Contact Us Host an Event 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 - July 29, 2010

From: N. Reading, MA
Region: Northeast
Topic: Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Grasses for hillside in N. Reading MA
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I am seeking a grass for a steep, sunny slope in the NE.

ANSWER:

You are wise to choose a grass or grasses for your steep slope. We will go looking for grasses that need sun and are native to the Middlesex Co. area in northeast Massachusetts. These will not be mowable lawn grasses, you wouldn't want that anyway on a steep slope.

We recommend grasses for controlling erosion because of their extensive fibrous root systems that serve to hold the soil in place.  However, seeding grass is not the whole process.  The seeds need moisture to germinate.  If the moisture comes in the form of rain, it is likely to wash the seeds down the bank  before they have a chance to germinate and take root. An erosion control blanket 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.  Many nurseries carry this erosion control fabric, and can help you with instructions. Go to our National Suppliers Directory, type in the name of your town and state in the Enter Search Location box, and you will get a list of native plant seed suppliers, nurseries and consultants in your general area. Many of them can provide you mail ordering of seeds, with help on when and how to plant. 

You probably should not plant seeds for these grasses until early Spring in USDA Hardiness Zone 6a. Grass seeds germinate in the Spring, and trying to get them started either in the heat of summer or just before the cold of Winter sets in are neither of them good ideas. Follow the links below to the page on each grass to learn the growing conditions, projected height and care for that grass.

Grasses for Sun in Middlesex Co., MA: 

Andropogon gerardii (big bluestem)

Bromus kalmii (arctic brome)

Calamagrostis canadensis (bluejoint)

Carex stipata (owlfruit sedge)

Elymus canadensis (Canada wildrye)

Hierochloe odorata (sweetgrass)

Phalaris arundinacea (reed canarygrass)

Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem)

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:


Andropogon gerardii

Bromus kalmii

Calamagrostis canadensis

Carex stipata

Elymus canadensis

Hierochloe odorata

Phalaris arundinacea

Schizachyrium scoparium

 

 

 

 

More Grasses or Grass-like Questions

Tolerance to foot traffic for native turf grass
December 16, 2010 - I have read your articles on your mix of three native seeds for turf grass and on other native grasses but am left with a couple of lingering questions. We have about a 600 sq. ft area we want to plan...
view the full question and answer

Plants for small shady area with clay soil
August 09, 2011 - Many people have space between the sidewalk and the street in front of their homes. In that space in front of our house is a growing maple that provides a lot of shade. The space is very dry, with...
view the full question and answer

Plants to grow between patio pavers
March 15, 2013 - We'd like to use poured concrete pavers for a deck. What grows well, whether it be grass or other, between these. We'll have 4-6" between 4 foot pavers. And would love to find something that does...
view the full question and answer

Meadow garden for Colorado Springs CO
June 03, 2012 - We recently purchased a restored home on a mesa just above the downtown area of Colorado Springs on the front range. The previous owners seeded the front lawn with blue gramma and told me that all I ...
view the full question and answer

Native plants for eroding hillside in Kansas
May 08, 2009 - We have a creek running thru our property and the hill running down to it is about 30 feet tall, in some places almost straight down, some sloping. Some is in shade, some full sun. We would like som...
view the full question and answer

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