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
2 ratings

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


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


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

Mitchella repens

Birdfoot violet
Viola pedata

Eastern woodland sedge
Carex blanda

Sorghastrum nutans

Northern bush honeysuckle
Diervilla lonicera

Eastern teaberry
Gaultheria procumbens

Shrubby st. johnswort
Hypericum prolificum

Symphoricarpos orbiculatus

More Erosion Control Questions

Ground cover for steep slope in Washington DC
May 07, 2010 - We have a steep slope in our garden in Washington DC which has sun from noon to sun set. Could you please recommend some low maintenance plants which would be a good ground cover and limit erosion?
view the full question and answer

Hillside Erosion Control for Gainesville GA
August 07, 2013 - I have a steep bare hill and the runoff from it is heavy this year. I need help with a fast growing groundcover that will help control erosion and runoff. Planting on the hill is difficult because you...
view the full question and answer

Need a pretty ground cover to control erosion in Rigdeway, SC.
June 09, 2012 - What is a fast, pretty ground cover blanket to control erosion on steep hill. gets full sun.
view the full question and answer

Erosion Control for a Shaded Slope in Aliquippa PA
May 07, 2014 - What plants. shrubs or trees can I plant to retard soil erosion on a steep shaded hillside in PA
view the full question and answer

Native grass for erosion control on Shoal Creek in Austin, TX
June 22, 2011 - What is the best grass seed for erosion control in Austin, TX - Shoal Creek goes through my back yard and I need to seed some areas and it gets lots of sun.
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center