The best plants for erosion control

Updated November 21, 2016

Wind and water are the two main agents that cause soil erosion. Lack of vegetation and speed up the process of soil eroding off your property. It is important to plant the best plants to control soil erosion to prevent loss of your top soil.


It is essential to choose plants that vary in height to slow down rain before it hits the soil. Plants that mature to be varied in height generally will also have different root depths. For example, a tree will have a deeper root system than ground cover plants. The variety of root depths will help keep soil intact from just below the surface to several feet down. In fact, the variety of roots will produce a type of web underneath the soil to slow down the erosion.

Ground Cover

You need to think about the type of light your yard receives, the region's climate and annual rainfall when choosing a ground cover. Native plants need less water than other types of plants; therefore, you will not have to irrigate the yard and add to the soil more water that contributes to soil erosion. The Virginia Cooperative Extension recommends ground cover plants to help with soil erosion such as moss pink, Baltic English ivy, plantain lily hosta, Japanese spurge and yucca.


Shrubbery cannot only help with soil erosion, but it can also create borders for your yard. In addition, shrubs can act as a light barrier for rain to reduce the amount of water that hits the ground cover. You can plant a variety of shrubs that have deep to medium-depth root systems. Examples of shrubs with medium-depth root systems include, service berry, Oregon grape, mock orange, smooth sumac, golden current and Nootka rose. Plants with deep root systems consist of coyote bush, ocean spray and Pacific ninebark.


Trees are the first to slow down rain from hitting the soil. The trees that you pick should have deep root systems to help maintain the structure of the soil, especially if you are trying to control erosion on a hillside. You can plant such types as vine maple, big-leaf maple, red alder, grand fir, shore pine, mountain hemlock, Douglas fir and western red cedar. Trees may need irrigation in their first year of growing to ensure their roots establish deeply in the soil.

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