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

Monday - January 09, 2012

From: Brookfield, MA
Region: Northeast
Topic: Erosion Control
Title: slope stabilization in Massachusetts
Answered by: Anne Ruggles


My family and I recently put in a 120 x 100 horseback riding ring. It had to be built up in the back and, as a result, there is a 10 foot slope which could use stabilization. What plants native to Massachusetts could we use to prevent erosion? The soil is a bit sandy. Thanks!


What you plant will depend on how shaded or sunny the location is, how much moisture it gets, and when, etc. How you will plant will be informed by how steep the site is and how clean of vegetation it is. Grasses are the best erosion-control plants because their fibrous root systems hold the soil so well.  But there are also quite a few suitable forbs and shrubs as well. You will want to select those that spread via underground runners. Your plant choices will ultimately be limited by what you find in the nurseries but you can create a wish list by visiting our Native Plant database. By performing a Combination Search for Massachusetts and selecting dry and sun to part shade (or whatever your conditions are), you can generate lists of grasses, forbs, and shrubs that will do the job for you. The lists are linked back to detailed information pages with images.

1.  Here are several answers to similar questions about sites in Massachusetts answered on Mr. SmartyPlants. These all have links to photos and information about suggested plants.

a sloping partial shade site

a steep sunny site

a steep shady site


2.  The Master Gardeners of Mass. web site contains guidance for planting native plants on a slope. Planting A Slope: Tips and Plant Suggestions


3.  The Univ of Mass Agricultural extension service has this publication “Right Plant, Right Place” - A Plant Selection Guide for Managed Landscapes available. It will help you determine the type of site you have and what plants might be successful.


4.  New England Wetland Plants, Inc. supplies native seed mixes appropriate for a variety of site conditions ranging from wetland/hydric soils to drier more upland sites.

New England Erosion Control/Restoration Mix for Dry Sites

The New England Erosion Control/Restoration Mix For Dry Sites provides an appropriate selection of native and naturalized grasses to ensure that dry and recently disturbed sites will be quickly revegetated and the soil surface stabilized. It is an appropriate seed mix for road cuts, pipelines, steeper slopes, and areas requiring quick cover during the ecological restoration process. The mix may be applied by hydro-seeding, by mechanical spreader, or on small sites it can be spread by hand. Lightly rake, or roll to ensure proper soil-seed contact. Best results are obtained with a Spring or late Summer seeding. Late Spring through Mid-Summer seeding will benefit from a light mulching of weed-free straw to conserve moisture. If conditions are drier than usual, watering will be required. Fertilization is not required unless the soils are particularly infertile. Preparation of a clean weed free seed bed is necessary for optimal results.

New England Roadside Matrix Upland Seed Mix

Virginia Wild Rye (Elymus virginicus), Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), Creeping Red Fescue (Festuca rubra), Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardii), Indian Grass (Sorghastrum nutans), Switch Grass (Panicum virgatum)

Partridge Pea (Chamaecrista fasciculata), Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa), Golden Alexanders (Zizia aurea), Smooth Blue Aster (Aster laevis), Bush Clover (Lespedeza capitata), Purple Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum), Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa), Green Headed Coneflower (Rudbeckia laciniata), Grass Leaved Goldenrod (Euthamia graminifolia), Early Goldenrod (Solidago juncea)

Grey Dogwood (Cornus racemosa), Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina), Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana), Black Cherry (Prunus serotina)


5.  The Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM) describes a variety of grasses and forbs that might be appropriate for your site. The plants highlighted are not limited to use only on the coast.  



More Erosion Control Questions

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

Water eroding corner in Austin
October 25, 2011 - I live close to the Wildflower Center. My yard slopes - as do my neighbors' yards to one corner in my yard. The result is constant moisture in one corner. The rest of the yard is caliche, rocks (m...
view the full question and answer

Plants for steep slope in shade in Iowa
July 02, 2010 - I work for a small non-profit shelter here in Dubuque, Ia. that has a very steep slope behind the building that needs some sort of plant or grass planted to stop erosion. The slope gets little to no s...
view the full question and answer

Plants Needed for a Shaded, Rocky Slope in Alabama
July 06, 2016 - I live in Alabama where the soil is clay and rocky. I've tried planting on a rocky slope I have but, it's also shaded. Not even Juniper will survive on this slope. I've spent thousands of dollars tryi...
view the full question and answer

Landscaping for slope in Kansas City
October 08, 2008 - We have a down sloping back yard and patio on the lower area. We need some water absorbing plants near the foundation and some in the front of the house, where water isn't a problem. We are allergic ...
view the full question and answer

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