Ask a Question forum: Hill groundcovers

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Canyon Country CA
Tapio
Apr 26, 2018 9:33 AM CST
Hello, I have a small hill on the side of my house that is eroding, currently there are no plants growing, I belive it is clay soil,full sun SOCAL weather.
I would like to cover it with some groundcover to protect it from erosion and to look good.
I was thinking about a dripp system that would save some water.
If you guys have any ideas for this hill please let me know.
Thumb of 2018-04-26/Tapio/bd69ce

Name: Chris
Hermann, MO (Zone 6a)
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FoolOnTheHill
Apr 26, 2018 10:00 AM CST
Although they might be taller than you want, daylilies make an excellent ground cover. They are well suited to clay soil and tolerate drought and sun. The taller leaves truly slow down erosion, and the tough roots form a nice erosion control mat. Folks around here use them on hillsides for this reason all the time. We have clay soil, but not the lovely California winters Smiling

I haven't had much luck in the past with shorter plants for erosion control, but depending on how steep your hill is, YMMV.
Name: Chris
Hermann, MO (Zone 6a)
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FoolOnTheHill
Apr 26, 2018 10:04 AM CST
Oh, wait. I was looking at the yard, and couldn't judge the slope. Are you referring to that step hill that looks like it's outside the yard in the above picture? Blinking If so retaining walls and lots of very large rocks and/or concrete chunks seems like the best solution.
Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
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Baja_Costero
Apr 26, 2018 10:10 AM CST
Ice plants, maybe... Drosanthemum, Delosperma, or similar. There are lots of choices and they usually flower in profusion once a year.
[Last edited by Baja_Costero - Apr 26, 2018 12:06 PM (+)]
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Canyon Country CA
Tapio
Apr 26, 2018 10:20 AM CST
Here is another picture of the hill,it is quite steep.
Thumb of 2018-04-26/Tapio/60c2ce

Canyon Country CA
Tapio
Apr 26, 2018 10:23 AM CST
I was thinking about ice plants but I heard that their roots will rot after a few years.
Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
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Baja_Costero
Apr 26, 2018 10:30 AM CST
Maybe the more sensitive ones (the ice plant family is a big group which does include some difficult plants) but the groundcover types tend to live pretty much forever once they are established. The best ones for your situation would be the ones that root as they grow sideways. Eventually they form a sort of mat, and with old age that mat just grows thicker. Those plants can be started from cuttings and are usually going strong after one season.

The more aggressive mat-forming plants (eg. Carpobrotus) are probably best avoided because they can be invasive. Some ice plants have the potential to overrun other plants if you're considering a mixed group. But they're all manageable by pruning and pulling if you need to cut them back. I did a test of maybe a dozen different mat-forming ice plant groundcovers to control a similarly rocky slope here and they mostly did very well. Some of them come from winter rainfall areas in South Africa and do very well in our winter ranfall/summer drought climate with minimal supplemental water.
[Last edited by Baja_Costero - Apr 26, 2018 10:36 AM (+)]
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Name: Chris
Hermann, MO (Zone 6a)
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FoolOnTheHill
Apr 26, 2018 11:26 AM CST
Tapio said:Here is another picture of the hill,it is quite steep.
Thumb of 2018-04-26/Tapio/60c2ce



Oh, wow, yeah if that's the hill you're talking about, the part in your yard may be small, but that's a huge hill. You're still going to have rain running down the entire face of it, and ending at what happens to be in your yard. This is pretty advanced erosion control, and plants alone won't do it, partially because you aren't dealing with the entire hill (I'm guessing, based on your original reference to "small hill"). I'd recommend hiring a professional to install a solution to handle the water coming off the whole hill, and then once that is addressed, plant what you want in the remediated area. Erosion control of the magnitude that I think I'm seeing is engineering. Good luck Thumbs up
Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
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Baja_Costero
Apr 26, 2018 11:42 AM CST
By all means seek professional advice Smiling but that looks like a situation that can be managed with groundcover plants if you start them at a reasonable density. Again, speaking from experience (with a rocky slope that is steeper in places than the one pictured).

Take your time to start them right (root them on site with a bit of compost mixed into each hole, maybe a foot or so apart) and do it in the fall so that you have the winter rain working to your advantage. Rain water is way better than tap water (here) to get them started. I was careful to water the ice plants on a mostly weekly basis for the first year, then gave them less each successive year as they took off. They do appreciate a bit of occasional water during our dry summers to look their best.
Name: Karen
New Mexico (Zone 7b)
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plantmanager
Apr 26, 2018 11:58 AM CST
I have a long rocky hillside next to our home too. It's pretty much like yours. I'm going to be trying ice plants. It has a few natives on it now but the hill is still eroding fast. I'm going to plant a lot of different things to see which works the best. I've started with some Sempervivums at the base and beginning of the hill. They are spreading quickly, so I'm hoping I can use some up higher, but some larger plants would probably be best.
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Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
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Baja_Costero
Apr 26, 2018 12:17 PM CST
The mat-forming ice plants make much more serious roots than the Semps I've seen. I periodically have to pull them from where they are encroaching on other plants and I'm always impressed by what they can put down. Maybe you can try a few different ice plants like I did, and then based on their progress you can decide which ones you want to use to fill the rest of the space. The first year's starts will be producing growth you can use for cuttings not too far down the road.

Fun fact about Drosanthemum from the most helpful SANBI web site:

"In times of drought famers in the Little Karoo fed these plants to their ostriches."
http://pza.sanbi.org/drosanthe...

So maybe you can start an ostrich farm once the groundcover is established. Hilarious!
Canyon Country CA
Tapio
Apr 26, 2018 12:53 PM CST
I have this plant in another area of my yard,I really like it.
Do you think it will be a good idea?
What is the name of this plant?
Thumb of 2018-04-26/Tapio/512d27

Canyon Country CA
Tapio
Apr 26, 2018 12:54 PM CST
Thank you guys for your support!
Canyon Country CA
Tapio
Apr 26, 2018 1:00 PM CST
This is a satellite picture of the project.
There is a water collection system on top of that hill so the problem is not that big.
Thumb of 2018-04-26/Tapio/1cfce9

Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
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Baja_Costero
Apr 26, 2018 1:00 PM CST
Baby Sunrose (Mesembryanthemum cordifolium)

Definitely in the category of mat-forming ice plant, and among the ones I tested. It did not root as well/often as some of the others, and seemed to be thirstier. You could do a trial to see how well it grows for you.
[Last edited by Baja_Costero - Apr 26, 2018 1:00 PM (+)]
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Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
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Native Plants and Wildflowers Garden Photography Region: Mexico Plant Identifier Forum moderator Plant Database Moderator
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Baja_Costero
Apr 26, 2018 1:16 PM CST
Some pictures here. We had a really dry winter so the ice plants are not looking great, but maybe that's also informative in its own way. Smiling

This first picture from today shows the terrain and the soil composition. The height difference in the frame is about 3-4 feet. That's Carpobrotus on the left and an unidentified plant (see flowers below) to the right. I left the Carpobrotus there because it's a better barrier next to the path running up the hill at the far left, which is the route that the dogs use to reach the top. The ice plant on the right is more like a carpet and you can walk on it after a while. It's the one I ended up preferring for most of this area.

Thumb of 2018-04-26/Baja_Costero/0c03ea

Same height difference here. 4 different ice plants visible. Closeup of one to show how they climb all over the other plants if you let them.

Thumb of 2018-04-26/Baja_Costero/86910f Thumb of 2018-04-26/Baja_Costero/8c00d2

Another 3-4 foot drop here.

Thumb of 2018-04-26/Baja_Costero/906e8f

This picture from a better year... these plants can turn into a spectacular wall of color in bloom. They are used all along the highways near here and the flowers are insane on some of those slopes after a good rainy winter.

Thumb of 2018-04-26/Baja_Costero/20927f


Name: Carol
Santa Ana, ca
Sunset zone 22, USDA zone 10 A.
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ctcarol
Apr 26, 2018 4:08 PM CST
That last one is very showy in full bloom on a slope. My cousin has had that on her slope for years with no problems.
Having worked on the freeways for twenty years, I would not recommend the Carpobrotus. The weight of it will pull large sections of the slope down with it during rain events.
[Last edited by ctcarol - Apr 26, 2018 4:37 PM (+)]
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Name: Chris
Hermann, MO (Zone 6a)
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FoolOnTheHill
Apr 26, 2018 5:20 PM CST
Tapio said:This is a satellite picture of the project.
There is a water collection system on top of that hill so the problem is not that big.
Thumb of 2018-04-26/Tapio/1cfce9



Ah, then my response was more than is needed. I'm used to big erosion issues. With the rain we get in the springs out here, it's like time lapse of what you all experience, and that hill above another hill looked pretty worrisome to me. If the worst of it has already been remediated, then the plants recommended above should be fine.

I won't scare you with pictures of what erosion looks like in my neck of the woods! Nevermind...
Name: Carol
Santa Ana, ca
Sunset zone 22, USDA zone 10 A.
Charter ATP Member Bookworm Hummingbirder Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Orchids Region: California
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ctcarol
Apr 26, 2018 8:09 PM CST
Hilarious! Out here, we're stuck between a rock and a hard spot. The slopes need vegetation to stabilize them, but due to the fire danger in the hills, you don't want fire fuel near your home. Succulents are probably the best option.
Canyon Country CA
Tapio
Apr 27, 2018 12:17 PM CST
Where I should start planting, on the top or on the bottom?
I like how Delosperma Cooperi looks and I will order some seeds hopefully I can get around 100 plants for starters.
What spacing do you recommend?

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