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

Monday - November 23, 2009

From: West Mifflin, PA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Erosion Control
Title: Plants for erosion control in West Mifflin PA
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have recently had a retaining wall rebuilt in my back yard and an above the ground pool installed. My lawn is uneven with no grass and the hillside is very dry dirt with rocks. What type of plant would be low growing, stop erosion and cover the hillside quickly? The area is not large, perhaps 40 ft. long and 10 ft. high. Should I plant grass seed now (Nov, 2009) or wait until spring 2010?

ANSWER:

The best plants for controlling erosion are native grasses. We wouldn't recommend planting grass seed now; they will not germinate until warm weather returns anyway, and some could easily be lost in winter rains (which we understand comes out as snow in Pennsylvania) or become not viable. The long fibrous roots of grasses will hold the soil, many are perennial and/or self-seeding. Natives will require less water, fertilizer and maintenance.

You also might consider doing something like a small-scale meadow arrangement, with some colorful wildflowers mixed in. First, read two of our How-To Articles, Native Lawns and Meadow Gardening.  If you have weather that permits playing outside, you can begin, in advance of Spring, to prepare the area as suggested in both articles. Some of the grasses we are going to suggest will be taller, others compact and low. You can mix them for an attractive visual effect, and have something pleasant to look at virtually year round.

Finally, for your hillside, there are some low-growing attractive shrubs native to Pennsylvania, some of which are evergreen, that will give some more color and erosion protection. 

We are going to go to our Native Plant Database and give you some suggestions of herbaceous blooming plants, shrubs and grasses native to Pennsylvania that can be combined however you wish for your purposes. 

Follow each link to the page on that plant for particulars on height, sun requirements and soil moisture. Since we don't know how much sun your area has, you can go back to the database and search using Light Requirements, Soil Moisture and so forth, making your own choices.

Native herbaceous blooming plants for Pennsylvania:

Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly milkweed)

Coreopsis lanceolata (lanceleaf tickseed)

Lupinus perennis (sundial lupine)

Monarda didyma (scarlet beebalm)

Phlox stolonifera (creeping phlox)

Symphyotrichum novae-angliae (New England aster)

Native shrubs for Pennsylvania: 

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (kinnikinnick)

Epigaea repens (trailing arbutus)

Gaultheria procumbens (eastern teaberry)

Native grasses for Pennsylvania: 

Andropogon gerardii (big bluestem)

Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem)

Carex blanda (eastern woodland sedge)

Carex texensis (Texas sedge)

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:


Asclepias tuberosa

Coreopsis lanceolata

Lupinus perennis

Monarda didyma

Phlox stolonifera

Symphyotrichum novae-angliae

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

Epigaea repens

Gaultheria procumbens

Andropogon gerardii

Schizachyrium scoparium

Carex blanda

Carex texensis

 

 

 

 

 

 

More Erosion Control Questions

Native plants for erosion control in Cataula GA
July 10, 2009 - I have several steep embankments on my property that are slowly eroding. What kind of plants (other than grasses, the area is not lawn mower accessible) can I plant to keep this from happening? We hav...
view the full question and answer

Erosion control in Grayson, LA
May 02, 2010 - We live in northern Louisiana. We have a small hill beside our carport that washes. What can we plant to help keep this from washing that will stay green all year long?
view the full question and answer

Plants for erosion control in East Texas
January 03, 2009 - We have recently moved to Conroe and are having a problem with erosion behind a retaining wall (installed by previous owner. The retaining wall is made of concrete and is about 8 foot tall by 110 foo...
view the full question and answer

Shady Perennial Groundcover Suggestions for Indiana
April 21, 2013 - Could you please recommend perennial groundcovers for Indiana that are low and leafy, self-spreading, non-invasive, deer resistant, and moisture tolerant; and that are good for erosion control on a sh...
view the full question and answer

Groundcover for Maryland Slope in Deer Country
July 03, 2016 - I have a 20-30% grade hill in Maryland. I am looking for a groundcover plant (for example ivy) that I can plant on the hill. I have the following issues: clay soil, deer, full sun, limited water sourc...
view the full question and answer

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