Plants in the river

Choosing Plants For River Banks – Tips For Planting Along River Banks

Gardeners lucky enough to have a natural water feature running through their property may also find challenges when landscaping the area. Creating wild sanctuaries for animals and birds and developing a natural looking landscape are just a couple of common goals when choosing plants for river banks. Plants suitable for river banks must be able to survive occasional flooding and possible erosion issues. Some great options and cautions are discussed in this article.

Choosing Plants for River Banks

Many homeowners visualize a long expanse of lawn going down to the river, providing unobstructed views and velvety green expanses. Grass is often not the optimal choice, however, since its fertilizing and pesticide needs can foul water due to run-off. Professional thoughts on river bank landscaping indicate that native plants are a better choice. These can frame views, provide animal habitat and fodder, and require less maintenance and upkeep than a lawn.

Developing a garden scheme for areas situated on water can pose some questions. First, what do you want to achieve and second, how much effort are you willing to expend? Using native plants can be a great solution, both from the standpoint of ease of care and also because they help filter pollutants, provide screening and actually enhance the property by blending in with the surroundings.

The actual plants you use should be chosen from the local flora as much as possible to design an effortless landscape which seamlessly melds with the plants that naturally grow at the water’s edge. Native plants will also establish more quickly and help prevent shoreline erosion.

Smaller Plants Suitable for Riverbanks

The actual plants selected for planting along riverbanks should be those that are hardy in your region while also being unaffected by water levels. There are plenty of flowering options such as:

  • Crested iris
  • Joe Pye weed
  • Wild geranium
  • Blazing star
  • Cardinal flower
  • Woodland phlox
  • Monkey flower
  • Lobelia
  • Wild columbine

More permanent plantings in the form of blooming shrubs and bushes can give year-round interest. Suggestions might include:

  • Witch hazel
  • Ninebark
  • Viburnum
  • American filbert
  • Black chokeberry
  • Running serviceberry
  • Rhododendron
  • Mountain laurel
  • Virginia sweetspire
  • Alpine currant

Groundcovers will help with erosion issues and fill in around plants to help prevent weeds and create a seamless, lush garden. Try any of the following:

  • Marsh marigold
  • Hog peanut
  • Calico aster
  • Spotted jewelweed
  • Swamp buttercup
  • Clearweed
  • Skunk cabbage
  • Virginia bluebells
  • Wood betony
  • White avens

Larger Plants for Riverbank Landscaping

Taller accent plants can help give dimension and privacy to the landscaping. Many of these are evergreen, but there are also plenty that are deciduous and provide fall color displays. Evergreen trees and shrubs have permanent beauty and are generally easy to care for and grow slowly, which means they don’t alter the landscape by very much over time.

Some evergreen options are:

  • Eastern white pine
  • White spruce
  • American arborvitae
  • Canadian hemlock

Some slightly smaller evergreen trees and shrubs to consider might include Japanese garden juniper, creeping juniper or yews.

Deciduous trees grace the river landscape and offer many seasons of interest. Red, silver and sugar maples all perform well at river’s edge. The common honey locust has an untidy habit but produces huge, delightful seed pods and golden fall color. Others to try might include white or green ash trees, swamp white oak and basswood.

Many of these plants are native to much of North America and each is tolerant of moist conditions and thrives with little care.

Shrub and Flower recommendations for creek bank prone to flooding

What a lucky person to have an intermittent creek as part of their landscape. Are there restrictions, buffer zones attached to this creek…even though it is on your property I am pretty sure it’s regulated with riparian restrictions. First thing you do is look in your mortgage documents for legal stuff, call your city, county for their input…then find out what is happening upstream. Are there golf courses upstream, Monsanto, dumps…does it flow through other yards? Do those residents understand and abide the rules?

I’d assume the water flowing through your yard is unsafe to drink for sure, I’d probably have the water tested. On the positive side there might be incentives available to you as well as money, grants and riparian professionals to help you, money to have rip-rapping (erosion control with rock), plant costs and even plants provided.

Since you have a dry creek bed part of the time, I’d definitely be thinking about boulders, river rock. When it is dry, are you able to irrigate your plants while they get established? I don’t know Pennsylvania at all, I am familiar with the Pacific Northwest. Your zone is…similar. My recommendations are: Salix purpurea ‘nana’ (my all time favorite skeleton…plants that tie your entire landscape together cohesively… shrub and you’d need to shear it 2x a year to look similar to an umbrella/funnel? Shear the top flat, then round it towards the ground so that the edge is wider than the top…like an umbrella. Still, very naturalistic looking but if you don’t shear the shrub, even though it has a ‘nana’ tag can grow 20X20 and look rangy. Blue gray tiny foliage and cinnamon stems that move in the wind. Stems are thin, easy to prune and they ‘glow’ cinnamon in the winter); Carex elata ‘Bowles Golden’ will grow in or out of water; a perennial that might work well is Ligularia dentata ‘Othello’ and Ligularia stenocephala ‘The Rocket’…both would add great texture, color, height…you’ll have to make sure they stay watered. Only the sedge I would plant in the water…does fine when creek is dry but you will have to water. Ligularia and the Blue Arctic Willow…keep to the margins of the creek, not in it. Keep the number of TYPES of plants to a maximum of 4-5. Powerful views need framing! Consider using a grove-type tree such as Amelanchier alnifolia, Serviceberry, with multiple stems and plant 3 or 5 or more. It is a small tree, 4 season beautiful, few pests, but not to be used IN the creek. Or consider one or three of Salix mansudana tortuosa ‘Scarlet Curls’…prune to thin and aerate for light shade, can handle water and poor soils.

Send a picture and let me know what you find out about the legal stuff on your creek! Lucky, lucky you!

Q: Our property abuts Nancy Creek and when it floods the sandy creek bank (about 8 ft high) erodes and simply washes down stream.

We prefer to plant something that has deep enough roots to stay when the floods come. We face about 300 feet of river bank so whatever we plant has to be reasonably priced.

A: Theresa Schrum replies: “Whatever you plant, you will have to secure it until it gets established or one of our “gully washers” might send it into the next county.

Also, since you live a long a very important riparian corridor, it’s important to maintain the ecological health of the area.

With this in mind, I’m going to give you a list of plants native to Georgia which are commonly found growing along creeks and waterways. These should be available at most nurseries.

Shrubs: Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia) Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica) Mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia) Viburnum nudum (you may have to search for this one) Annabelle Hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens) Winterberry (Ilex verticillata – a deciduous holly) Sweetshrub (Calycanthus floridus) Native azalea (Rhododendron canescens or austrinum) Fothergilla ‘Mt. Airy’

Trees: River birch (Betula nigra) Pin Oak (Quercus palustris) Red Maple (Acer rubrum) Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum).

Tags For This Article: azalea, hydrangeas, maple, oak, Summer, Winter

Five years ago Medford, Oregon, had a problem common for most cities—treating sewage without hurting fish.

The city’s wastewater treatment plant was discharging warm water into the Rogue River. Fish weren’t dying, but salmon in the Rogue rely on cold water. And the Environmental Protection Agency has rules to make sure they get it.

So, instead of spending millions on expensive machinery to cool the water to federal standards, the city of Medford tried something much simpler: planting trees.

It bought credits that paid others to handle the tree planting, countering the utility’s continued warm-water discharges. Shady trees cool rivers, and the end goal is 10 to 15 miles of new native vegetation along the Rogue.

Pollution-trading programs are common in other industries, such as caps on sulfur dioxide from U.S. power plants. A regulator, say the EPA, issues or sells to polluters permits allowing a set amount of emissions. Firms must own permits to match their emissions, but the total amount is capped. If a coal plant owner can’t or won’t cut emissions from its stacks, it buys permits, or credits, from other utilities that have chopped emissions and don’t need as many.

But using credits to curb warm discharges is novel and water-quality trading to protect stream temperatures is gaining traction in Oregon.

Supporters say it’s a win-win: wastewater plants save money, streams stay cool and the trees do other good things like provide habitat and suck up carbon.

“Traditional environmental practices, litigation, advocacy, got us a long way, but not too much further,” said Joe Whitworth, president of The Freshwater Trust, which spearheaded the Medford project. “We thought, what else is out there, what can we do different to enhance the entire watershed?”

However, some say it’s not enough to protect the states’ fish.

“It is a get-out-of-jail card,” said Nina Bell, executive director of the nonprofit, Portland, Oregon,-based Northwest Environmental Advocates. “It takes care of plant’s responsibility but doesn’t have the kind of real water quality benefits we need.”

Using trees to save green
Medford is situated on the Rogue River—famous for its runs of salmon and steelhead. The wastewater plant, serving roughly 170,000 people, adds to the overall warming of the river, which can make eggs incubate earlier, affecting survival rates.

With discharge likely to increase—by 2030 the plant is estimated to serve an additional 30,000 people—Medford started looking for ways to lessen their discharge footprint.

Cooling towers and chillers are a traditional solution, said Walt Meyer of West Yost Associates, the city’s engineering consultant. But shady riverbanks can accomplish the same goal as expensive engineering. “It turned out trading was the most cost-effective and the most environmentally compatible,” he said.

Chillers run somewhere around $15 million to $20 million and require massive amounts of energy to run, while tree planting will cost the city about $8 million.

The city started buying credits in 2012, and so far 21 acres—3.5 miles of stream—have been planted with native plants such as Ponderosa Pine, Black Cottonwood, Big Leaf Maple, Oregon Ash and White Alder.

A software system run by The Freshwater Trust calculates the benefits of planting a given area. The Medford wastewater treatment plant can buy the credits, ostensibly offsetting the warm water they’re releasing into the environment.

The current price per credit is a little more than 1/100th of a penny. About 600 million credits will be required for Medford’s compliance.

The Freshwater Trust has to recruit landowners along the river who could use some restoration. A lease agreement grants the rights to manage the land for 20 years.

So far there are seven participating landowners, who are paid between $200 and $300 per acre/per year for the length of the project. Eventually an expected 25 to 30 landowners will be involved, said David Primozich, senior ecosystems services director at The Freshwater Trust.

Then there’s removal of non-native species and a trip to the nursery.

“We walk into nursery and say ‘over the next 5 years, we’re going to plant something like 500,000 trees and they need to be native,’” Whitworth said. “They need to find right kinds of different species, grow them and sites need to be prepped.”

Not without controversy
The upper temperature limit, as set by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), for the Rogue in summer is 64 degrees Fahrenheit. In the fall, when the fish spawn, and into the winter that limit is 55ºF, said Dennis Ades, the former water quality trading coordinator with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.

Many factors influence stream temperature—both natural fluctuations in temperature and precipitation, and human causes such as discharges and removing vegetation from riverbanks.

Ades estimates that of the human warming sources, wastewater treatment plants typically account for 5 to 10 percent in Oregon. The remainder is from what’s called non-point sources—such as agriculturally driven losses of streamside vegetation and river diversions.

This is where some of the controversy comes in. That 90 percent remainder is a big number.

“Some say this is a great idea as it will restore some riparian areas,” Bell said. “It might restore some areas, but it’s such a drop in the bucket and distracts from real question: what are we doing to achieve widespread non-point source controls?”

“Point sources” such as wastewater treatment plants are where states have the most authority to make a difference, Ades said. “The Clean Water Act doesn’t give us a lot of non-point tools.”

Oregon has some local ordinances and voluntary reductions, he added. For instance, farmers can participate in water quality trading projects, accelerating their voluntary reductions.

Medford’s initial round of credit-buying and tree-planting will be completed by 2020. The water from Medford is discharged in White City, and the trees are planted elsewhere in the Rogue River’s basin.

Saving money in environmental programs is key, said Larry Karp, a professor of agricultural and resource economics at the University of California. “By doing it cheaply, you can do more of it. You’re more likely to achieve environmental benefits if you go about it in efficient ways.”

And someone else pretty important agrees with Karp. In a 2012 speech, before the program had really gotten underway, President Obama praised the Medford project as an example helping the environment without putting unnecessary financial pressure on industry.

“It worked for business, it worked for farmers, it worked for salmon,” President Obama said. “Those are the kinds of ideas we need in this country.”

The idea of water quality trading was hatched a little more than a decade ago, born out of thinking of how to lessen not only the impact of wastewater treatment plants but also that other 90 percent of sources that are contributing to warming the river but not fully regulated.

Trees don’t discriminate: Planting them helps the whole watershed—removing both pollutants and climate-warming gasses from the air and providing shelter and habitat for creatures.

Chillers require about 6,000 horsepower of connected load, Meyer said, which would have been an energy suck.

Bell, the critic, admits trees are good. But location matters—the trees are being planted on the main stem of the Rogue River, while shading smaller offshoot streams would have much more impact, she said.

Primozich agrees smaller tributaries would be more influenced by shade, but regulators require thermal reductions where the heat is being added, on the Rogue’s main stem.

Primozich said the project is too young to have generated much shade. That’s where the aptly named Shade-A-Lator software program comes into play, estimating future shade benefits. “Within seven to 10 years, we anticipate about half of the shade at maturity.” he said.

Bell countered that “planting a few trees here and there is not addressing state’s problem.” Her organization has sent multiple letters to the regional EPA offices with concerns about the Medford program and officials have said “pretty much nothing in response,” she said.

“They’re still discharging something that’s warmer than it should be,” Bell said. “How can you do that without undercutting the regulatory structure of the Clean Water Act?”

Primozich said one way the state has addressed the continued discharge and lag between tree planting and shade is by using a ratio tilted in the direction of more shade. “If the utility discharges 10 units of heat, we have to plant 20 units of shade, using a 2 to 1 ratio.”

Oregon leads the way
The EPA doesn’t track polluters taking advantage of tree-planting permits under the Clean Water Act, as states oversee such programs, said EPA spokeswoman Enesta Jones in an email.

The agency would not make any of their environmental economists available for an interview.

There have been more than 40 water quality-trading projects in the United States, according to the Rutgers University Water Resources Program. However, the projects are focused on pollution—not hot water—discharge and seem to have limited success, according to a study last year.

Medford is not the first such program in Oregon: Clean Water Services, which cleans about 60 million gallons of wastewater daily for 550,000 customers in nearby Washington County, has been using a similar trading system on the Tualatin River for about a decade, Ades said.

That program has been largely successful for the environment and has provided “widespread community benefits” such as payments to participating landowners, as well as the aesthetic and recreational value of restored riparian areas, according to a 2011 study from Portland State University. The researchers estimate that the trading has cost Clean Water Services 95 percent less than buying new equipment would have been.

James Boyd, senior fellow and director of the Center for the Management of Ecological Wealth, said as long as the natural method works as well as the technological fix, it comes down to one thing: money.

“You’re seeing that in Oregon, you might get co-benefits of riparian restoration and desirable aesthetics, but bottom line is they’re doing it cheaper,” Boyd said.

Karp said the poster child for market-based environmental approaches is sulfur emission trading under the Clean Air Act for power plants and other industries burning coal.

The Medford situation is analogous, Karp said.

“The societal goal is for pollution to not exceed a certain level,” he noted. “You could insist every factory put on certain equipment, or in the case of Medford, make them use cold water.”

But if the target is clear, Karp said, the emissions trading program has shown that letting companies decide how to achieve it is often the most efficient approach.

So why isn’t everybody using trading for warm water discharges?

“For one thing it’s a lot easier to go to an engineering company and say ‘this is what we need’,” Boyd said. “You get more certain outcomes. Whereas when you start to talk about green infrastructure, things get messier.” Boyd also said the way the Clean Water Act targets wastewater plants and industries, but not farmers, creates some disincentive to work together.

Oregon has been very progressive on this, Boyd said. But making sure trading is producing the desirable result “complicates lives,” he said.

Historically environmental groups have been leery of trading programs, but that’s starting to change, Karp said.

“There’s no doubt environmental groups have come on board to a considerable extent when it comes to market-based methods,” he said. “Maybe a groundswell is an exaggeration, but there’s been at least a drift.”

Karp said one of the main objections to trading is hot spots. “By allowing trade and permits, you might lower aggregate, but might concentrate emissions, or thermal loading, in certain areas,” Karp said. But Meyer said Medford doesn’t have a hot spot.

“The stream segment where we discharge doesn’t violate temperature standards. Sixty miles downstream is the point of impact,” Meyer said.

Bell said she’s not opposed to water quality trading but maintains the Medford trading is letting the wastewater plant shed its responsibility to curb warm discharges and questions whether the promised stream restoration will actually get done.

Whitworth remains unfazed. He said such “quantified conservation” is the future. Confident that monitoring throughout the life of the project will silence critics, he sounds almost Machiavellian.

“Some in the environmental community are like ‘hey what are you doing here? You’re doing tradeoffs and the environment will get shortchanged’,” he said. “But we can quantify.

“You can do a deal with the devil himself and still be ahead environmentally.”

This article originally ran at Environmental Health News, a news source published by Environmental Health Sciences, a nonprofit media company.

For questions or feedback about this piece, contact Brian Bienkowski at [email protected]

Streambanks are challenging sites to establish plant material. Fluctuating water levels and moving water (not stagnant) make for much of the variability in the success of these planting approaches.

Due to this variability, areas in close contact with stream channel should be planted with a focus on stream stabilization, rather than for aesthetic reasons.

NOTE: Streambank planting should utilize strictly native plants, and plants have a tendency to migrate in these locations.

  • Common invasive species in wetland and mesic streambank areas include reed canary grass, common reed, purple loosestrife, and cattails. If the invasives species cover is greater than 30% of the wetland or streambank area, this condition should be remedied through removal of invasives and replanting of native species, especially during the establishment period. If possible, invasives should be eradicated during the first month of discovery.
  • If design species continue to fail to become dominant, soil pH, soil permeability, hydrology, or salt content may be incorrect for the selected species. Recommend consulting designer for plant material adjustment and implement soil testing.
  • No more than 10% of the wetland or streambank area should be bare ground, and should not observe loss of more than 20% of a single plant species by number of plants.

Lower Slopes

  • Shallow water areas, pond shoreline, and lower slopes of the riparian edge should be planted as needed for stabilization purposes.
  • Plants should be able to tolerate poor water quality for a short period of time and filter pollutants.
  • Bank stabilization may be required, especially on bank-cut sides. Consider using live stakes for planting.
  • Planting in this area can be hydroseeded in low-water seasons. Plugs and live-stakes are preferred, particularly in areas where higher water velocities can be expected.
  • In general, due to high failure rates in these areas, smaller plant material should be utilized to minimize costs.

Upper Slopes

  • Upper slopes of the riparian edge and higher can be planted for more aesthetic purposes.
  • Larger plant material can be used in these areas.
  • Seeding can be performed with greater likelihood of success in these areas.

Streambank Plant List


  • BALD CYPRESS Taxodium distichum
  • BLACK TUPELO Nyssa sylvatica
  • SYCAMORE Platanus occidentalis
  • TULIPTREE Liriodendron tulipifera
  • SWAMP WHITE OAK Quercus bicolor
  • RIVER BIRCH Betula nigra
  • SUGAR HACKBERRY Celtis laevigata
  • SWEETBAY MAGNOLIA Magnolia vigriniana


  • WINTERBERRY Ilex verticillata (‘Red Sprite,’ ‘Winter Red’)
  • VIRGINIA SWEETSPIRE Itea virginica
  • REDTWIG DOGWOOD Cornus sericea


  • SWITCHGRASS Panicum virgatum
  • GRAY’S SEDGE Carex grayi
  • LITTLE BLUESTEM Schizachyrium scoparium
  • COMMON OAT Avena sativa
  • NORTHERN SEA OATS Chasmanthium latifolium
  • FOX SEDGE Carex vulpinoidea
  • RUSH Juncus effusus
  • SNEEZEWEED Helenium autumnale
  • COMMON MILKWEED Asclepias tuberosa
  • TALL COREOPSIS Coreopsis tripteris
  • PRAIRIE DOCK Silphium terebithinaceum
  • COMMON MOUNTAIN MINT Pycnanthemum virginianum
  • WILD BLUE INDIGO Baptisia australis
  • OBEDIENT PLANT Physostegia virginiana
  • WILD GOLDEN GLOW Rudbeckia laciniata
  • COMPASS PLANT Silphium laciniatum
  • SAWTOOTH SUNFLOWER Helianthus grosseserratus
  • PARTRIDGE PEA Chamaecrista fasciculata
  • SWAMP MILKWEED Asclepias incarnata
  • JOE-PYE WEED Eupatorium maculatum

Native Plants & Bank Stabilization

In 2005, a new housing development alongside Cool Creek in Hamilton County, Indiana was being built. In order to accommodate the development, many trees had to be removed leaving the stream along Cool Creek in need of stabilization. A local civil engineering firm looking to perform a mitigation planting in the development contacted D2 Land & Water Resource for assistance.

We conducted a shear stress analysis of the stream and its surrounding area. The analysis showed that turf reinforcement mats along with native plants would sufficiently stabilize the banks of Cool Creek.

Due to the low bank position of the turf reinforcement mats, we decided that pre-vegetated coir logs would provide sufficient long-term protection. In the event of flooding, the logs would initiate sediment deposition on top of the turf reinforcement mats. They would also provide a transition from the water to the mats.

After the banks of Cool Creek were graded, native plant seeds were sown and turf reinforcement mats were put over them. A BioNet 100% biodegradable erosion control blanket was placed over the native plant seeds on the upper bank and pre-vegetated coir logs were anchored over the turf reinforcement mats at the normal water elevation. The logs used in this case were twenty inches in diameter and the sediment deposition behind them ad on top of the turf reinforcement mats is in excess of twenty-four inches. This system provides a stream bank stabilization armor equivalent to twenty-four-inch rip rap.

Having been successfully established, even today the dormant native plant installation can still be seen through the turf reinforcement mats with the pre-vegetated coir logs visible in the low bank position protecting them. The natural system installed at Cool Creek provided the civil engineering firm and the housing developer with an approach acceptable to the permitting authorities of IDNR, IDEM, and the USACE.

D2 Land & Water Resource is the Midwest’s premier engineered solutions provider. If you would like to discover how we can help you achieve your project goals contact us today!
Phone: 1-800-597-2180
Email: [email protected]

Best Plants for Steep Slopes

Steep slopes and banks are vulnerable to erosion, but you can’t rely on just any plant to stabilize a hillside or steep bank. The slope also carries water away down to the bottom, so a hard rain running down the slope can pull at your plants and stress them without giving them a deep watering. Choosing the best plants for steep slopes in Australia means considering the watering challenges presented by slopes as well as the climate and sun exposure.

Much of Australia tends to be hot and dry, so the best plants to stabilize a steep bank in Australia should be hardy and drought-resistant. If you live in a more temperate region like Melbourne or a tropical region in the north, you may have more options in choosing ground cover plants for slopes since the temperatures tend to be milder and your plants will receive more rainfall.

Fast Growing Ground Cover for Slopes

If you need to cover a steep slope in a hurry, forget about grass! For one thing, no one wants to try to mow that. The best plants for steep slopes prefer well-draining soil, have deep roots, and are drought-tolerant. If you’re not planning on terracing or building retaining walls, you’re probably looking for a ground cover for slopes with low maintenance needs. Fast growing ground covers for slopes often have low growing habits so they can quickly cover open ground.

Best Ground Cover for Slopes in Full Sun

Coastal rosemary is a native Australian plant and landscaping favorite. The Westringia genus has a lot of low-growing varieties that require little to no maintenance, and they flower all year round. The hardy coastal rosemary has evolved to handle the salty sea spray, strong winds, harsh sunlight, and dry soils common to the coast. Even if you don’t live near the coast, coastal plants tend to be hardy and able to handle the tough conditions often found on sloping terrains.

Commonly known as Jug Flower, Adenanthos cuneatus is another low-growing groundcover suited for sunny areas on Australia’s western coasts and southern regions. When exposed to full sun, the leaves turn shades of pink and red, and the year-round flowers offer nectar for small honey-eating birds and insects.

If you have a particularly barren slope on your hands and want to prevent weeds from setting up shop, the evergreen Grevillea ‘Bronze Rambler’ grows quickly and forms a dense weed-resistant cover. Another Grevillea cultivar option is ‘Poorinda Royal Mantle,’ which prefers arid to temperate zones (no tropics!) and spreads quickly over open ground.

Best Ground Cover for Shady Slopes

It’s difficult to find plants that tolerate shade, so a shady slope can be extra difficult to landscape! Generally, look for dark green foliage as a sign of a shade-loving plant. For example, the Midgen Berry (Austromyrtus dulcsis), a low-growing shrub, prefers part to deep shade and is a good option for humid climates. For shady, dry areas, many varieties of Acacia are low-growing and prefer well-drained, sandy soil.

Many shade-loving plants tend to be slower-growing. If you live in a humid subtropical region like Brisbane, succulents like Echeveria glauca can thrive in shade and spread quickly. Plants that can handle both shade and very dry soil are rare specimens. Correa pulchella ‘Pink Eyre,’ a native evergreen shrub, is one such plant. For a more grassy plant, Dianella caerulea ‘King Alfred’ is another option. The spreading and climbing Bluebell Creeper shrub (Sollya heterophylla) blooms often and requires little care.

Using Pioneer Plants for Slopes

Pioneer plants are so named because they quickly grow, spread, and dominate any available space. They aren’t always the best plants for steep slopes if you want to cultivate a landscape with variety, since they tend to push out all other plants. This can be a good thing if you’re mainly concerned with weed control and erosion control, and are dealing with poor soil. Pioneer plants like Bleeding Heart (a low bushy plant with tell tale heart-shaped flowers) and Sarsaparilla (a climbing vine plant) can then be considered.

Other pioneer plants for hostile environments include Pigface, acacias, and Spinifex grasses that do well in coastal sand dunes can also provide spreading ground cover and erosion control on slopes.

Succulents and Cacti as Ground Cover for Slopes

The shallow roots of most succulents and cacti make them a poor option for erosion control, but if erosion is not a serious concern they can work well in arid regions. Succulents have colorful fleshy leaves covering much of the color spectrum. Some cactus varieties have soft spines or none at all, and there are also creeping varieties that work well as ground cover.

Ground Cover Plants for Steep Slopes Australia

Although low-growing, spreading plants are a common choice for ground cover plants for sloping gardens, shrubs and bushes can add visual interest and root deeply for added erosion control. Although not ideal as a fast growing ground cover for slopes, once established, shrubs and small trees can help protect the soil and surrounding plants from damaging erosion. A mix of shrubs, trees, and low-growing plants offers the best erosion control. Trees that stay small

One method of damage control to help struggling trees and shrubs is to create a terrace at the same level as the plants or build a basin around the plants to retain some water instead of letting it wash away. For extensive projects to alter the drainage of a slope, add bank stabilisers, or make it easier to access, Normark professional landscapers can help!

Consider a shrub like Hardenbergia ‘Bushy Blue’ Hardenbergia for steep slopes, which is fast-growing and can be shaped or left to grow as it pleases. Its branching habit makes it a good ground cover. Saltbushes are another low-growing shrub that can form a dense ground cover even on a hostile site. The Swan River pea is another sub-shrub option that can also be trained into climbing.

Combining hardy shrubs and small trees with cascading ground covers like Creeping Boobialla and Ground Morning Glory provides a high level of soil retention. However, since Australia contains a multitude of climates, a local landscaper, like Normark in Melbourne, can address your unique needs and concerns as well as help you tackle larger projects.

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