Erosion control in back yard with steep slope, poor quality soil

Asked April 12, 2016, 3:02 PM EDT

I'm looking for what I can plant that works well in this area (Prince George's County) that will take root in poor soil and provide ground cover and erosion control. I have a steeply sloped "back yard" that has large bare spots and continually loses soil with rain runoff. I do not want to do grass there, I want some variety of ground cover that's ecologically sound, low maintenance and keeps the soil in place. Can you advise me as to what sort of vegetation would be most likely to meet these goals? Can you also tell me where I can obtain plantings? Do you have someone on your staff with expertise in this area with whom I could consult? Many thanks!

Prince George's County Maryland

4 Responses

Your best bet is a variety of native plants. You can make mixed beds of low shrubs and ground-hugging plants if you want to preserve the view. The following online book lists the best native plants for landscaping in Maryland: It gives the conditions for each plant (shade/sun, soil type, etc.) and has lists in the back for specific environments, such as sunny and wet,

Search "native plants" on our website, and you can find nurseries that specialize in native plants, but most nurseries these days have many native plants. Some plants you might like are: spreading-type foamflower, hay-scented and Christmas fern (evergreen), Canadian ginger, Allegheny pachysandra, and native hydrangeas and azaleas.

Whatever you choose, NEVER plant English ivy. It is horribly invasive and destructive to native areas and parks. Also, Japanese pachysandra and periwinkle (vinca) are also considered non-native invasives because they never stop spreading.

Please feel free to follow up with further questions.


Thanks for the response, but from your suggestions I'm thinking I haven't communicated clearly. I'm not looking to grow things in the wooded area shown in the photos, but in the bare open areas that receive partial to full sun. I'm wanting some sort of ground cover for these areas that will hopefully eventually spread spread thruout this raggedy back area. I want something that will remain relatively low to the ground.
I also don't want to do a lot of enriching of soil and building up planters and such. I have a pretty limited budget for dealing with this area. The ideal candidate would be something which I can seed in these areas, perhaps with straw or something to keep the seeds from washing away until they are well rooted.

(Continuing) There is copious information on the websites to which you referred me - too copious, in fact. It would take me weeks to work thru all this, and frankly, I don't have the time or inclination to master all the general information and then narrow down to what actually might work. I'm looking for two or three best suggestions of plants for this area and some guidance for how to start and nurture such plants. I know Extension experts used to make site visits. Do you folks do this? Or do you suggest I visit local nurseries and try to find out from them what might work? I have enough English Ivy around here (here when we bought the place) that I keep having to cut back. I don't want more, but do need to keep the hill from continuing to wash away. Thanks for whatever help you can give me!

Keep in mind that it is relatively easy to get someone to mow, but almost impossible to get someone to come in and weed. If you do not have time to read our literature, you may not have time to weed. There is nothing that you could plant that would not require a fair amount of time to maintain to get established. You ask for two suggestions. Try Allegheny pachysandra and spreading foamflower in the shadier areas. Put in daylilies (not the wild type that can be invasive) in the steeper and sunnier areas. The following links discuss how to grow these plants.
We no longer make house calls. You could consider hiring a landscaper. You could also take your photos to local garden centers, such as Behnke or Homestead Gardens and ask them for recommendations. You might consider starting with a small area and year by year enlarge the culivated portion. vw