Host an Event Volunteer Join Tickets

Support the plant database you love!

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

Tuesday - September 08, 2009

From: Accokeek, MD
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Shade Tolerant
Title: Need help with stabilizing a partial shaded slope in Prince George's County, MD.
Answered by: Jimmy Mills and Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

I have a partial shade sloped area about 40 ft. x 100ft; that is at the top of a natural drainage. Slope is maybe 10%. There is a thin layer of topsoil on top of a heavier clay layer (it was pasture). In heavy rain, surface water will move the leaf litter, exposing hard soil. Logs and the modest slope prevent gullies. My goal is to get enough water retention so ferns (eg NY, royal) would typically last through our summer droughts. Amending the soil, using logs, digging holes or terracing are acceptable but synthetic liners or a cistern and pump are not. Iím happy to follow up on any references you suggest.

ANSWER:

Mr. Smarty Plants is having trouble visualizing the situation you are describing, and determining the question you are asking. If you are asking for suggested plants that will help stabilize a 10% slope that has partial shade, he can do that. If you are asking how to engineer a slope that will support the growth of Osmunda regalis (royal fern) or Thelypteris noveboracensis (New York fern) whose habitats are wet soils along streams and lakeshores, in bogs, and in wet meadows, we're not sure he can be of much help.  Given enough shade and soil moisture, these species might work, though.

Your ideas of using strategically placed logs, digging holes (and refilling with rich soil) to capture and hold some water and judiciously terracing all sound reasonable.  Any of these actions will create some micro-habitats that will be conducive to growing some native ferns.  Fern species that might work for your semi-shady slope are Adiantum pedatum (northern maidenhair), Cheilanthes lanosa, Hairy lip fern, Pellaea atropupurea, Purple cliffbrake fern (if your substrate is limestone), Pteris multifida, Spider brake fern and Asplenium platyneuron (ebony spleenwort) or any of a number of native spleenworts.

I would suggest contacting the Prince George's County Office of the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension which should be able to help you with your drainage issue.

For stabilizing the slope, your best bet is to plant native grasses. They have fibrous root systems that hold on to the soil particles. Here are some suggestions for native grasses plus one sedge that should help control erosion.

Andropogon virginicus (broomsedge bluestem)

Bouteloua curtipendula (sideoats grama)

Bouteloua hirsuta (hairy grama)

Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats)

Elymus canadensis (Canada wildrye)

Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem)

Sorghastrum nutans (Indiangrass)

Tridens flavus (purpletop tridens)

Sedge:

Carex pensylvanica (Pennsylvania sedge) 


Andropogon virginicus

Bouteloua curtipendula

Bouteloua hirsuta

Chasmanthium latifolium

Elymus canadensis

Schizachyrium scoparium

Sorghastrum nutans

Tridens flavus

Carex pensylvanica

 

 

 

 

More Shade Tolerant Questions

Plants for under Oak Trees in LA.
March 05, 2013 - What type of plants and grass can be planted under and around oak trees
view the full question and answer

Native grasses to accompany buffalograss in shade
May 01, 2008 - What grass goes with buffalo for shade/partial shade?
view the full question and answer

Will Thunder Turf do well in shade from Iola TX
June 23, 2010 - Will the Thunder Turf do well in shady areas or is there a better blend of native grasses that would thrive better?
view the full question and answer

Native plants for heavy clay soil in east Austin
May 02, 2007 - I live in East Austin and have very thick clay soil on my property. I also have a lot of shade and partial sun/shade. Can you suggest some native plant varieties that are well-adapted to these condi...
view the full question and answer

Native flowers and ground cover for damp, shady area in Wisconsin
May 11, 2006 - I would like to plant some flowers and ground cover in the front of my yard near my home. This spot is usually damp and nearly always shaded. Any suggestions? Also I'm looking for blue flowering pla...
view the full question and answer

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