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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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Sunday - April 28, 2013

From: Des Moines, IA
Region: Midwest
Topic: Groundcovers, Herbs/Forbs, Vines, Wildflowers
Title: Plants for a Steep, Sunny Slope in Iowa
Answered by: Anne Van Nest

QUESTION:

I am looking for plants native to Iowa for a steep, sunny slope or groundcover.

ANSWER:

The first place to go to find a list of potential plants is our Native Plant Database. Use the Combination Search feature instead of Recommended Species. This will provide a bigger selection with much more choice to narrow down. The volunteers and staff at the Wildflower Center who maintain the database have partners in different regions to help with these recommended species lists based on what is easy to access in local nurseries.

Under Combination Search, select the following categories: Iowa, Habit – herb (for herbaceous), Duration – perennial, Light requirement – sun, Soil moisture – dry (because of the slope), Size characteristics – 0-1 ft. and 1-3 ft.

Some of the more drought and sun tolerant possibilities that could be used as steep slope plants include:

Achillea millefolium (common yarrow) 3 ft., white blooms in summer.

Anaphalis margaritacea (Western pearly everlasting) 1-3 ft., white blooms (good for drying).

Antennaria plantaginifolia (plaintain-leaf pussytoes) to 1 ft., white blooms in early summer.

Apocynum androsaemifolium (spreading dogbane) 2-5 ft. groundcover, small pink flowers in summer. Very aggressive.

Callirhoe invulucrata (winecup) sprawling up to 3 ft. wide, white, pink or purple blooms in late spring/early summer.

Oenothera speciosa (pink evening primrose) 1-2 ft., pinkish-white blooms in early summer. Each flower lasting one day. Goes dormant under severe drought.

Phlox pilosa (downy phlox) 1-2 ft. tall, pale pink to lavender flowers in late spring.

 

From the Image Gallery


Common yarrow
Achillea millefolium

Common yarrow
Achillea millefolium

Western pearly everlasting
Anaphalis margaritacea

Woman's tobacco
Antennaria plantaginifolia

Spreading dogbane
Apocynum androsaemifolium

Spreading dogbane
Apocynum androsaemifolium

Winecup
Callirhoe involucrata

Pink evening primrose
Oenothera speciosa

Pink evening primrose
Oenothera speciosa

Pink evening primrose
Oenothera speciosa

Downy phlox
Phlox pilosa

Downy phlox
Phlox pilosa

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