hydrangea arborescens

Wild hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens). Photo: Chris Evans, University of Illinois, Bugwood.org

Updated: March 19, 2021

Protecting a shady slope is different than protecting a sunny slope. The tree canopy intercepts raindrops, and that's a big head start on preventing erosion. Leaves shed by trees accumulate on the forest floor and intercept any raindrops that make it through the canopy. Tree roots stretch out in all directions, holding soil in place. In the forest, even soil that seems devoid of vegetation is likely to be full of tree roots. As a result, in the woods, you don't need to cover every square inch of ground to prevent erosion. In fact, too much digging around in the tree roots will hurt the trees, and that would be counterproductive. To minimize damage to tree roots, sow seeds or plant the smallest potted plants available (usually plugs or quarts) rather than planting larger specimens. Here are our favorite native plants for vegetating a shady slope.

Additional resources

  • Your local native plant vendor can recommend even more great native plants to help you with your slope planting project! They will want to know the specifics of your site, such as soil texture, pH, and moisture. If you live in Maryland's mountain counties, your vendor will also need to know your slope's aspect and soil depth.

  • You can get more information about preventing soil erosion from your local Soil & Water Conservation District.