En Español

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
1 rating

Monday - May 29, 2006

From: Asheville, NC
Region: Southeast
Topic: Erosion Control
Title: Economical, low maintenance plants for erosion control on a bank
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Please advise of all species suitable for preventing bank erosion, specifically those that will cover a southern exposure 400 foot long, 15 foot high bank in western North Carolina that grows rapidly (invasive plants allowable since they can be controlled), require little to no care, and are as inexpensive as possible since my funding is limited.

ANSWER:

You don't say how steep the bank is, if it is in shade or sun, or if the soil is wet or dry. Those are all important considerations for deciding what plants will do well there. However, my first thought for plants for the area are grasses. They are easily maintained, seeds are relatively inexpensive and easy to sow, and the grasses will maintain themselves through reseeding. There are several very attractive grass species native to North Carolina:

Inland Sea Oats (Chasmanthium latifolium)
Purple lovegrass (Eragrosis spectabilis)
Gulf muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris)
Little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium)

Grasses have extensive root systems that will aid in combating erosion. All of the grasses listed above do well in full sun and mesic to dry soils and inland sea oats will also do well in the shade and wetter soils. They are all less than 4 feet high.

Since seeds will be your most economical option for plants on your bank, you might consider adding some wildflower seeds for variety. Again, it will depend on the shade/sun and moisture characteristics of the slope as to which wildflowers to pick. Some suggestions for mesic-dry sunny sites are:

Early coreopsis ( Coreopsis auriculata )
Carolina phlox (Phlox carolina)
Black-eyed Susan ( Rudbeckia hirta)

If your area is shady or wet, you would want to choose other plants. You can find more suggestions on our Regional Fastpacks page where you can download the "Southeast Recommended Native Plant Species List." It lists plants, dividing them by type (Cacti and Succulents, Ferns, Grass-like, Grasses, Shrubs, Trees, Vines, and Herbaceous). It lists their distribution by state and also gives information about growth--size, bloom color and time, sun and moisture requirements. The North Carolina Native Plant Society also has a list of recommended native plants for landscaping. Additionally, they have a list of sources for native plants in North Carolina. You can also find nurseries and seed companies that specialize in native plants in your area in our National Suppliers Directory.

We would strongly discourage you from using any invasive plants. You might be able to control where they move on your slope, but you won't be able to control where seeds might go that become attached to animals or are blown by the wind or are eaten by birds and deposited somewhere distant from your site. I encourage you to read the The Invasive Plant Dilemma on the North Carolina Native Plant Society page.
 

More Erosion Control Questions

Native plants of dune erosion control in Michigan
May 30, 2008 - We care for Lake Michigan dune near our home in New Buffalo and would like to provide erosion control with native species that will also enhance the beauty of the dune with long lasting flowers. The ...
view the full question and answer

Plants for a bare clay slope in North Carolina
December 22, 2011 - Hi - I live near Raleigh North Carolina (border of the coastal plain and Piedmont). I have about 1/2 acre that was excavated for a geothermal heating/cooling system and now I need to stabilize it a...
view the full question and answer

Plants for bridge foundation erosion control in WV .
July 05, 2010 - There is a stream on my property that I must cross to get to my house from the road (stream is about 6 - 8 feet wide, with 5 to 6 foot banks). I've recently had to have the bridge repaired, and the ...
view the full question and answer

Plants to prevent riverbank erosion in VA
March 05, 2011 - Looking for a plant to prevent erosion on a riverbank on the Rappahannock River in Virginia. Prefer something low, bank is a bit steep for regular mowing but could be mowed infrequently. Riverbank h...
view the full question and answer

Erosion control in Ft. Wright KY
June 02, 2010 - My house sits on a hillside. On the back and behind a somewhat large concrete deck there is a retention wall that protects the deck, but after that there is this large area (at least 24X20 ft), that ...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center