Home > The Plant Man Article Archive > Smart planting can halt river bank erosion

Smart planting can halt river bank erosion

As any professional landscaper will tell you, WHAT you choose to plant should depend upon what you plant it IN. In other words, the soil, the moisture (or lack of it), the exposure to sunlight, the degree of shade... these and other factors should determine which trees and shrubs you decide to plant if you want them to thrive and survive.

In a previous column ("How's Your Soil?") I discussed the importance of knowing the characteristics of your planting site. If you missed that column, you can find it archived at my web site. Go to www.landsteward.org then click on "The Plant Man" heading.

Several readers have sent me e-mail regarding "problem" soil conditions.

Here are two of those questions, along with my answers.

QUESTION: "I have a stream at the back of my property which runs for about 2,000 feet; it is about 6 feet at its widest and about 2 feet deep at its deepest. It has many draining rivulets draining into it, and the land around these rivulets is kind of marshy. I would like you to recommend some plants for me to plant along the edge of the stream, to hold the land intact. The land is eroding since the stream is constantly moving.

Also, I would like you to recommend some plants to plant in the marshy part of the property, to either dry it or at least to firm up the land. I do not want any plants that have thorns." -


ANSWER: To go around the edge of the stream to hold the bank, I would go with a mixture of shrubs and trees to make it interesting. Most plants do not like standing in water but some will tolerate moist soils. A few of the shrubs that can be used are: Silky Dogwood, Red Twig Dogwood, a few of the Viburnums, Cotoneaster, Fragrant Honeysuckle, Rose of Sharon, Althea, Spicebush, Carolina Allspice, Magnolia Virginiana, a few of the Hydrangeas, Butterfly Bush, Chokeberry, Wisteria, Autumn Olive, Nanking Cherry, Sand Cherry and French Pussy Willow.

I would also suggest you include some accent plants. One that seems to love boggy soil would be Elephant Ears.

Some trees for you to consider would include Red Maple, Pin Oak, Water Oak, Willow Oak, hybrid Willow, hybrid Poplar, Weeping Willow, River Birch, Quaking Aspen, tree form Althea, Bald Cypress, Green Ash, and Dawn Redwood.

QUESTION: "I'm trying to find something to go in our backyard. We do have some problems there. It has a lot of clay and a good bit of shade. We just had a screened in back porch built and we want something to go on the end opposite the house, not over 5-6 feet, and would prefer something in a flowering type. We also need something to plant along the property line on the side of out property, not too wide and not too tall. Slow growing would be great.

Any suggestions Steve? We're counting on you. Thanks!" - Nell

ANSWER: To start with, I would recommend that you look at Viburnums and Hydrangeas. Viburnums would probably be ideal for your anchor plants by the house, and you could also use a mix of Hydrangeas and Viburnums for the hedge. For a change of pace you could try the "living hedge," Rosa Rugosa..

In the more shaded area, you might try a bed of Hostas. Or if the area stays on the damp side, some Elephant Ears (as I suggested for Jose, above!) Don't forget that you will have to add some soil to the area where you plant the Hostas and Elephant Ears to make it a little on the loose side. The other plants will do fine in the clay.

Certainly, some soil conditions can present a tough challenge to the home landscaper. But when you select the type of trees and shrubs that are best suited to those conditions, you definitely put the odds in your favor!

The Plant Man is here to help. Send you questions about trees, shrubs and landscaping to [email protected] and for resources and additional information, including archived Plant Man columns, visit www.landsteward.org where you can also subscribe to Steve's free e-mailed newsletter.

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