The ideal plants for erosion control are those that are vigorous, beautiful, and have a root structure capable of holding back soil on a hill. To decrease the speed of heavy rain, they should have spread foliage. If you reside in deer country, they should be plants that deer avoid eating. The list below provides a number of options, each of which fits these criteria.
Aim for a balance of beauty and functionality in your plant pick. The most beautiful plant in a garden catalog will disappoint you if you grow it in the incorrect conditions (too much shade or light) or for a function that it is not suited to.
You must also find a balance between beauty and vigor since you do not want to create a landscape-maintenance nightmare by introducing plants to your yard that will spread beyond the boundaries you desire. Some of the greatest plants for erosion management will be too vigorous for some homeowners, so consider your options carefully.
Few landscaping challenges are more serious and difficult than erosion control, especially when trying to keep a steep slope from eroding. Consider building terraces in addition to growing perennial ground coverings and shrubs, such as deutzia, that will spread and strike down roots to retain soil. The average DIYer can build terraces using tiny stone retaining walls on a gradual slope, but steep slopes in danger of eroding should be left to professionals.
1. Creeping Junipers
Creeping junipers are among the sun-loving ground coverings. 1 They are cold-hardy and stay short (usually no more than 1 foot) (many being suited to zone 3 to 9). Juniperus plants provide year-round landscaping color because they are evergreen. There are various varieties available, including:
- The blue foliage of ‘Blue Rug’ (J. horizontalis Wiltonii) is prized.
- J. horizontalis ‘Prince of Wales’ is one of the smaller species, standing only 6 inches tall.
- For individuals who prefer yellowish-green foliage, try J. horizontalis ‘Lime Glow.’
2. Vinca Minor (Periwinkle)
Vinca minor, in contrast to creeping juniper, is a shade-tolerant ground cover.
It is, however, a short (3 to 6 inch) evergreen, similar to creeping juniper.
Another advantage of creeping myrtle (zones 4–8) is that it is a drought-tolerant ground cover. Watering plants on steep hillsides can be difficult because they are some of the least accessible portions of a landscape for homeowners. Plants that are inherently drought-tolerant relieve you of some of the responsibility for their care.
Don’t believe that you can only battle erosion with ground coverings (perennials and tiny shrubs that grow horizontally) (although, in some cases, for aesthetic reasons, you may prefer shorter plants). Indeed, in severe circumstances of erosion where immediate results are required, shrubs can be the greatest plants for erosion control: They may penetrate the soil with larger, harder roots. They have the ability to establish strong root systems that are excellent at soil retention.
Forsythia (zones 5 to 8, 4 to 6 feet tall) is a shrub that blooms in early spring. The weeping form (Forsythia suspensa) is an excellent choice for retaining soil on a slope because the drooping branches strike down roots, acting as ground coverings.
4. Japanese Spurge
Pachysandra terminalis, like creeping myrtle, is a short (6-inch) evergreen ground cover for shade. Japanese spurge (zones 4–8) is classified as a foliage plant. Although it has little white blooms, they are insignificant. The leathery texture and appearance of the leaves adds to the appeal of your house.
5. Spotted Dead Nettle
The combination of attractive leaves and blooms distinguishes Lamium maculatum from Japanese spurge. It features silvery foliage and white, pink, or purplish flowers, depending on the cultivar. This foot-tall perennial is hardy in zones 4–8 and tolerates full shade.
6. Border Grass
Liriope spicata appears to be an ornamental grass, but it is not.3 This perennial (1 foot tall, zones 4–10) belongs to the asparagus family. Silver Dragon is a variegated cultivar with beautiful foliage that complements the plant’s flower spikes. It thrives in moderate shade.
7. Black Mondo Grass
Ophiopogon planiscapus Nigrescens (6 inches tall), tolerant of sun or partial shade, is grown for the black color of its grass-like blades. Even the berries that grow from its blossoms are black. Grow this zone 6-to-9 oddity as a companion plant for Sedum rupestre Angelina in a sunny location; the gold color of the latter’s leaves will make a stunning contrast.
8. Creeping Phlox
When in bloom, Phlox subulata steals the show with its carpet of beautifully colored blooms, in addition to reducing erosion. When the blossoms on this small (6 inch) creeping plant for zones 3 to 9 appear, you know spring has arrived.
9. Interrupted Fern
Try a wild plant on your shady slope for a change of pace. The rhizomes that allow Osmunda claytoniana (2 to 3 feet tall, zones 3 to 8) to spread are ideal for soil retention and so reducing erosion. It tolerates moist soils and is an excellent choice for damp hillsides.
10. Rockspray Cotoneaster
Cotoneaster horizontalis (zones 5–7) is another shrub that is among the finest plants for erosion prevention. If you want a plant that doesn’t become too tall (3 feet), but spreads and produces big, tough roots that will support the ground on a slope, this is the plant for you. Its branches, like Forsythia suspensa, root where they make contact with the earth. Its autumn color and scarlet berries are both a nice bonus.
FAQ about controlling erosion
Is planting plants my only option for erosion control?
Ground coverings are fantastic for preventing erosion. Their root systems help to support the soil and their dense foliage protects the earth. However, cultivating plants isn’t the only approach to combat erosion. Here are some alternative approaches you can take:
- Replace your yard hose or sprinkler with a drip irrigation system.
- Build a terrace garden or a retaining wall.
- To reroute water flow, add downspout extensions to your gutter system.
- To control runoff, construct a dry creek bed, rain garden, swale, or french drain.
- Surround the exposed soil with riprap, sandbags, or silt fencing.
- Mulch over the exposed dirt.
- As much as possible, avoid tilling the soil.
- Aerate your lawn to allow water to be absorbed by the soil.
What is the significance of erosion control?
Controlling erosion in your lawn is not just a matter of aesthetics, but also of environmental concern. Here are three reasons why erosion control is critical:
- The most productive layer of soil, topsoil, is the most prone to erosion. Farmers and gardeners lose crucial soil for their crops as topsoil erodes.
- Toxic runoff is exacerbated by erosion. The chemical residues of fertilizers, insecticides, and herbicides are frequently found in soil. When precipitation runoff dislodges and transports soil, the water becomes polluted with pollutants. The water subsequently drains into a nearby stream, polluting the aquatic ecology.
- Runoff not only pollutes water with chemicals, but it also pollutes water with silt. The debris suffocates eggs, jams fish gills, and causes fogging in the water.
Can I use turfgrass to control erosion?
Yes, turfgrass can help with erosion control, especially in sunny areas. If the eroded region is in the shadow, a shade-loving ground cover may produce better results.
Here are three popular methods for establishing grass for erosion control:
- Sod is a ready-made patch of grass. Simply spread out the sod like a carpet to keep the soil in place. You’ll have to wait two weeks for the roots to grow.
- Hydroseed is a sprayed-on mixture of mulch, fertilizer, seeds, water, binding agents, soil amendments, and green dye. The mulch and binding agents serve to anchor the grass seed to the soil, preventing it from being washed away by wind and rain. Once the seeds germinate and form roots, erosion control will be in full swing.
- Grass seed will eventually grow into a turf blanket that will aid in erosion management. However, before the seeds germinate, they are vulnerable to erosion, especially on a steep slope. Cover the seeds (and dirt) on the hill with netting burlap or cheesecloth to protect them.