En EspaŅol

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
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

Sideoats grama
Bouteloua curtipendula

Winecup
Callirhoe involucrata

Western wheatgrass
Pascopyrum smithii

Missouri violet
Viola sororia

More Grasses or Grass-like Questions

Solarization and hand-pulling to remove invasive weeds
June 20, 2004 - We are planting a field of native grasses, and prepared the landscape by solarization last July. However it now seems that the weeds returned with great vigor. Is there any other method to get rid of ...
view the full question and answer

Native grasses for horses in Manor, TX
January 20, 2011 - Hi, Can you tell me which native grasses to plant that would grow (and be drought tolerant) in the Manor area. The area we would like to plant seeds has some sun and part shade. There appear to be so...
view the full question and answer

Planting creeping phlox for a groundcover
June 13, 2014 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, I live in Southwestern PA (zip code 15065). I have a small slope on my property that is hard for me to mow. I would like to cover it with creeping phlox, which I saw on t...
view the full question and answer

Native alternative to Japanese grass from Lake Jackson TX
May 16, 2013 - Is there a native alternative to Little Kitten maiden grass? I was asked to comment on a plan and don't want them to introduce another Japanese plant into our local habitat.
view the full question and answer

Stabilizing a shale slope in Virginia
April 08, 2009 - I have family members who recently built a new home in Virginia. The site required extensive excavation resulting in a large 30 foot, nearly vertical, shale wall behind the house. They now want to r...
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.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center