Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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

Tuesday - July 12, 2011

From: Bradford, PA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Erosion Control, Grasses or Grass-like, Herbs/Forbs, Shrubs
Title: Plants for steep bank in Pennsylvania
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

What do I do with a very steep bank with hard clay soil to stop erosion and to look nice. Is there a ground cover that would help?

ANSWER:

I recommend a mixture of grasses, herbaceous plants and small shrubs.  Grasses are very effective at holding soil in place because of their extensive fibrous root systems, but covering your steep bank with one kind of grass only could be a bit boring. Monocultures are generally not the best idea so choosing two or more grasses and interspersing them with some herbaceous plants and small shrubs will give you an interesting and effective means of controlling the erosion.  Since you didn't say, I don't know the moisture and sun availability.  You need to check the "Growing Conditions" section for each species to see if the required environmental conditions are compatible with your site. The cheapest way to carry out your project is by sowing seeds. However, since you would be sowing the seeds on a slope, you will probably find that rain will wash the seeds away before they have had a chance to germinate. You might be able to find grass plugs or nursery plants available for sale. They will be more expensive than the seeds but would have a better chance of setting their roots before rain could wash them away. Another possibility is to use erosion control blankets to stabilize the erosion area. The erosion-control fabric works by slowing the runoff water and allowing sediments to fall out rather than be washed away. Seeds are sown under the erosion-control material and grow up through the matting when they germinate. You can also insert plants into the soil by cutting through the matting. The roots of the plants that are growing through the erosion-control material anchor the soil to stop the erosion. If you use erosion-control blankets made of biodegrable material, they will eventually disappear leaving the plants to control the problem. 

 Grasses:

Elymus canadensis (Canada wildrye or canada wild rye)

Elymus virginicus (Virginia wildrye)

Panicum virgatum (Switchgrass)

Sorghastrum nutans (Indiangrass)

Schizachyrium scoparium (Little bluestem)

Herbaceous plants and small shrubs:

Monarda fistulosa (Wild bergamot)

Phlox divaricata (Wild blue phlox)

Phlox subulata (Moss phlox)

 Artemisia ludoviciana (Louisiana artemisia)

Dasiphora fruticosa ssp. floribunda (Golden-hardhack)

 

From the Image Gallery


Canada wild rye
Elymus canadensis

Virginia wildrye
Elymus virginicus

Switchgrass
Panicum virgatum

Indiangrass
Sorghastrum nutans

Little bluestem
Schizachyrium scoparium

Wild bergamot
Monarda fistulosa

Wild blue phlox
Phlox divaricata

Creeping phlox
Phlox subulata

Louisiana artemisia
Artemisia ludoviciana

Shrubby cinquefoil
Dasiphora fruticosa ssp. floribunda

More Shrubs Questions

Problems with non-native Eugenia in Scottsdale AZ
June 02, 2012 - I have 5 eugenia topiaries in my courtyard in pots..I notice as the days here in Phoenix get hotter and dry (as usual) they are starting to look bad, even though they are under a shelter out of the di...
view the full question and answer

Texas sage losing inner leaves
May 14, 2015 - I have a Texas Sage bush that on the outside is beautiful with green leaves. The inside branches (the middle) of the bush are bare of any leaves. Why?
view the full question and answer

Older leaves yellowing on Savannah holly in Dallas
May 01, 2009 - I planted a Savannah Holly in Dallas, TX in the Fall of 2008. It has new growth and some white buds all over it, but some of the older leaves are turning yellow and dropping off. Is this normal?
view the full question and answer

Evergreen flowering shrub for North Augusta GA
July 12, 2009 - I need suggestions for shade-loving evergreen flowering bush that will grow 6 feet or so, besides azaleas.
view the full question and answer

Screening Plants for Cape Cod
June 17, 2014 - I need to plant some fairly high growing leafy plants/bushes/trees for privacy and as a sound barrier in (the remains of) a pine forest in Cape Cod, MA. The pines grow tall and skinny so that we can s...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.