One of the biggest challenges homeowners face in their landscapes is planting on slopes and hillsides, where mowing of lawns is a hazardous enterprise. Besides turfgrass, we see other low-growing evergreen plants used frequently – especially ivy and pachysandra – but if you’d like a more interesting solution, think outside the groundcover box!
For inspiration, check out the street-side hillside along this public school in D.C.
Above, they’ve used huge sweeps of St. John’s Wort and Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa), both native to this region.
In a shadier spot, more native plants (Tiarellas and ferns) are filling in behind some pedestrian-friendly seating.
Spilling over the wall are the long-lasting blooms of oakleaf hydrangea, with some purple Heuchera providing a contrast in foliage color.
In sunny spots, drought-tolerant perennials like these do particularly well on slopes, which are inherently dry spots. Here yarrows and lavenders are used, with what looks like lambs ears.
Spotted elsewhere in our region, this hillside garden really IS a garden, like one we’d see on flat terrain. Roses, grasses, Amsonia hubrechtii and Blue Rug Juniper make this a beautiful and interesting spot year-round.
At the home-decorating and landscaping website Houzz there are hundreds more photos for inspiration, all tagged with the term “hillside planting”.
Tips for Planting on Hillsides
Just remember that hillsides , unless they’re terraced to create flat areas, are inherently drier sites than flat sites, so choose plants that can tolerate dryness, especially if the site is sunny.
However, even drought-tolerant plants need help getting established, especially where rainfall could run down the hill before soaking down to where the roots are. So build up a rim along the downside of the plant’s root ball so that water is held in place. And, as with all plants, water regularly for their first season in the ground.
Another trait of hillsides is that plants that can flop WILL flop. So choose shorter varieties of possible floppers, or plan for flopping in your design.
Even trees can be planted on hillsides, and here’s an excellent video explaining how to do that to ensure their success.