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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.

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Sunday - May 12, 2013

From: Washington Township, NJ
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Erosion Control, Groundcovers, Grasses or Grass-like, Shrubs
Title: Low growing erosion control plants for lakeside in Washington Township NJ
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I live on a small lake in Northern NJ and have installed beautiful Boulders along the water to help stop erosion. Now I want to add plants along the property but would like low growing, soil retention plants to prevent soil erosion. Can you help identify native grasses and low growing shrubs that will help maintain the soil? Thanks so much for your help. Landscapers around here are not knowledgeable as to native plants

ANSWER:

That sounds like a very sensible approach to shoreline erosion. We can certainly do our part in locating companion plants native to New Jersey, We feel that your idea of grasses and small shrubs is the most practical solution. Grasses, with their long fibrous roots can hold soil and some shrubs will put out root systems that also assist in preventing erosion. We will go to our Native Plant Database, and scroll down to the Combination Search. There we will select New Jersey for the state, "grass or grasslike" for Habit and 1' to 3' for Height. Since you did not indicate the amount of sunshine the area got each day, we will omit that specification, but you can follow each plant link to our webpage on that plant to discover what its optimal growing conditions are. After that search, we will repeat it, putting "shrub" under Habit. You can run the search yourself putting in whatever heights, bloom times, etc. you are looking for. We will check with the USDA Plant Profiles on each plant (a link is at the bottom of the plant page) to ensure that plant is native to the area of Bergen County, in northeast New Jersey. This gives a little more confidence that the plant can do well in the climate, rainfall and soils in your area.

If you have difficulty locating plants you choose, go to our National Suppliers Directory, type in your town and state or just your zip code in the "Enter Search Location" box and click on GO. This will give you a list of native plant nurseries, seed companies and consultants in your general Area. Each has contact information so you can establish availability before you begin to shop around. We also suggest you visit the websites for the Native Plant Society of New Jersey and the NPSNJ Plant Lists.

Grass and Grass-like:

Ammophila breviligulata (American beach grass)

Carex stipata (Owlfruit sedge)

Cyperus odoratus (Fragrant flatsedge)

Elymus hystrix var. hystrix (Eastern bottlebrush grass)

Elymus virginicus (Virginia wildrye)

Hordeum jubatum (Foxtail barley)

Shrubs:

Andromeda polifolia (Bog rosemary)

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (Kinnikinnick)

Ceanothus americanus (New jersey tea)

Epigaea repens (Trailing arbutus)

Galium proliferum (Limestone bedstraw)

Symphoricarpos orbiculatus (Coralberry)

 

From the Image Gallery


American beach grass
Ammophila breviligulata

Awlfruit sedge
Carex stipata

Fragrant flatsedge
Cyperus odoratus

Eastern bottlebrush grass
Elymus hystrix var. hystrix

Virginia wildrye
Elymus virginicus

Foxtail barley
Hordeum jubatum

Bog rosemary
Andromeda polifolia

Kinnikinnick
Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

New jersey tea
Ceanothus americanus

Trailing arbutus
Epigaea repens

Eastern teaberry
Gaultheria procumbens

Coralberry
Symphoricarpos orbiculatus

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