En Español

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Tuesday - January 17, 2012

From: Elysian, MN
Region: Midwest
Topic: Plant Lists, Erosion Control
Title: Plants for steep lakeside bank in Minnesota
Answered by: Nan Hampton


I am new to MN and would like to plant some pretty plants on my steep lakeside bank. What type plants and flowers should I plant to prevent erosion, but not block the lake view?


Grasses are very effective at controlling erosion because their extensive fibrous root systems help to hold the soil in place.   Here are a few grasses native to your area that are attractive and not particularly tall:

Bouteloua hirsuta (Hairy grama) is 10 to 18 inches tall and grows in part shade.

Eragrostis spectabilis (Purple lovegrass) grows 8 to 18 inches tall.

Hordeum jubatum (Foxtail barley) grows 1 to 2 feet tall.

Koeleria macrantha (Prairie junegrass) is 1 to 2 feet tall.

Schizachyrium scoparium (Little bluestem) grows 18 to 24 inches.

A combination of grasses should work well to control the erosion and you can plant other colorful perennials or annuals interspersed with the grasses.  Please visit our Minnesota Recommended page to find plants that are commercially available for landscaping in the state.  You can use the NARROW YOUR SEARCH option to limit the HEIGHT (IN FEET) of the plants to 0-1 or 1-3.  You can also designate the type of plant and light and moisture requirements.  Here are a few suggestions from the list that you might consider:

Asarum canadense (Canadian wild ginger) grows in shade and part shade to 4 to 8 inches high.

Cornus canadensis (Bunchberry dogwood) grows in sun, part shade and shade to a height of 3 to 6 inches.

Dicentra cucullaria (Dutchman's breeches) grows in sun, part shade and shade to 10 inches.

Mitchella repens (Partridgeberry) grows in shade and part shade to only 2 inches high.

Fragaria virginiana (Virginia strawberry) grows in sun and part shade up to 6 inches.

Sanguinaria canadensis (Bloodroot) grows in shade and part shade to 10 inches.

Uvularia sessilifolia (Spreading bellwort) grows in sun, part shade and shade to 10-15 inches.

You might find our How to Article, Meadow Gardening, useful since with a mixture of grasses and flowers you are creating a meadow, albeit a sloping one.


From the Image Gallery

Hairy grama
Bouteloua hirsuta

Purple lovegrass
Eragrostis spectabilis

Foxtail barley
Hordeum jubatum

Prairie junegrass
Koeleria macrantha

Little bluestem
Schizachyrium scoparium

Canadian wild ginger
Asarum canadense

Bunchberry dogwood
Cornus canadensis

Dutchman's breeches
Dicentra cucullaria

Mitchella repens

Virginia strawberry
Fragaria virginiana

Sanguinaria canadensis

Spreading bellwort
Uvularia sessilifolia

More Plant Lists Questions

Plant List for Charleston South Carolina
April 08, 2013 - I would like a list a plants that would do well in Charleston SC.
view the full question and answer

Need Plants and Soil for a Green Roof in Buffalo, TX
September 13, 2010 - I'm building a green roof on my cabin in the Buffalo, Texas, area. Would you know what soil and plants would be best suited for that area? I have a lot of sand I could use, but didn't know if that...
view the full question and answer

Planting Suggestions for a Lake Home in Wayne County, MO
April 03, 2014 - We have a lake home in Wayne County, MO at Lake Wappapello. The soil is very rocky. We recently cleared an area around our home of assorted dead trees, some cedars and what seemed like tons of vines. ...
view the full question and answer

Landscaping plans in Kyle TX
February 12, 2012 - I am starting from scratch in a backyard (approx. 52'x25')in Central Texas (Kyle). The backyard is on the north side of the single story house. I would like to have plants and trees that attract and...
view the full question and answer

Native plants of Arizona from Chandler AZ
March 26, 2012 - What are some native plants of Arizona, and how do survive in the heat?
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center