Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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

Wednesday - August 28, 2013

From: Florence, KY
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Erosion Control, Shade Tolerant
Title: Erosion control for shady slope in Kentucky backyard
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I live in northern Kentucky (near Cincinnati). I have an area in my backyard that has slope. It is next to an ash tree and is very shady. Water erosion has washed away the top soil and pretty much nothing will grow there. I have tried planting periwinkle and ferns but they haven't done well, I think because the soil is too nutrient deficient. I have tried composting with dead leaves and grass clippings but when it rains, the water washes that away too. Any suggestions?

ANSWER:

The best solution may be erosion control blankets to stabilize the erosion area. The erosion-control fabric works by slowing the runoff water and allowing sediments to fall out rather than be washed away. Seeds are sown under the erosion-control material and grow up through the matting when they germinate. You can also insert plants into the soil by cutting through the matting. The roots of the plants that are growing through the erosion-control material anchor the soil to stop the erosion. If you use erosion-control blankets made of biodegrable material, they will eventually disappear leaving the plants to control the problem.  You could add your dead leaves, grass clippings and, perhaps, some topsoil underneath the blanket.  These blankets are available at some larger nurseries and "big box" stores.  Search on the internet for locations near you.  Now, here are some recommendations for native shade-loving plants to try for the area.  These all can be found occurring in Boone County or in adjacent areas.

 

GRASS/GRASS-LIKE (Grasses and sedges have fibrous root systems that help hold soil in place.)

Carex blanda (Eastern woodland sedge)

Carex pensylvanica (Pennsylvania sedge)

Carex plantaginea (Plantainleaf sedge)

Danthonia spicata (Poverty oatgrass) will grow in the shade and poor soil.  Here are photos and more information from Illinois Wildflowers.

Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats)

Sorghastrum nutans (Indiangrass)

 

PERENNIAL SHRUBS

Ceanothus americanus (New jersey tea) has massive, deep roots to help prevent erosion.

Heuchera americana (American alumroot) tolerates poor soil.

Gaylussacia baccata (Black huckleberry)

 

FERNS (There are other possibilities for ferns, but these two are good choices.)

Dryopteris marginalis (Marginal woodfern)

 Polystichum acrostichoides (Christmas fern)

 

From the Image Gallery


Eastern woodland sedge
Carex blanda

Pennsylvania sedge
Carex pensylvanica

Plantainleaf sedge
Carex plantaginea

Inland sea oats
Chasmanthium latifolium

Indiangrass
Sorghastrum nutans

New jersey tea
Ceanothus americanus

American alumroot
Heuchera americana

Black huckleberry
Gaylussacia baccata

Marginal woodfern
Dryopteris marginalis

Christmas fern
Polystichum acrostichoides

More Erosion Control Questions

Problem garden strip in Austin
May 22, 2014 - Currently I live in the west half of a duplex. There is a small strip of dirt about two feet wide between the wall and the sidewalk in the backyard. It faces west, meaning it only gets sunlight duri...
view the full question and answer

Plants to prevent erosion on slope in Texas
June 19, 2010 - We have an erosion problem developing on the low side of a gently sloping hill. We are in clay soil at the base of the hill with oaks and pines. We have a right of way that is without trees forty fee...
view the full question and answer

Need plants to control erosion on a hillside in Nashville, TN.
February 28, 2012 - Recently, a rogue contractor scraped all the sod off of my Tennessee hillside. Now the clay soil is exposed and washing away quickly. The hill slope is approximately 30 degrees. In the spring I'd ...
view the full question and answer

Plants for steep lakeside bank in Minnesota
January 17, 2012 - I am new to MN and would like to plant some pretty plants on my steep lakeside bank. What type plants and flowers should I plant to prevent erosion, but not block the lake view?
view the full question and answer

Native plants to preserve soil on river bank
May 28, 2006 - I live in eastern Massachusetts. We have a small stream in our backyard and a woodland area on the other side. Japanese Knotweed is pretty well established on the opposite bank of the stream from our ...
view the full question and answer

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