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
Not Yet Rated

Monday - April 18, 2011

From: Huntington, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Plants for a sandy slope in NY
Answered by: Anne Bossart


I can really use your help. I have a steep very, very sandy slope I need to plant to stop the erosion. It gets sun from 9:00 to 2:00. I plan on adding an irrigation system in the area. Planting is going to be a real challenge. Please help identify plants that will work under these conditions. Thank you in advance.


You do have your work cut out for you.  Even though you are planning to install an irrigation system, you will have very rapid drainage resulting in dry conditions (not to mention a potentially huge water bill) so your best bet is to plant drought tolerant grasses whose fibrous root systems will hold the slope and the moisture.  There are also a number of wildflowers (perennials) and shrubs native to your area that will not only survive, but even thrive in your conditions.

You can generate lists of those plants by visiting our Native Plant Database and performing a Combination Search.  Select: New York/the plant type (grasses, herbaceous plants, shrubs for three different lists)/dry conditions/part shade.  You can narrow the search further by choosing different bloom times and colors.  The plant names on the lists are linked to information pages that will give you more detail about each plant as well as photos. Then all you have to do is go shopping!

Here are some recommendations of plants we think will do well in your situation:


Bouteloua curtipendula (Sideoats grama)

 Panicum virgatum (Switchgrass)

Schizachyrium scoparium (Little bluestem)

Sorghastrum nutans (Indiangrass)


Aquilegia canadensis (Eastern red columbine)

Centaurea americana (American basket-flower)

Coreopsis lanceolata (Lanceleaf coreopsis)

Echinacea purpurea (Eastern purple coneflower)

Liatris aspera var. intermedia (Intermediate rough gayfeather)

Monarda fistulosa (Wild bergamot)

Oenothera fruticosa ssp. glauca (Narrowleaf evening-primrose)

Rudbeckia hirta (Black-eyed susan)

Solidago canadensis (Canada goldenrod)


Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (Kinnikinnick)

Ceanothus americanus (New jersey tea)

Comptonia peregrina (Sweet fern)

Physocarpus opulifolius (Atlantic ninebark)

Rhus aromatica (Fragrant sumac)

Rosa carolina (Carolina rose)

Symphoricarpos orbiculatus (Coralberry)

You should be able to create an attractive mixed planting which will be quite tolerant of your conditions once established, and will offer wildlife habitat benefits as well.

Here are some photos from our Image Gallery:

Bouteloua curtipendula

Panicum virgatum

Schizachyrium scoparium

Sorghastrum nutans

Aquilegia canadensis

Centaurea americana

Coreopsis lanceolata

Echinacea purpurea

Liatris aspera var. intermedia

Monarda fistulosa

Oenothera fruticosa ssp. glauca

Rudbeckia hirta

Solidago canadensis

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

Ceanothus americanus

Comptonia peregrina

Physocarpus opulifolius

Rhus aromatica


Symphoricarpos orbiculatus





More Grasses or Grass-like Questions

Grass planting time in East Texas
January 11, 2010 - When is a good time to plant grass in East Texas - Harrison County? Thanks so much.
view the full question and answer

Hillside Erosion in Pace FL
July 17, 2015 - I have a hillside that slopes down about 10 feet to a spring fed pond. The pond drains into Escambia Bay. We have 2 dams with culverts to control the flow of water. Last year during a torrential ra...
view the full question and answer

Can fibrous roots of Chasmanthium latifolium damage house foundation
May 03, 2013 - Dear Mr.Ms. S-P, Can the fibrous roots of inland sea oats cause foundation problems? I was digging around my foundation and found a root about 1" in diameter that I am afraid might be from sea oa...
view the full question and answer

Seed Habiturf on top of existing St. Augustine from Austin
January 26, 2012 - We don't want to rip up an existing St. Augustine lawn (potential HOA problems), but we'd like to go native grasses (like Habiturf?). Is there anything we can just seed on top of our present lawn a...
view the full question and answer

Retention pond from Hendersonville NC
April 24, 2012 - We have a retention pond that has recently been cleaned and we would like to plant perennial native plant and grass seeds that will enhance the appearance and contribute to the natural process of filt...
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