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

Thursday - August 02, 2012

From: Litchfield, IL
Region: Midwest
Topic: Wildlife Gardens, Erosion Control, Turf, Grasses or Grass-like, Herbs/Forbs, Wildflowers
Title: Plants to prevent erosion in IL
Answered by: Anne Bossart

QUESTION:

We just got done building a house and have leveled all of the dirt piles. We do have a row of straw bales to help prevent the dirt from washing onto the neighbors property. It is the wrong time of year to plant grass so I need some ideas to help keep the soil from washing away. We have a walkout basement and the ground around the end of retaining walls slopes considerably so I would like some plant suggestions for the sloping area that might be too steep to mow, and will keep the ground from washing away. The walkout basement faces southwest.

ANSWER:

What a year to be dealing with a "dust bowl" after moving into a brand new house!  You've probably had to deal more with the soil blowing away instead of washing away.

You don't mention how large your property is, but if it is a manageable size you could cover the area you hope to plant as lawn with straw (not hay) or any other type of mulch to keep the soil in place and the weeds down until the fall when you can seed.  Fall is actually an ideal time to seed, when the soil is still warm but the days are not so scorching with sun.  The birds are not so interested then, either.  Check out this article on This Old House's website with instructions and suggestions.

The prairie plants that are native to your area are ideal for your sloped retaining walls at your basement walkout; especially grasses.  Their fibrous root systems hold the soil in place and make them well adapted to the dry conditions that are usually present on a slope.  You can combine them with prairie wildflowers that will also thrive in the sunny conditions.

You can create lists of suitable plants by using the Combination Search feature of our Native Plant Database.  Select:  Illinois, the plant type you are looking for (grasses/herbaceos plants/shrubs) and then sun and dry conditions.  You can further narrow your search by selecting bloom colour and time, etc.  The plants listed are linked to detailed information pages with photos.  You will ultimately be limited by what plants are available in your local nurseries (prices are usually better in the fall, too!) but here are some suggestions of plants I like from those lists you might look for.

Grasses

These all look awesome in the fall as the sun is lower and lights up their "flowers"

Aristida purpurea (Purple threeawn)

Bouteloua curtipendula (Sideoats grama)

Panicum virgatum (Switchgrass)

Schizachyrium scoparium (Little bluestem)

Sorghastrum nutans (Indiangrass)

Sporobolus heterolepis (Prairie dropseed)

Perennial Wildflowers (herbs)

There are 168 plants on this list to choose from so you can have flowers throughout the growing season but who can resist:

Asclepias tuberosa (Butterflyweed)

Coreopsis lanceolata (Lanceleaf coreopsis)

Echinacea purpurea (Eastern purple coneflower)

 Liatris punctata (Dotted blazing star)

Monarda fistulosa (Wild bergamot)

Rudbeckia triloba (Browneyed susan)

Not only are these wildflowers attractive, but they are all important food sources for the birds, butterflies and insects that will bring your building lot back to life and help create a garden for you and the ecosystem.  Check out the Landscape for Life website for more ideas on how to work with nature in your garden.

 

 

 

 

From the Image Gallery


Purple threeawn
Aristida purpurea

Sideoats grama
Bouteloua curtipendula

Switchgrass
Panicum virgatum

Little bluestem
Schizachyrium scoparium

Indiangrass
Sorghastrum nutans

Prairie dropseed
Sporobolus heterolepis

Butterflyweed
Asclepias tuberosa

Lanceleaf coreopsis
Coreopsis lanceolata

Eastern purple coneflower
Echinacea purpurea

Dotted blazing star
Liatris punctata

Wild bergamot
Monarda fistulosa

Browneyed susan
Rudbeckia triloba

More Wildflowers Questions

Goldenrod recommendations for Buda, TX
January 22, 2011 - I am looking for a Solidago species Goldenrod that is non-invasive and suited to the area around Austin/ Buda, TX. I prefer to use a native, non-hybrid, especially since I am adjacent to a wild area. ...
view the full question and answer

Flowering native plants for Evanston IL
July 12, 2009 - What flowering, native plants would be suitable for a backyard garden in Evanston Illinois?
view the full question and answer

Is it illegal to collect wildflower plants from county roads in TX?
February 05, 2016 - Is it illegal to collect wildflower plants like bluebonnets from county roads in Texas?
view the full question and answer

Location of Indian Paintbrush in Lewisville, TX area
April 21, 2011 - Know the location of any spots where Indian Paintbrushes grow in North Texas? I'm in Lewisville, about 10 miles north of Dallas.
view the full question and answer

Are there drug cartels on the bluebonnet trails from Lake City FL
February 08, 2012 - We plan to fly to TX to see bluebonnets but do not know if the weather and forest fires have destroyed them. If not, can you estimate the peak bloom time? We are 75 and 81 and move around rather s...
view the full question and answer

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