Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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?

Share

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 - April 10, 2012

From: Colchester, VT
Region: Northeast
Topic: Erosion Control, Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Plants to stabilize a bank in VT
Answered by: Anne Bossart

QUESTION:

I am looking for suggestion on what plants might best be suited for aiding in the stabilization of a very steep bank above Lake Champlain.

ANSWER:

Generally speaking, we recommend planting ornamental grasses to stabilize a steep bank. Their fibrous root systems really hold the soil in place and enable the plant to thrive in the "rapidly draining" (aka dry) soil conditions that are usually present on such a site.

These grasses are native to Vermont and would do the job quite nicely:

Ammophila breviligulata (American beach grass) (this plant can be very aggressive)

Calamagrostis canadensis (Bluejoint)

Hierochloe odorata (Sweetgrass)

Panicum virgatum (Switchgrass)

Schizachyrium scoparium (Little bluestem)

Sorghastrum nutans (Indiangrass)

If a mixed planting of grasses, shrubs and flowering perennial plants was more what you had in mind, you will want to select those that spread with runners or stolons.

You can visit our Native Plant database to learn more about which plants might be useful.  By doing a Combination Search for Vermont and selecting the plant type (shrub or herb(aceous perennial)) and the light and soil conditions of your site, you will generate lists of plants native to your area that meet those conditions.  Each plant name is linked to a detailed information page with images. 

For instance, a search for shrubs using the assumption that your conditions are sunny and dry, generates a list of 39 shrubs.  Plants from this list like Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (Kinnikinnick), Rhus typhina (Staghorn sumac) and Rosa carolina (Carolina rose) are all good "spreaders".

Asclepias tuberosa (Butterflyweed), Monarda fistulosa (Wild bergamot) and Tradescantia virginiana (Virginia spiderwort) are just a few of the perennials from the list of 89 that will also hold the soil.  You will find that the perennials that other gardeners are constantly digging up, dividing and sharing will be good "workhorses" for you!

 

 

From the Image Gallery


American beach grass
Ammophila breviligulata

Bluejoint
Calamagrostis canadensis

Sweetgrass
Hierochloe odorata

Switchgrass
Panicum virgatum

Little bluestem
Schizachyrium scoparium

Indiangrass
Sorghastrum nutans

Kinnikinnick
Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

Staghorn sumac
Rhus typhina

Carolina rose
Rosa carolina

Butterflyweed
Asclepias tuberosa

Wild bergamot
Monarda fistulosa

Virginia spiderwort
Tradescantia virginiana

More Grasses or Grass-like Questions

Recreating a wildflower meadow, central Texas
July 02, 2013 - We have an acre on our property that has bluebonnets. Unfortunately, it also has other plants that we don't want -Johnson grass, nettles, burrs. We plan to do a controlled burn in the fall and re-...
view the full question and answer

Plants for banks of a retention pond in Alabama
April 24, 2009 - What can we plant on the inner and out walls of a detention pond to stop erosion? The pond is located in a neighborhood in Mobile, AL and the walls are 9 ft high with a steep slope.
view the full question and answer

Creating a wildflower meadow
May 18, 2013 - I have an area 1-6 acres worth that is currently grass that I would like to overseed with wildflower seed. The local native plant nursery says that would be a waste. I don't really want to kill gra...
view the full question and answer

Replacement for Kentucky grass in Colorado
July 02, 2012 - What kind of grass to replace "Kentucky grass"? It uses too much water. Need drought tolerant grass for the Rifle, Colorado area ("zip code is 81650"). Water bill is way too high, pushing over $10...
view the full question and answer

New gardener on lawn for Poolville TX
April 28, 2012 - I have never had the opportunity to have a nice yard until recently when I got married. My husband loves a nice yard and we have worked very hard and put in hours of work. We are learning by trial a...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.