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Monday - November 07, 2011

From: Charlotte, NC
Region: Southeast
Topic: Erosion Control, Grasses or Grass-like, Herbs/Forbs, Shrubs
Title: Plants for a lakeside bank in NC
Answered by: Anne Bossart


Our association is looking to plant a huge sloped area that runs down to Lake Wylie. We want to plant something that is good for erosion and that does not grow too tall so that we keep our view of the lake from our homes. We could use shorter plants at the top of the slope and taller ones nearer the bottom.


Without a doubt, native grasses are the best choice for your lakeside planting project.  Their fibrous root systems will hold the slope (even a sandy one) and they are drought tolerant.  Even though you are planting beside water, the soil conditions except for right at the water's edge, will tend to be dry because of the slope and the quick draining, sandy soil.  You don't mention what direction the slope is facing, but your conditions are likely sunny, regardless. Again, grasses are ideal as their form is very evocative of a natural beach planting and they are very attractive when lit by the sun and flowing in the breeze.

These grasses should do well in your situation:

Ammophila breviligulata (American beach grass) (be careful with this one ... it is a vigorous spreader, but you did say your area is huge)

Aristida purpurea (Purple threeawn)

Panicum virgatum (Switchgrass)

Schizachyrium scoparium (Little bluestem)

Sorghastrum nutans (Indiangrass)

Sporobolus heterolepis (Prairie dropseed)

and these will thrive in the wet conditions at the water's edge:

Andropogon glomeratus (Bushy bluestem)

Calamagrostis canadensis (Bluejoint)

Eleocharis montevidensis (Sand spikerush)

Juncus effusus (Common rush)

Typha latifolia (Broadleaf cattail)

You should be able to create quite a dramatic planting using large drifts of these grasses with native wildflowers mixed in.  You can choose from a list of wildflowers generated by our Native Plant Database.  Do a Combination Search for North Carolina selecting herbs (herbaceous plants) and sunny and dry conditions (or wet for plants at the edge or in the water).  You can also narrow the search by plant size, bloom time and bloom color.  If you decide you would like to include shrubs in the planting, you can create another list, selecting shrubs (or subshrubs, which are smaller). 

The more diverse your planting is, the more appealling it will be as wildlife habitat, so it will come alive with birds, butterflies, dragonflies and all sorts of critters.  You will also be delighted to hear that planting taller plants right at the shoreline will discourage Canada Geese from making your lake their winter home!


From the Image Gallery

American beach grass
Ammophila breviligulata

Purple threeawn
Aristida purpurea

Panicum virgatum

Little bluestem
Schizachyrium scoparium

Sorghastrum nutans

Prairie dropseed
Sporobolus heterolepis

Bushy bluestem
Andropogon glomeratus

Calamagrostis canadensis

Sand spikerush
Eleocharis montevidensis

Common rush
Juncus effusus

Broadleaf cattail
Typha latifolia

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