it is shady. Knowing how much shade verses sun is key to any plants survival. To know the difference between partial shade and shade you will need to take a day or two to measure the hours of sunlight the area in question receives. Partial shade is 2-6 hours of sun and Shade is 2 or less.

Below are links to plants that will do nicely in partial shade and or shade, as well as recommended for Massachusetts. Follow each link to the page on that plant in our Native Plant Database to learn its expected size, sun needs, propagation, growing conditions and soil types.  

Here is a tip for planting  a steep hillside. Start at the top. Make sure you have everything you need at arms length. This might mean that you have a pile of good dirt handy at the top of the hill, the middle and at the bottom. This way you can move slowly down the hill not disturbing you're newly planted charges. Don’t forget some native pine straw mulch if you are planting plants and not seed. This is a product made of native pine needles. You should be able to find it easily in your area. Mulch the newly planted area to keep your new plants in place while they are establishing. If you are seeding with grass then you will want to use an erosion control blanket to keep that seed in place. You don’t want to have all of your climbing go to waste.

 

Here is an excellent article on Erosion Control from the University of Washington. 

Here are some grasses for Massachusetts.

Spreading perennials for shade in Massachusetts :

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (kinnikinnick)

 

Juniperus horizontalis (creeping juniper)

 

Teucrium canadense (Canada germander)

 

Rosa setigera (climbing rose)

 

Osmunda regalis var. spectabilis (royal fern)

 

More Shade Tolerant Questions

Need plants to shade on a west-facing wall in Houston, TX
April 28, 2010 - What plants are best to provide shade on a west facing wall in Houston. I am looking for plants that help to cool the house.
view the full question and answer

Groundcovers for Shade Under a Sweetgum
March 25, 2015 - I have 3 large sweetgum trees that produce so much shade each summer, and grass, even grass meant for shade, won't grow here. It's become a barren desert! I have English ivy but it only seems to gro...
view the full question and answer

Need plants for shade in Arizona.
May 15, 2009 - Please suggest plants that I can plant in a shaded area. I live in Glendale, Arizona. The shade will be 100% of the time.
view the full question and answer

Shade ground cover in San Antonio
May 18, 2008 - I would like to find plants, spreading ground or flowers, to go under my red tips. These plants would be in a lot shade and not a great deal of water.
view the full question and answer

mixed species privacy hedge in Central Texas
March 24, 2016 - I need to plant a privacy hedge along a fence line. I am in east Austin, blackland prairie soil. The soil is rich, usually at least moist but not soggy, and I find lots of worms when I dig. The fen...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center