Lawn And Landscaping

Plants for Hillsides

S. F. Heron's image for:
"Plants for Hillsides"
Image by: 

Hillside landscaping provides a viable opened for a sloped property. This unusable space can become a showcase garden with effort and planning. Hillsides present a challenge regardless of whether this area is covered with grass or a garden. Drainage, ability to the mow and maintenance concerns should top the list of concerns when designing a sloped landscape. The best plants for hillside landscaping include ground covers, small shrubs and ornamental grasses that perform the dual function of limiting soil erosion and beautifying the landscape.


Quite simply, make sure the hillside doesn't direct water towards the foundation of the home. If it does, spend your effort and money on correcting this problem immediately. Landscaping isn't your primary concern. If the hillside slopes away from the home, there's a workable landscape solution. Simply make sure any retaining walls, planting and modifications don't cause water to flow towards the house.

Hillsides have unique dynamics of drainage as well as growing conditions. You'll probably notice good drainage at the top of the slope and pooling or poor drainage at the bottom. This is a normal occurrence in this location but you need to tailor your plant choices to these soil conditions. Very few plants tolerate pools of water soaking the root area. Correct the problem or avoid planting in that area.

Ground Covers

Ground covers refer to those plants that grow close to the soil surface, throwing out sturdy roots that hold soil in place. Ground covers include perennial plants that feature beautiful foliage and flowers during the growing season but die off above the soil surface in the winter. Perennials come back each year to provide a long-lasting solution to hillside landscaping.

Vinca minor (periwinkle) is a partial shade-loving perennial ground cover that produces small violet flowers in early spring. This plant features shiny dark green leaves and quickly spreading vines. Vinca minor grows to a height of 6 inches and thrives in zones USDA hardiness zones 4 to 8.

Liriope may look like an ornamental grass but it's actually a member of the lily family of plants. This beautiful clumping ground cover features medium green frond like leaves with white edging. Liriope also produces narrow leaves up to 2 feet long and a spiked, purple flower in mid summer. Plant in zones 6 to 9 in partial shade to shade locations for best results.

Creeping stonecrop features thick leaves and variegated foliage for the hillside landscape. This plant grows up to 6 inches in height in partial sun locations. Foliage is thick and rounded as it spreads across the garden area. Foliage also turns a beautiful burgundy shade in the fall. Creeping stonecrop performs well in dry locations with high drought tolerance due to the water-retention capability of the leaves. This plant is hardy in zones 3 to 8.

Ornamental Grasses

Ornamental grasses provide a simple solution to a blank slope that is begging for attention. Grasses come in a range of sizes with different growing preferences for a wide range of plants. Small clumping versions grow to a height of  12 inches while other cultivars feature towering columns of stately fronds that dominate the landscape.

This wide variety of grasses precludes mentioning the best ornamental grasses for each hardiness zone. Look for native ornamental grasses at your local nursery to choose the hardiest plant for your hillside landscape. Ornamental grasses provide landscapers an excellent option to landscaping a slope for two reasons. Each grass provides immediate impact in the landscape and grasses only require a quick "haircut" in the spring after new shoots appear. Low maintenance plants of incredible beauty are highly prized in the landscaping world.


Large expanses of hillside require a substantial plant to fill in this large space. Consider low growing shrubs such as pachysandra and creeping juniper. Both plants grow in very different conditions but satisfy the landscapers need for erosion protection as well as beautiful foliage. Creeping juniper grows to a height of 2 feet and produces needle-shaped leaves. Creeping juniper prefers full sun and retains foliage of a blue-green hue throughout the winter. Pachysandra prefers the shade garden to limit burning of this plant's purple-hued leaves. Foliage turns to green in the summer. Expect this evergreen to grow to height of 1 foot. Plant in rich, organic soil for best results.

Resources: USDA Hardiness Zone Map -

More about this author: S. F. Heron

From Around the Web