Explore Plants

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
    
 

Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Thursday - September 27, 2012

From: Clinton, IA
Region: Midwest
Topic: Erosion Control, Groundcovers, Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Grasses for Erosion control in Iowa
Answered by: Brigid & Larry Larson

QUESTION:

We have a sloping yard in the midwest that gets 2-4 hours of sun during the warm weather. When we have large rainfalls, the water just pours down the slope causing a lot of erosion to the surrounding area. We are looking for a ground cover (perhaps a grass) that only grows to 3-5 inches tall that would not be damaged if mowed a few times a year on a high setting. The plants would need to grow deep roots to help slow down our erosion problem. Thank you for any help you can provide.

ANSWER:

Mr Smarty Plants agrees with your request for plants that form deep roots to address an erosion problem.  Our standard advice is that the best plants to stabilize a slope and prevent erosion are plants like grasses that have fibrous root systems and shrubs and perennials that spread with runners to form thickets.  Here is advice towards a similar issue in a very wet situation with erosion in Illinois.

Our general approach to find and recommend plants for your individual situation is to start with the list of recommended species for Iowa.  Then you can narrow this list of plants for specific characteristics that you desire.  For instance, when I  searched for grasses that tolerate shade or partial shade, there were ten species that fit these characteristics.  Four of these were relatively short and I expect either turf forming grasses or bunch grasses can achieve reasonable erosion control.  Consider these recommendations:

Deschampsia cespitosa (Tufted hairgrass)
Bouteloua curtipendula (Sideoats grama)
Carex pensylvanica (Pennsylvania sedge)
Pascopyrum smithii (Western wheatgrass)

Thinking you may like a little color – Mr Smarty plants also searched for groundcover herbs that are both short and tolerate shady conditions.  If this is of interest, check it out yourself, or consider these:

Callirhoe involucrata (Winecup)
Viola sororia (Missouri violet)

 

From the Image Gallery


Tufted hairgrass
Deschampsia cespitosa

Pennsylvania sedge
Carex pensylvanica

Western wheatgrass
Pascopyrum smithii

Missouri violet
Viola sororia

More Groundcovers Questions

Plants to grow between flagstones in the Hudson River Valley of New York
May 08, 2012 - I live in newburgh, ny & have aquired some bluestone. I want to do a walkway but will need a low mowable ground cover to go between the stones (not enough bluestone to cover the area. I know I have ...
view the full question and answer

Groundcover or grass for Panama City, Florida
April 19, 2009 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants I live in Panama City Florida and am having great difficulty growing a lawn. I would prefer no lawn as grass, it seems a pointless use of resources but my husband requires gr...
view the full question and answer

Groundcovers for Moreno Valley, CA
May 17, 2012 - Hi, I live in Moreno Valley, CA I have a huge flower bed area surrounding our grass I am looking for the best ground cover that will have minimal up keep.
view the full question and answer

Source for Dichondra from Hillsboro TX
November 26, 2012 - Where can I get dichondra and info about it?
view the full question and answer

Ground covers for play area in Plano, TX
April 14, 2007 - Is there a ground cover that would work under and around a swing in our front yard in Plano, Texas. It would get morning sun and dappled shade from a trimmed live oak in the afternoon. It would need t...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.