Many times we get this question at the nursery, “We’ve got a slope in our yard and we just don’t know what to do with it. What do we plant on it?” It’s a great question with a lot of possibilities but also a lot of angst and living in San Diego, chances are you have a slope somewhere on your property.
Slopes present a unique challenge to many homeowners. It’s almost like they create a visual barrier, and therefore a psychological barrier too. Let’s break through those barriers and look at it as a logical, design process. When designing your slope planting, follow similar guidelines you would for other planting areas. Think in terms of ‘layering’ your slope with ground covers, shrubs and trees.
The number one priority for slopes is preventing erosion. If you’re working with a bare slope begin with a fast-growing ground cover, such as Myoporum parvifolium/Prostrate Myoporum or Rosmarinus offincinalis ‘Prostratus’/Prostrate Rosemary. Both of these will quickly cover a large area and can be thinned out later when the other plant material on the slope has matured. These two selections are also low water users and can take full sun.
After the ground cover selection, think in terms of vertical elements, such as large shrubs or trees. With their deep root systems, these will eventually be the plants that will hold the soil in place to prevent erosion from occurring. They provide visual interest as well. Some suggestions include Rhus lancea/African Sumac, Cercidium ‘Desert Museum,’ Tipuana tipu/Tipu Tree, Cotoneaster lacteus, Heteromeles arbutifolia/California Holly, or Ceanothus/California Wild Lilac.
Ceanothus 'Dark Star'
If you’re planting California natives such as the California Holly or Ceanothus, use a spray irrigation system rather than a drip system since they prefer to be watered as they are watered in nature, with rain. You may even want to consider planting fruit trees on your slope.
Finally, select the accent plants. These are the ones that will ‘jump’ out at you when looking at the slope. Choose plants that have color or texture differences from the rest of the slope. Some excellent choices are Agaves, Echium candicans/Pride of Madeira, Cistus/Rockrose, Shrub Roses, Gaura, Lantana or perennial grasses.
Another option to prevent soil erosion and to recapture some square footage of your yard is to build retaining walls. They provide definition to your yard and allow terracing the slope to gain usable areas for fruit trees, rose gardens, vegetable gardens or patio areas. These may not be in everyone’s budget but they do add a nice finish to your landscape.
Still have questions? Come in to one of our nurseries and our helpful and knowledgeable sales staff will be happy to assist you.