Best Plants For Erosion Control In Full Sun

A carpet of white and pink creeping phlox on a hillside
(Image credit: Hokkaidolover)

Probably one of the most difficult tasks in the garden is hillside full sun landscaping. Slopes are prone to erosion, which makes full sun hillside erosion control ground cover a real challenge. The question is, what is the best ground cover for slopes in full sun? Keep reading to learn about hillside ground cover in full sun, as well as trees and shrubs suited to full sun slopes.

The Problem with Full Sun Hillsides

Hillsides face a number of issues in the landscape. They require plants that are tolerant of soil moisture and low nutrient availability. Plants that establish quickly and easily with little care are the best options for hillside ground cover.

Grasses have often been the go-to for full sun hillsides, but the chore of mowing on an angled slope is considerable. Native grasses are a better idea and will add movement as well as permanence to the hillside.

Slope Stabilization Considerations

To fill in a sloping hillside to stabilize the soil, you will likely want many small plants. Purchasing plants is more expensive than planting seeds, but they will establish much more quickly. If you do choose to plant seed, you may also sow annual rye or wheat which will stabilize the ground quickly and then die back, giving the newly sown seeds a chance to establish.

Ideally and for aesthetics' sake, you will want to include a variety of woody ground cover, native grasses, shrubs and trees. This mix is the perfect blend for slope stabilization. You may also want to consider options like retaining walls, terracing or placing of large stones or boulders as well.

Also the use of an erosion fabric of plastic or cloth along with mulches such as pine needles or hay that bind are useful in preventing weeds from occurring along your newly planted slope.

What Ground Covers Are Best for Full Sun Slopes?

When choosing ground cover for a slope, look for those that enjoy full sun, are woody or herbaceous, and then consider their color, texture and bloom.

We’ve listed 15 of the most popular herbaceous ground cover options:

  • Ajuga
  • Barren strawberry
  • Bearberry
  • Catmint
  • Christmas fern
  • Daylily
  • Heuchera
  • Hosta
  • Lady fern
  • Lamium
  • Phlox
  • Sedum
  • Solomon’s seal
  • Spiderwort
  • Wild ginger

Here are 9 woody ground covers suited to full sun sites on hillsides:

  • Bunchberry (creeping dogwood)
  • California lilac (Ceanothus)
  • Bush honeysuckle
  • Leadplant
  • Virginia creeper
  • Snowberry
  • Sumac
  • Sweet fern
  • Wintergreen

Shrub and ground cover varieties of rose are also likely candidates for a full sun slope.

Native Plants for Sunny Hillsides

Non-native species were often the go to for troublesome, sun drenched slopes. Chosen for their aggressive, spreading habits and their quick germination and growth, times have changed and now native hillside plants are more often sought after. Excellent choices of native grasses for the hillside landscape include:

  • Broomsedge
  • Southeastern wildrye
  • Virginia wildrye
  • Purpletop

Other native plants to include on a sunny hillside include these 12:

  • American germander
  • Black-eyed Susan
  • Butterfly milkweed
  • Clustered mountain mint
  • Common milkweed
  • Gray goldenrod
  • Hairy beardtongue
  • Mistflower
  • Partridge pea
  • Prickly pear
  • Red cedar
  • Wrinkle leaved goldenrod

Trees for Soil Stabilization on Hillsides

Most trees are excellent for stabilizing a hillside. Larger tree canopies can help reduce rainwater excess from destabilizing soil and their root systems aid in stabilizing the soil itself. Here are 6 of the most common:

  • Thornless honeylocust
  • Bald cypress
  • American sycamore
  • Golden chain
  • Flowering dogwood
  • Hawthorne

These are just a few of the trees suited for a full sun site on a hillside. Be sure to check your USDA zone as well before purchasing.

Amy Grant

Amy Grant has been gardening for 30 years and writing for 15. A professional chef and caterer, Amy's area of expertise is culinary gardening.