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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.

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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.

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Thursday - August 04, 2011

From: Takoma Park, MD
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Erosion Control, Groundcovers
Title: Ground cover for a slope in MD
Answered by: Anne Bossart

QUESTION:

Looking for a groundcover to hold a shady slope undercut with tree roots in Maryland and to prevent further erosion.

ANSWER:

I am unable to visualize the situation you describe as "undercut with tree roots" but if established tree roots are in the equation that means whatever you plant will be competing with them for available water.  Combine that with shady and slope and you have a gardenoing challenge indeed.

In order to determine what plants that are native to Maryland that will survive in those conditions visit our Native Plant Database and do a Combination Search selecting: Maryland, dry/shady conditions and your plant type.  The list that is generated will have links to detailed plant information pages with images.  You will want to search herbs (herbaceous perennials) and grasses for plant type.  You can also try subshrubs or very small shrubs. You will want to select plants that either have fibrous root systems or spread fairly vigorouly via stolons.

You will likely be disappointed by how few choices there are ... I am sure you have already realized that this is a tough place for plants to live.

Here are a few plants form those lists that might be worth a try:

Mitchella repens (Partridgeberry)

Viola pedata (Birdfoot violet)

Carex blanda (Eastern woodland sedge)

Sorghastrum nutans (Indiangrass)

Diervilla lonicera (Northern bush honeysuckle) 

Gaultheria procumbens (Checkerberry)

Hypericum prolificum (Shrubby st. johnswort)

Symphoricarpos orbiculatus (Coralberry)

 

From the Image Gallery


Partridgeberry
Mitchella repens

Birdfoot violet
Viola pedata

Eastern woodland sedge
Carex blanda

Indiangrass
Sorghastrum nutans

Northern bush honeysuckle
Diervilla lonicera

Eastern teaberry
Gaultheria procumbens

Shrubby st. john's-wort
Hypericum prolificum

Coralberry
Symphoricarpos orbiculatus

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