En EspaŅol

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?


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
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
rate this answer
1 rating

Saturday - November 13, 2010

From: Studio City,, CA
Region: California
Topic: Erosion Control, Shrubs
Title: Plants for steep slope in California
Answered by: Nan Hampton


Where do I find out about the specific root structure of various California native plants? Are there shrubs that have tap roots & hence are good for steep slopes? The genus of any such plants that you know of would be great. Thanks!


Well, I'm not going to be able to give you a list of plants with descriptions of their root systems, but I am going to recommend that you read an article, Simple Erosion Control for a Hillside or Garden Slope, from Las Pilitas Nursery that specializes in California native plants with locations in Santa Margarita and Escondido.  They have a lot of useful information about controlling erosion and they offer lists of plants for slopes or you can use their search engine, MyNativePlants.com, to find plants that match your slope's characteristics.  They do recommend that you mix a variety of different plants on your slopes.  Here are some possibilities:

Most Arctostphylos species, for example:

Arctostaphylos pungens (Pointleaf manzanita)

Arctostaphylos patula (Greenleaf manzanita)

Many of the Ceanothus species, for example:

Ceanothus greggii (Desert ceanothus)

Ceanothus griseus (Carmel ceanothus)

And, a variety of other species:

Eriogonum fasciculatum (Eastern mojave buckwheat)

 Diplacus aurantiacus ssp. aurantiacus (Orange bush monkeyflower)

Salvia columbariae (California sage)

Salvia sonomensis (Creeping sage)

Cleome isomeris (Bladderpod spiderflower)

Dendromecon rigida (Tree poppy)

Purshia tridentata (Antelope bitterbrush)

You can find other suitable plants on our California-Southern Recommended list.

Here are photos from our Image Gallery:

Arctostaphylos pungens

Arctostaphylos patula

Ceanothus greggii

Ceanothus griseus

Eriogonum fasciculatum

Diplacus aurantiacus ssp. aurantiacus

Salvia columbariae

Salvia sonomensis

Cleome isomeris

Dendromecon rigida

Purshia tridentata




More Erosion Control Questions

Landscaping recommendations for site in Dubuque, IA
March 27, 2010 - I need a seed recommendation. Here are the variables: Location: Dubuque, IA (east Central Iowa) Soil type: Sandy to sandy and gravelly. Part is a riverbank facing east. Steep bank then flat to ...
view the full question and answer

Plants to stop erosion on hills in Kansas
December 20, 2009 - I would like to plant some type of forage to stop the erosion on my hills & eliminate some of the mud in my turnout areas. It needs to be something that either horses won't eat or that can survive h...
view the full question and answer

Holding soil on a bank in Goldsboro, NC
July 25, 2010 - I live in Goldsboro, NC on a small ridge with a very steep bank on one side of our property. What native plants can we plant on the bank to help hold the soil. Also, what would be best to plant on t...
view the full question and answer

Shady Perennial Groundcover Suggestions for Indiana
April 21, 2013 - Could you please recommend perennial groundcovers for Indiana that are low and leafy, self-spreading, non-invasive, deer resistant, and moisture tolerant; and that are good for erosion control on a sh...
view the full question and answer

Plants for erosion control in Pittsburgh, PA
August 22, 2009 - I have a terraced high side lot(front of house). I currently have Yuccas growing, but they are too invasive. Can you suggest plants, shrubs, or ground covers that are not as invasive and will still ...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center