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

Thursday - July 21, 2011

From: Eastsound, WA
Region: Northwest
Topic: Erosion Control, Grasses or Grass-like, Shrubs
Title: Plants for slope on Orcas Island, WA
Answered by: Nan Hampton


Hi! What a great site! Okay, I have a home on Orcas Island, WA. We live here from about June through September, but only visit once a month or so the other times of the year. We are looking for something to plant on our hillside (about 8 feet) that leads down to the beach. Here are some things to know about what I want: -no, or very low, maintenance (I am not a good plant person! and we are not always here. -the hillside can get wet because we are at the base of a smaller mountain, but the water goes down from there, but drains well -perennial -flowers sometime during late spring, most all summer to fall -can be ground cover or bush -full sun, summer around 80s, to winter, 20s -some things I've wondered that might work: kinnickinick, heathers, sprawling rose..but I have no idea really! Thanks so much, this is a great service!


We thank you for your kind words! 

As it turns out, you have a lot of good choices for plants for your slope.  I found most of the ones below on our Washington Recommended list and you can look for even more the list.  All of the ones I recommend are listed as growing on the San Juan Islands by the USDA Plants Database.   If you find another plant (or more) on the Washington Recommended list that you like, you can check to see if it grows on the San Juans by scrolling down its species page to near the bottom to ADDITIONAL RESOURCES and clicking on the USDA link.  This will get you to the species page on the USDA Plants Database.  You can then click on Washington on the distribution map and see the areas in Washington that the plant has been recorded as growing.


Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (Kinnikinnick) is a very good choice.   It is a mat-forming evergreen subshrub and will grow in sun, part shade and shade and lots of different soil types.  It blooms March through June and, thereafter, has attractive red berries.  Here are more photos and information.

Ceanothus sanguineus (Oregon teatree) grows 3 to 10 feet high in sun, part shade and shade and blooms May through July with fragrant white flowers.  Here are photos and more information.

Gaultheria shallon (Salal) is evergreen and grows 1 to 4 feet high in sun, part shade and shade and blooms April through July.  Here are more photos and information.

Holodiscus discolor (Cream bush) usually grows 4 to 5 feet high in sun or part shade and blooms May through August.  Here are more photos and information.  Here are more photos and information.


Some of the herbaceous plants below were found on the Washington Native Plant Society's Native Plants for Washington Gardens and Restoration Projects, an excellent resource.  I verified the plants' location on the San Juan Islands on the USDA Plants Database.

Achillea millefolium (Common yarrow) blooms April through September.  Here are more photos and information.

 Anaphalis margaritacea (Pearly-everlasting) blooms June through September.  Here are more photos and information.

Campanula rotundifolia (Bluebell bellflower) blooms July and August.  Here are more photos and information. 

Cerastium arvense (Field chickweed) blooms April through July.  Here are more photos and information.

Clarkia amoena (Farewell to spring)  blooms May and June.  Here are more photos and information.

Fragaria chiloensis (Beach strawberry) blooms April to June resulting in tasty berries.  Here are more photos and information. 

Solidago canadensis (Canada goldenrod) blooms September to November.  Here are more photos and information.

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

All these plants should be relatively carefree after they are established.  They will need water (rain or irrigation) for the first few weeks until their roots have grown.


From the Image Gallery

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

Gaultheria shallon

Holodiscus discolor

Common yarrow
Achillea millefolium

Western pearly everlasting
Anaphalis margaritacea

Bluebell bellflower
Campanula rotundifolia

Field chickweed
Cerastium arvense

Farewell to spring
Clarkia amoena

Beach strawberry
Fragaria chiloensis

Canada goldenrod
Solidago canadensis

More Shrubs Questions

Plants for steep slope in Pittsburgh PA
April 25, 2013 - I have a similar question to one from SC. I live in Pittsburgh, PA. We have a steep slope behind a newly built in pool. What type of plants can I put on the hillside to hold the soil. It gets a ...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification shrub with lavender flowers
August 28, 2009 - Looking for picture of flowering shrub,looks like a butterfly,two shades of lavender, don't know the name.
view the full question and answer

Deer resistant plants from New Braunfels TX
August 31, 2012 - I have a 1/2 yard covered by a tree, shady. Bermuda grass previous owner planted has all turned brown this summer. I don't have lots of money to work with but would love to landscape that side of fr...
view the full question and answer

Yucca blades damaged by weedeater in Hellertown PA
July 05, 2011 - Can I cut off the blades of a Yucca plant that have been eaten on the edges with a weed wacker and are very unsightly looking? Can they be cut back to the flower shaft?
view the full question and answer

Privacy Screen for Reading MA
June 27, 2012 - Best tree to grow for a privacy screen - Hello, we recently moved into a new house in Reading and have an open area on the side of our house where we can make a privacy screen from our neighbors. Wha...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center