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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

Sideoats grama
Bouteloua curtipendula

Winecup
Callirhoe involucrata

Western wheatgrass
Pascopyrum smithii

Missouri violet
Viola sororia

More Erosion Control Questions

Restoring tornado-damaged property in Alexander City AL
January 29, 2012 - Dear Mr Smartypants, We were struck by the outbreak of tornadoes last spring and our wonderful woods are now unsightly sloping pastures with erosion problems.. many stumps and coils of roots. We are...
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Native plants and grasses for river bank from Rosanky TX
February 19, 2014 - Our property owners association would like to know what native plants/grasses to plant on the Blanco River bank in our river park to help prevent erosion. Some banks are steep and some areas are a gra...
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Chesapeake Bay Erosion Control from White Stone VA
January 14, 2012 - Native Wetland Plants for Chesapeake Bay Erosion Control -- I have a wooded lot (pine and hardwoods)leading to 4-5 ft. wide flat shoreline edged with riprap. What native wetland plants survive salt wa...
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Establishing wildflowers on a slope in Virginia
August 18, 2012 - From Roanoke Virginia. I have a steep bank rising from one side of my driveway to woods above. Different areas vary from full sun, to half day shade. It is possible to carefully walk/stand on it, we a...
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Native plants for erosion control in South Dakota
December 04, 2008 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants: I live in the Black Hills of South Dakota at about 5000 feet ASL. My house is on a steep hill. I had to clear a perimeter around my house of all the pine trees for fire supp...
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