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
Not Yet Rated

Thursday - January 24, 2013

From: Hobart, IN
Region: Midwest
Topic: Erosion Control, Shade Tolerant
Title: Erosion Control for Shady Ditches
Answered by: Anne Van Nest

QUESTION:

What plants can you recommend for erosion control along shady ditches in Northwest Indiana?

ANSWER:

Selecting plants for your shady ditch isn’t as straightforward as it may seem. There are a lot of considerations when deciding on plants for erosion control issues in ditches (and other steep banks). Prospective plants have a long list of criteria with which to fulfill. Plants to consider should be natives and sustainable, provide erosion control (have fibrous roots to hold the sloped ditch sides in place), be adapted in your Indiana environment (plants native to your region will fare better), have tolerance for extreme wet and dry soil conditions (when the ditch floods in the spring and fall or dries out during summer droughts), be herbaceous, are short enough to mow (if desired) and enjoy growing in the shade.

The first place to go to find a list of potential plants to consider for your shady ditch is our Native Plant Database. Use the Combination Search feature instead of Recommended Species. This will provide a bigger selection with much more choice to narrow down. The volunteers and staff at the Wildflower Center who maintain the database have partners in different regions to help with these recommended species lists based on what is easy to access in local nurseries.

Under Combination Search, select the following categories: Indiana, Habit – Herb (herbaceous blooming plants), Duration – Perennial, Light Requirement – Shade (2 hours or less of sun), and 0-1 ft. under Anticipated Mature Height. You can expand this search to bring in additional plants by including part shade or taller plants if these fit your requirements.

Follow each plant link to our webpage for that plant to learn its growing conditions, bloom time, etc. Pay particular attention to the soil moisture requirements to see if they are similar to your onsite conditions. At the bottom of each plant webpage, under Additional Resources, there is a link to the USDA webpage for that plant. Take a look there for more specific details about suitability before you put them on your final list.

Here are some of the plants that you might consider but do also look at the sedges and grasses suggested in these other erosion control answers. Some plants will work better depending upon the amount of shade and the degree of wet/dry soil conditions you have in your ditch. 

Argentina anserina (silverweed cinquefoil), a low perennial that is used for erosion control because it spreads by runners. It grows in moist shade in riparian or wet meadow situations.

Coptis trifolia (threeleaf goldthread)

Galium triflorum (fragrant bedstraw)

Hydrocotyle umbellata (water pennywort)

Hydrophyllum virginianum (Eastern waterleaf)

Iris brevicaulis (zigzag iris) 

Clintonia borealis (bluebead)

Calla palustris (water arum)

Cornus canadensis (bunchberry)

 

From the Image Gallery


Silverweed cinquefoil
Argentina anserina

Manyflower marshpennywort
Hydrocotyle umbellata

Zigzag iris
Iris brevicaulis

Virginia waterleaf
Hydrophyllum virginianum

Fragrant bedstraw
Galium triflorum

Threeleaf goldthread
Coptis trifolia

Water arum
Calla palustris

Bunchberry dogwood
Cornus canadensis

Bluebead
Clintonia borealis

More Shade Tolerant Questions

Fast-growing vine for shade in Brooklyn
June 05, 2011 - I am looking for a flowering vine that is fast growing and will be able to flower this season if I plant it within next couple weeks (in June) here in Brooklyn. I want something that will grow up a pi...
view the full question and answer

Sedges or grasses for sun/shade in Georgetown, TX
March 24, 2008 - I have an area that is part shaded (under oak trees) and part in the sun. I would like cedar sedge in the shaded areas (some is already growing there)but I can not find where to buy it. Do you know w...
view the full question and answer

Low Ground Cover for Steep, Shaded PA Site
February 17, 2014 - I am located in Downingtown, PA, right on the border between Zone 6 and 7. Please provide a recommendation of a native ground cover for the following conditions: steep slope (greater than 45%), full s...
view the full question and answer

Groundcover to prevent erosion in Florida
November 04, 2012 - I live on a hill and put in a new side driveway and now I am seeing erosion along the driveway and can see the bottom of my concrete. Grass won't grow because its all shaded. What would be the best g...
view the full question and answer

Plants for a Septic Field in NC
August 14, 2013 - What kinds of low water plants can I plant over a new septic field in North Carolina? The area is part sun so I am concerned about having trouble getting grass started.
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Bibliography

Field Guide to Indiana Wildflowers (2000) Kay Yatskievych

Wildflowers of Indiana Woodlands (1994) Runkel, S.T. & A.F. Bull

Search More Titles in Bibliography

E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center