En Español

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
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 Shade Tolerant Questions

Plants to grow under pine trees in Riverside, CA
October 15, 2014 - Please tell me what plants would do well under pine trees in somewhat moist soil in Riverside, Ca. Also, I would prefer perennials that are easy to weed. (I currently have violets which are overrun wi...
view the full question and answer

Perennial phlox for partial shade
April 16, 2008 - I am planting a butterfly garden in a plot that gets sun in the morning and shade in the afternoon. I read that phlox does well in partial-shade areas, and was wondering which native, perennial phlox ...
view the full question and answer

Wildflowers for a shady spot in IL
February 26, 2011 - I have a low-sun spot on the side of my house in Chicago, IL. I would really like to turn this spot into a wildflower garden. Could you suggest some native IL flowers that might work in this spot? ...
view the full question and answer

Native ground covers for rocky, shady slope in Arlington, TX
January 25, 2009 - I need a good native ground cover for a completely shaded and rocky 30 degree slope with red sandy soil and southern exposure. Will anything grow in these conditions?
view the full question and answer

Non-toxic shade trees for horses in Florida
April 01, 2009 - Looking for non poisonous shade trees for pasture with horses. Would prefer flowering or something that changes color. Thank you.
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center