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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.

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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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Saturday - November 09, 2013

From: Quincy, IL
Region: Midwest
Topic: Erosion Control, Shrubs, Trees
Title: Plant Suggestions for a Partly Sunny Steep Bank in Illinois
Answered by: Anne Van Nest

QUESTION:

I am looking to plant something on a steep clay bank on our Illinois property. It is on the edge of our dirt road with trees above the bank and is partly sunny. What would work best for that type of area?

ANSWER:

The first place to go to find a list of potential plants for your partly shady steep bank 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: State – Illinois, Habit – Shrub, Duration – Perennial, Leaf Retention – deciduous, semi-evergreen and evergreen, Light Requirement – part shade, Soil Moisture – moist (even though it is a steep bank, moist is selected because of the clay soil). These search criteria will give you 72 native plants to consider. You can narrow down this search further by indicating a shrub size, blooming time and bloom color too if you like.
Some of the plants that are included in this search are:
Aesculus pavia (scarlet buckeye)
Amorpha fruticosa (indigo bush)
Amelanchier stolonifera (running serviceberry)
Cornus alternifolia (alternateleaf dogwood)
Ilex decidua (possumhaw)
Lindera benzoin (north spicebush)
Photinia melanocarpa (black chokeberry)
Rhus aromatica (fragrant sumac)
Rosa acicularis (prickly rose)
Spiraea alba (white meadowsweet)
Symphoricarpos orbiculatus (coralberry)
Viburnum lentago (nannyberry)

If you are considering using Illinois groundcovers with your shrubs or trees, Mr. Smarty Plants has already put together a list of plants to consider in this previous question.

 

 

From the Image Gallery


Scarlet buckeye
Aesculus pavia

Indigo bush
Amorpha fruticosa

Running serviceberry
Amelanchier stolonifera

Alternateleaf dogwood
Cornus alternifolia

Possumhaw
Ilex decidua

Northern spicebush
Lindera benzoin

Black chokeberry
Photinia melanocarpa

Fragrant sumac
Rhus aromatica

Prickly rose
Rosa acicularis

White meadowsweet
Spiraea alba

Coralberry
Symphoricarpos orbiculatus

Nannyberry
Viburnum lentago

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