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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


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


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

Eastern waterleaf
Hydrophyllum virginianum

Fragrant bedstraw
Galium triflorum

Threeleaf goldthread
Coptis trifolia

Water arum
Calla palustris

Bunchberry dogwood
Cornus canadensis

Clintonia borealis

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Plants to hold a slope in Northern New York
December 10, 2009 - I'm looking for native (South shore, Lake Ontario) plants to slow erosion on a steep, 20 foot bank. They don't have to be decorative (although flowering plants are always nice), but they should SPRE...
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Plants with color for steep slope in Calera, Alabama
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Erosion control on partially shaded slope
November 27, 2010 - Mr. Smarty Plants, I live in Atlanta, GA. My house is on a hill, and I am beginning to have erosion at my backyard porch (concrete slab, on the corners especially). The soil is mainly red clay, a...
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Grasses for Erosion control in Iowa
September 27, 2012 - 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 ...
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Field Guide to Indiana Wildflowers (2000) Kay Yatskievych

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

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