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What Plants Are Best to Control Erosion?

Erosion is the process by which topsoil or other soils are swept away by wind or water. Hillsides without vegetation are most susceptible to erosion. Hillsides with vegetation whose roots don't go deep enough to keep the soil in place are also susceptible to erosion.

Ground Covers

Ground covers hold fine surface soils in place but may not offer deep enough roots to fully stabilize a hillside. The best species of ground cover will depend on your climate zone, but Yarrow, Dwarf Coyote Brush, Monkey Flower and Sage are often good ground covers. Any grassy ground cover with a tough, fibrous root system will work well to control erosion.

Small Shrubs

Small shrubs can help retain soil and, because of their deeper roots, help keep the soils stable at a deeper level than ground cover alone. Sagebrush, sunflowers and clumping grasses like buckwheat can create good shrubs that help prevent erosion (like poppies, elders and goldenbrush). Any small shrub with deep, tough roots suitable to your climate zone will help reduce erosion and stabilize hill soils.

Large Shrubs and Trees

Large shrubs and trees have deep roots that, when combined with ground cover and smaller shrubs, help keep hillsides stable. Lilacs or other very large shrubs, along with virtually any tree with deep growing roots, can help slow and stop erosion while also helping to prevent erosion related landslides. Pines and other evergreen trees are very cold hardy and will often grow well in many climate zones, ranging from very cold to sub-tropical.

Soil Erosion Control Plant List

Erosion is a serious problem for gardeners with sloped yards. If left unchecked, it can cause the loss of valuable topsoil, drastically change the landscape and pollute nearby waterways. Plants help control erosion on a slope by reducing runoff and holding soil in place with their root systems. If you need to control erosion in your yard, there are many helpful plants to consider. Ground covers hold the surface of the soil in place and also provide some pleasant greenery in the landscape. Some ground covers that work well for erosion control include autumn sage (Salvia greggii) or other sage varieties, common yarrow (Achillea millefolium) and "gro-low" aromatic sumac (Rhus aromatica ‘Gro-low’). It can tolerate partial shade or full sun and grows well in dry or moist conditions. " Gro-Low" aromatic sumac is hardy in USDA zones 4 through 9 and has small yellow flowers during spring. It reaches heights between 3 and 8 feet tall and prefers full sunlight and moist to dry conditions. California live oak, also called "coast live oak", is hardy in USDA zones 8b to 11a. The Theodore Payne Foundation for Wildflowers and Native Plants lists several plants for erosion control in shady areas, including dogwood species (Cornus spp.) It tolerates just about any lighting conditions and showy white flowers during spring.

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