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

Thursday - December 10, 2009

From: wilson, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Erosion Control
Title: Plants to hold a slope in Northern New York
Answered by: Anne Bossart

QUESTION:

I'm looking for native (South shore, Lake Ontario) plants to slow erosion on a steep, 20 foot bank. They don't have to be decorative (although flowering plants are always nice), but they should SPREAD. And, are trees a possibility, given the vertiginous nature of the slope? If so, which species? Thanks

ANSWER:

There are a few more details about your situation that would be helpful in zeroing in on the right plants.  Whether your garden is in a rural or more suburban setting will affect plant choice (i.e. the "wildness" factor) as well as soil and light exposure. For example, conditions on a north facing slope in an area where there is clay soil are very different from those on a south facing slope with sandy soil.

So the final plant selection will be up to you but we can help you with some guidelines.  You are already  part way there knowing that what you need are plants that spread.  Plants with fibrous root systems or that spread by stolons are what you are looking for.

The very best plants for this job are native grasses (that's why the prairies were covered with them before man came along and decided to farm, and they are generally not eaten by deer!) but there are other perennials as well as shrubs and trees (small, multi-stemmed ones are best for your situation) for you to select from so that you will end up with with not only a solid slope but an attractive garden that is part of the natural ecosystem.

If you visit our website and click on Plant Database on the Explore Plants page, you can perform a combination search for New York state after entering uyour particular conditions to narrow the search.  Armed with the plant lists it provides, you can go shopping.  Ultimately, what you plant will be what is available in your local nurseries.

Here are some choices based on personal preferences and the assumption that your location is sunny with quick draining soil (sandy because you are close to Lake Ontario).

Grasses

Bouteloua curtipendula (sideoats grama)

Panicum virgatum (switchgrass)

Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem)

Sporobolus heterolepis (prairie dropseed)

Perennials (not all of these really spread stoloniferously, but they are vigorous and some will also  spread by seed).  Generally speaking, any perennials that gardeners are willing to share, are probably vigorous "spreaders"! These choices are also attractive to butterflies & birds.

Coreopsis lanceolata (lanceleaf tickseed)

Echinacea purpurea (eastern purple coneflower)

Monarda fistulosa (wild bergamot)

Rudbeckia hirta (blackeyed Susan)

Solidago canadensis (Canada goldenrod)

Vernonia noveboracensis (New York ironweed)

Shrubs

Hydrangea arborescens (wild hydrangea)

(although this one cannot take too much sun)

Rhus aromatica (fragrant sumac)

Rosa carolina (Carolina rose)

(there are other native "shrub" roses to choose from as well)

Rubus idaeus ssp. strigosus (grayleaf red raspberry)

(any member of the bramble group will do, and will give you berries for your cereal as well)

Symphoricarpos albus (common snowberry)

Viburnum acerifolium (mapleleaf viburnum)

Small trees

Amelanchier laevis (Allegheny serviceberry)

Rhus typhina (staghorn sumac)

Sorbus americana (American mountain ash)

As you see, the challenge is not the erosion, it's having to choose from this list of great native plants! 

 


Bouteloua curtipendula

Panicum virgatum

Schizachyrium scoparium

Sporobolus heterolepis

Coreopsis lanceolata

Echinacea purpurea

Monarda fistulosa

Rudbeckia hirta

Solidago canadensis

Vernonia noveboracensis

Hydrangea arborescens

Rhus aromatica

Rosa carolina

Rubus idaeus ssp. strigosus

Symphoricarpos albus

Viburnum acerifolium

Amelanchier laevis

Rhus typhina

Sorbus americana

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More Erosion Control Questions

Hillside Erosion Control for Gainesville GA
August 07, 2013 - I have a steep bare hill and the runoff from it is heavy this year. I need help with a fast growing groundcover that will help control erosion and runoff. Planting on the hill is difficult because you...
view the full question and answer

Native grass and/or wildflower seed mix for erosion control in North Carolina
June 23, 2009 - I'm looking for a native grass and/or wildflower seed mix to control erosion on a new mountain road in a pine forest (red clay dirt). The soil is dry and partly shaded, depending on the hour of the d...
view the full question and answer

Ground cover that won't hide snakes from Asheville NC
June 29, 2012 - I have an unusual situation: several bare areas in an otherwise wooded area, which receive partial sun, and are not near water -- it rains here frequently, but the soil can become quite dry at times. ...
view the full question and answer

Native plants both deer resistant and good for erosion from North Oaks MN
August 23, 2012 - We have several partially sunny areas on hills that are prone to both deer and erosion. Our goal is to reduce runoff in an effort to preserve the watershed that provides tap water to many citizens of ...
view the full question and answer

Plants for erosion control in Pittsburgh, PA
August 22, 2009 - I have a terraced high side lot(front of house). I currently have Yuccas growing, but they are too invasive. Can you suggest plants, shrubs, or ground covers that are not as invasive and will still ...
view the full question and answer

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