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 - April 10, 2012

From: Colchester, VT
Region: Northeast
Topic: Erosion Control, Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Plants to stabilize a bank in VT
Answered by: Anne Bossart

QUESTION:

I am looking for suggestion on what plants might best be suited for aiding in the stabilization of a very steep bank above Lake Champlain.

ANSWER:

Generally speaking, we recommend planting ornamental grasses to stabilize a steep bank. Their fibrous root systems really hold the soil in place and enable the plant to thrive in the "rapidly draining" (aka dry) soil conditions that are usually present on such a site.

These grasses are native to Vermont and would do the job quite nicely:

Ammophila breviligulata (American beach grass) (this plant can be very aggressive)

Calamagrostis canadensis (Bluejoint)

Hierochloe odorata (Sweetgrass)

Panicum virgatum (Switchgrass)

Schizachyrium scoparium (Little bluestem)

Sorghastrum nutans (Indiangrass)

If a mixed planting of grasses, shrubs and flowering perennial plants was more what you had in mind, you will want to select those that spread with runners or stolons.

You can visit our Native Plant database to learn more about which plants might be useful.  By doing a Combination Search for Vermont and selecting the plant type (shrub or herb(aceous perennial)) and the light and soil conditions of your site, you will generate lists of plants native to your area that meet those conditions.  Each plant name is linked to a detailed information page with images. 

For instance, a search for shrubs using the assumption that your conditions are sunny and dry, generates a list of 39 shrubs.  Plants from this list like Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (Kinnikinnick), Rhus typhina (Staghorn sumac) and Rosa carolina (Carolina rose) are all good "spreaders".

Asclepias tuberosa (Butterflyweed), Monarda fistulosa (Wild bergamot) and Tradescantia virginiana (Virginia spiderwort) are just a few of the perennials from the list of 89 that will also hold the soil.  You will find that the perennials that other gardeners are constantly digging up, dividing and sharing will be good "workhorses" for you!

 

 

From the Image Gallery


American beach grass
Ammophila breviligulata

Bluejoint
Calamagrostis canadensis

Sweetgrass
Hierochloe odorata

Switchgrass
Panicum virgatum

Little bluestem
Schizachyrium scoparium

Indiangrass
Sorghastrum nutans

Kinnikinnick
Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

Staghorn sumac
Rhus typhina

Carolina rose
Rosa carolina

Butterflyweed
Asclepias tuberosa

Wild bergamot
Monarda fistulosa

Virginia spiderwort
Tradescantia virginiana

More Grasses or Grass-like Questions

Difference between Pseudoroegneria spicata and Elymus trachycaulus
May 21, 2007 - What is the difference between Pseudoroegneria spicata and Elymus trachycaulus.
view the full question and answer

Plants for a property near a conservation area in MD
July 18, 2011 - Can you tell me what native plants and the type of landscaping that would be good to plant in front of a forest conservation area that is on a steep hill behind our future house? It is located in Manc...
view the full question and answer

Native grasses for horses in Manor, TX
January 20, 2011 - Hi, Can you tell me which native grasses to plant that would grow (and be drought tolerant) in the Manor area. The area we would like to plant seeds has some sun and part shade. There appear to be so...
view the full question and answer

Native plants to retain slope in Salisbury, CT
April 25, 2009 - We want to plant a newly dug out slope with native plants that will retain the dirt. It is sun to part sun near a lake summer cottage. Thanks!!!
view the full question and answer

Plants for bioswale in Vero Beach FL
September 28, 2009 - Can you recommend plantings for bioswales located in Volusia County area of Florida?
view the full question and answer

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