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?

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
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 27, 2010

From: Atlanta, GA
Region: Southeast
Topic: Compost and Mulch, Soils, Erosion Control, Shade Tolerant, Ferns, Grasses or Grass-like, Shrubs
Title: Erosion control on partially shaded slope
Answered by: Guy Thompson

QUESTION:

Mr. Smarty Plants, I live in Atlanta, GA. My house is on a hill, and I am beginning to have erosion at my backyard porch (concrete slab, on the corners especially). The soil is mainly red clay, and it washes away rather vigorously during heavy rains, exposing more of the concrete each time. I am looking for an attractive plant/shrub or grass, as it is our sitting area, that I can plant (partial shade) to prevent this. I do have some moss growing and am not sure if that will help with erosion control. Please help as I am afraid that my slab will crack eventually. Thank you David

ANSWER:

Mr. Smarty Plants can suggest several plants that will form mats and control erosion. But before planting anything it would be desirable to amend your red clay soil with peat moss and good compost to provide nutrients and water-holding capacity. If you prefer low-growing species, you might consider Pachysandra procumbens (Allegheny spurge) or Mitchella repens (Partridgeberry). These native perennials prefer a rather shady site but should do well in your partial shade if kept fairly moist. They will prosper most if shaded during midday. Another possibility is Phlox subulata (Moss phlox), which can tolerate more sun. These and more suggestions are mentioned at the Georgia Native Plant Society web site.

Ferns can prevent erosion too. A good choice for partial shade would be Polystichum acrostichoides (Christmas fern), which, like the other species mentioned above, is evergreen. Grasses can be effective in erosion control. Uniola paniculata (Sea oats) is a common plant on coastal sand dunes but can be grown inland in full or partial sun, producing a flowering spike about three feet high. If you would prefer a somewhat smaller grass, you might consider Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats). This very attractive grass forms unusual flat seeds on heads rising to about two feet. It does well in shade or partial shade. Both the recommended grasses are perennials, but the vegetative parts die back in winter.

To view more information on the choices suggested, click on the scientific name of the plant in the text above. Attached below are representative images of the recommended species.

 

From the Image Gallery


Allegheny spurge
Pachysandra procumbens

Partridgeberry
Mitchella repens

Creeping phlox
Phlox subulata

Christmas fern
Polystichum acrostichoides

Sea oats
Uniola paniculata

Inland sea oats
Chasmanthium latifolium

More Grasses or Grass-like Questions

Reseed Buffalograss in Early Spring in San Antonio
January 14, 2011 - When is best time to put down Buffalo grass seed in 78260 area. How much dirt should I put over existing sodded buffalo grass, which is now sparse?
view the full question and answer

Mowable sedge for Zone 5, New York
December 07, 2007 - My wife (who is from Austin!) and I have a house in New York, warmish Zone 5. We are seeking a grass-like groundcover for lawn areas ranging from full to partial shade. We have a well-drained hill n...
view the full question and answer

Native plants both deer resistant and good for erosion from North Oaks MN
August 23, 2012 - We have several partially sunny areas on hills that are prone to both deer and erosion. Our goal is to reduce runoff in an effort to preserve the watershed that provides tap water to many citizens of ...
view the full question and answer

Native grass to replace St. Augustine in Houston
July 18, 2009 - I read your answer to the question on the Houston Chronicle's website in relation to watering St. Augustine grass. You referred to St. Augustine as non-native, but from what I can gather St. Augusti...
view the full question and answer

Bunch grasses for labyrinth that are good for livestock
September 29, 2013 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, I'm designing an outdoor labyrinth that will be in full sun in our black Slidell clay soil here in north central Texas. The area MAY be mowed for hay at a later date (i.e...
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.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center