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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Tuesday - July 05, 2011

From: Blanchard, OK
Region: Southwest
Topic: Erosion Control, Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Plants to stop erosion on creek side
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I need plants for a westside slope to a creek that will help with erosion, need fast growing and likes lots of sun. Thank you, Mr. Smarty Plants

ANSWER:

Grasses are ideal for erosion control because of their extensive fibrous root system that tend to hold the soil in place.   Here are some suggestions for grasses:

Height—about 3 feet or less

Bouteloua curtipendula (Sideoats grama)

Bothriochloa laguroides ssp. torreyana (Silver beard grass)

Koeleria macrantha (Prairie junegrass)

Muhlenbergia capillaris (Gulf muhly)

Pascopyrum smithii (Western wheatgrass)

Schizachyrium scoparium (Little bluestem)

Height—3 to 8 feet

Panicum virgatum (Switchgrass)

 Andropogon gerardii (Big bluestem)

Sorghastrum nutans (Indiangrass)

All of the above grasses will grow from seeds and, although earlier in the year would have been a better time to plant, you should be able to get them to sprout and grow now—providing, of course, that you give them plenty of water.  Native American Seeds has an article, Planting Tips for Native Grasses, that has useful information for getting your grasses established. You don't say how steep the slope is that you are trying to stabilize, but if it is very steep you might want to consider using some sort of erosion control mat or blanket called rolled erosion control products (RECPs).  They help stabilize the area until the grass can take over that function.   You sow the seeds under the blanket and they grow up through it.   Sowing the seeds under the blanket also keeps them from washing away in the rain or during the irrigation of the area.  Many of them are made of biodegradable material that eventually decomposes.  Many nurseries carry some form of these.

Here are some other plants to intersperse in the grasses that can help stabilize the slope:

Conoclinium coelestinum (Blue mistflower)

Monarda citriodora (Lemon beebalm)

Oenothera speciosa (Pink evening primrose)

Phlox pilosa (Downy phlox)

Artemisia ludoviciana (Louisiana artemisia)

You can search in our National Suppliers Directory for seed companies that specialize in native plants in your area.

 

From the Image Gallery


Sideoats grama
Bouteloua curtipendula

Silver beard grass
Bothriochloa laguroides ssp. torreyana

Prairie junegrass
Koeleria macrantha

Gulf muhly
Muhlenbergia capillaris

Western wheatgrass
Pascopyrum smithii

Little bluestem
Schizachyrium scoparium

Switchgrass
Panicum virgatum

Indiangrass
Sorghastrum nutans

Big bluestem
Andropogon gerardii

Blue mistflower
Conoclinium coelestinum

Lemon beebalm
Monarda citriodora

Pink evening primrose
Oenothera speciosa

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