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
1 rating

Thursday - January 03, 2013

From: Granville, OH
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Seed and Plant Sources, Soils, Erosion Control, Groundcovers, Shade Tolerant, Ferns, Grasses or Grass-like, Herbs/Forbs, Shrubs
Title: Native Plants for Shaded North Slope in Ohio
Answered by: Janice Kvale

QUESTION:

I have a shaded north hillside which needs erosion control plants. Mostly moss and very thin grass grows there now. Please help!

ANSWER:

The usual solution for erosion are plants that develop a fibrous root system--often grasses and sedges. In this case, you already have some grass that is not thriving, which brings us to amending the soil. To do that start with a soil analysis. There are some excellent sites in Ohio to help you with this. Start with the Department of Natural Resources where there is more information than you probably knew was available. On that site is a link to soil testing through the County Extension system. The Licking County website indicates they will facilitate soil testing through Ohio State University Extension Office. Of course you could also choose to straightaway select some species, pop them in the ground and see if they thrive with the soil conditions that you have. Trial and error may take longer to achieve your goals however.

The evidence of moss suggests that the soil has low fertility, is compacted, has a low pH (means it is acid), and receives insufficient sunlight, which you already know. That moss grows on the north side appears to be common knowledge, but this website suggests there is much more at play than a north location or even acid soil.

Once you have the soil analyzed and amend the soil, then you may select what to plant there. On a slope? Perhaps you want something that you won't need to mow. What and how you plant depends on the size of the space you want to fill. Mr. Smarty Plants suggests using plants and seeds native to your area. Read here for reasons why this is to your advantage. Then read here for native plant suppliers close to you.

Now for suggestions of what you might consider planting, when you get to that stage in this project. Take a look at this previous Mr. Smarty Plants answer for neighborting Pennsylvania, which will give you other possible ideas. The following suggestions are a mix of shrubs, grass, sedge, fern, and herb. You may want to consider a variety of plants in the area for interest and stagger the sizes to fit the site. Look up the specifics for any of these plants on our website by clicking the hot linked names.

Sorghastrum nutans (Indiangrass) grows 3-8 feet tall and is a sod former, a good grass to help prevent erosion.

Carex pensylvanica (Pennsylvania sedge) is a turf-forming ground cover standing 6-12 inches high. It enriches soil.

Pteridium aquilinum (Western bracken fern) forms deep roots and grows aggressively. It likes poor, sterile, acid soils.

Lycopodium digitatum (Fan clubmoss) is an evergreen ground cover that likes acid soil. It is related to the mosses and looks like miniature pine at about 6 inches tall.

Coreopsis lanceolata (Lanceleaf coreopsis) adjusts to many types of soil including acid soils and provides a cheerful yellow blossom.

Ceanothus americanus (New jersey tea), a 3 foot shrub, is a nitrogen fixing plant that wants a less acid soil.

Diervilla lonicera (Northern bush honeysuckle) is also a 3 foot shrub that prefers acid soil. It suckers freely and has a lovely blossom.

Rhus aromatica (Fragrant sumac) stands 6-12 feet tall and produces bright red berries.

 

From the Image Gallery


Indiangrass
Sorghastrum nutans

Pennsylvania sedge
Carex pensylvanica

Western bracken fern
Pteridium aquilinum

Fan clubmoss
Lycopodium digitatum

Lanceleaf coreopsis
Coreopsis lanceolata

New jersey tea
Ceanothus americanus

Northern bush honeysuckle
Diervilla lonicera

Fragrant sumac
Rhus aromatica

More Ferns Questions

Container plants for Arlington TX
February 10, 2012 - Mr. Smarty Plants, I just moved to Arlington, TX. I am trying to create a container garden on my apartment balcony. What flowers, herbs, vegetables, and fruit combinations can I put together that wil...
view the full question and answer

Identity of fern-like plant in woodland garden
August 04, 2008 - what is the fern-like, hairy fleshy-stemmed, 12"-18" ht plant in my woodland garden
view the full question and answer

Stopping erosion on bank of a Florida retention pond
July 21, 2015 - I live on a retention pond, which has had all vegetation killed by the lake doctor. As a result the bank has eroded so there is a drop off directly to the water rather than a sloping bank. What plan...
view the full question and answer

Dieback of river fern and maidenhair fern in the Texas summer
August 28, 2015 - My river fern and maiden hair fern are dying back. I know it is hot, but they are in shade and watered regularly. The river fern is dying back from the tips. Any fungus or bugs I should be looking ...
view the full question and answer

Erosion control for a North Carolina creek side
February 29, 2012 - Hello Mr. Smarty Plants! I noticed a question on your website recommending NC native grasses and plants to help prevent erosion on a sloping backyard, including the use of an erosion blanket. The pl...
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