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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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Monday - March 26, 2012

From: Charlottesville, VA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Rain Gardens, Erosion Control
Title: Riverbank retention in VA
Answered by: Anne Bossart

QUESTION:

I need some groundcover/bank retention for a Virginia riverbank in mixed sun and shade. I want to plant something native to VA. the area is out of the water but subject to occasional (4-5 times per year) flooding. Rocky,sandy soil. When it floods it sometimes leaves sand, but more often removes it, which is why I want to plant something to retain the soil and help prevent erosion. Thank you very much.

ANSWER:

The best plants to stabilize a bank and prevent erosion are plants like grasses that have fibrous root systems and shrubs and perennials that spread with runners to form thickets.

You can find suitable plants by doing a Combination Search on our Native Plant database.  Select Virginia, the plant habit and your conditions (part shade).  It sounds like the soil is quite dry except when it floods, so select dry conditions.  The list that is generated has links to detailed information pages for each plant.  You can then check which plants are adaptable enough to tolerate the wet conditions of flooding as well.

As your conditions are very much like those in a rain garden, you will find a very informative article the Brooklyn Botanic Garden has published about rain gardens as well as a plant list , helpful. You can cross reference between the lists you generate and those on their list.

Here are a few plants to consider:

Rhus aromatica (Fragrant sumac)

Amorpha fruticosa (Indigo bush)

Grasses with deep fibrous roots:

Andropogon gerardii (Big bluestem)

Andropogon glomeratus (Bushy bluestem)

Bouteloua curtipendula (Sideoats grama)

Schizachyrium scoparium (Little bluestem)

Sorghastrum nutans (Indiangrass)

 

 

 

From the Image Gallery


Indigo bush
Amorpha fruticosa

Fragrant sumac
Rhus aromatica

Big bluestem
Andropogon gerardii

Bushy bluestem
Andropogon glomeratus

Sideoats grama
Bouteloua curtipendula

Little bluestem
Schizachyrium scoparium

Indiangrass
Sorghastrum nutans

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