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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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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

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