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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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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

QUESTION:

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!

ANSWER:

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.

SHRUBS

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.

HERBACEOUS

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


Kinnikinnick
Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

Salal
Gaultheria shallon

Ocean spray
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

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