How to Use Flowers for Erosion Control

Overview

Erosion removes precious top soil, can disrupt anything from a fence to a foundation and eats away land inch by inch. Erosion is often caused by construction, and that new road or house may quickly be followed by ever-growing rivulets cascading down through yards and into gullies. Even a good summer rainstorm may trigger severe erosion, as slopes begin sporting deep vertical rills. Erosion is constant, but it can be controlled or prevented with thoughtful planning and a weekend or two of hard work. That ugly scar can become an eye-catching mass of flowers, given the proper preparation.

Step 1

Examine the area to determine what caused the original erosion. Find out the remaining amount of top soil (if any), soil condition and severity of grade. Preserve as much top soil and as many existing plantings as possible.

Step 2

Create low terraces using brick, treated wood or other retaining materials that allow drainage, in order to correct unobstructed water erosion in moderately sloping areas. In areas with minor sloping, use a rake or shovel to regrade the planting bed. Always follow the contour of the land, running furrows horizontally around curves rather than digging vertically, down the slope.

Step 3

Add organic soil amendments and break up any compacted soil to prepare the new flower beds. Planting beds should be firm, as level as possible and able to hold moderate water. Rake the beds across the grade, to provide furrows for seed.

Step 4

Plant perennial flowers, as annuals will die at the end of the season, leaving the area vulnerable to further erosion. Preferred flowering plants in erosion-prone areas are those that grow rapidly and have a low, spreading form. Japanese Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica), with bright yellow blooms in spring and summer, is sweetly scented and can control erosion over large areas. Periwinkle (Vinca major) is a tough, evergreen ground cover for smaller areas, and it is scattered with lavender blue flowers. For dry slopes in warmer climates, ice plant (Malephora crocea) will provide orange flowers throughout the year. Mexican evening primrose (Oenothera berlandieri) grows quickly from seed, thrives on little care, and has masses of show-stopping rose pink blooms during the summer. It can be invasive.

Step 5

Sow seed according to the variety's requirements. Avoid planting during extended high temperatures or rainy seasons. If using plants rather than seed, plant in horizontal rows. Create a basin around each new plant's base; water will then stay near the plantings rather than flow downhill.

Step 6

Mulch the newly planted beds and any other affected area. Mulch lightly over newly seeded areas, or the mulch will prevent the flower seeds from germinating. Mulch will not only help the soil retain moisture, but it will also temporarily prevent further erosion and keep the seeds in place. If using straw, beware of weed seeds.

Step 7

Provide additional water and fertilizer if necessary. Monitor the area closely the first year as plants become established. Transplants may take a year or more to adapt, and many perennial flower seedlings do not reach full size for two to three years.

Tips and Warnings

  • When building terraces taller than 1 foot, consider calling a professional. Many cities require permits for large-scale retaining walls, and taller retaining walls often need additional drainage and support.

Things You'll Need

  • Shovel or other earth-moving equipment
  • Bow rake
  • Terracing materials, such as brick or rock (if necessary)
  • Soil amendments
  • Flower seeds or plants
  • Mulch

References

  • Utah State University Cooperative Extension: Planting Guide for Utah
  • "Sunset Western Garden Book"; Kathleen N. Brenzel, ed.; 1995
  • Native Plant Information Network: Explore Plants
Keywords: flowers erosion, plants for erosion, flower planting slope

About this Author

Kimberly Fuller has been a writer for 15 years, and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Utah. She has written successful grants for local schools as well as articles for Demand Studios, Constant Content and other online sites.