Plants for Erosion Control

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Compiled by the Theodore Payne Foundation for Wildflowers and Native Plants, Inc.


KEYS TO FLOWER COLOR: B  Blue V  Violet/Purple
R  Red 0  Orange
G  Green W  White
P   Pink Y  Yellow

GROUNDCOVERS (for surface soil retention)

  • Achillea millefolium, Yarrow  P/R/W – full sun or part shade; spreads
  • Baccharis pilularis ‘Twin Peaks’ or ‘Pigeon Point’, Dwarf Coyote Brush  W
  • Ceanothus griseus horizontalis ‘Yankee Point’  B
  • Grasses with tough fibrous root systems (many choices)
  • Mimulus spp., Monkey Flower  O/P/R/Y
  • Salvia spp., Groundcover Sage Varieties such as ‘Gracias,’ ‘Pt. Sal,’ ‘Bees Bliss’
  • Epilobium canum and E. canum latifolia, California Fuchsia  P/R/W (white form requires some shade)


SMALL SHRUBS (for soil retention and limited hillside stabilization):

  • Artemisia californica, Coastal Sagebrush  G/Y – aromatic, super-tough plant for dry spots
  • Brickellia grandiflora, Brickell Bush  W – easy to grow and tough; good for partially shaded dry spot
  • Encelia californica, California Bush Sunflower  Y – fast-growing and easy; reseeds; seeds appeal to birds
  • Eriogonum spp., Buckwheat P/W – especially E. fasciculatum, California Buckwheat
  • Fallugia paradoxa, Apache Plume W/Y – tough plant with lovely tufted seedheads
  • Isocoma menziesii, Coast Goldenbush  Y – cheerful fall bloomer
  • Isomeris arborea, Bladderpod Y –bright yellow flowers attract hummers and bumblebees; interesting seed pods
  • Iva hayesiana, San Diego Marsh Elder – crisp green color, soft texture; spreads, takes sun or shade
  • Romneya coulteri, Matilija Poppy W/Y – tough root system spreads by rhizomes
  • Salvia spp., Sages B/P/R/V/W – shrubs such as Black and White Sages, Cleveland Sage, San Miguel Mtn. Sage
  • Trichostema lanatum, Wooly Blue Curls B/V – likes a dry sunny spot with excellent drainage
  • Yucca whipplei, Our Lord’s Candle W


LARGE SHRUBS AND TREES (for hillside stabilization):

  • Adenostoma fasciculatum, Chamise  W – tough-as-nails, with striking white flower clusters in spring
  • Aesculus californica, California Buckeye  W – one of the most ornamental native shrubs/trees
  • Arctostaphylos spp., Manzanita  P/W – very deep root system; many stump-sprout after fire
  • Ceanothus spp.,  California Lilac  B/V/W – especially local species; hybrids best with a little afternoon shade
  • Cephalanthus occidentalis, Button Willow  W – ornamental ball-shaped flowers; deciduous; likes water
  • Heteromeles arbutifolia, Toyon  W – excellent for screen or bird habitat; adaptable to wet or dry, sun or shade
  • Juglans californica, Southern California Walnut – excellent small- to medium-sized shade tree; edible nuts
  • Rhus spp.: Laurel Sumac, Lemonadeberry, Sugar Bush P/W  -- drought-resistant, aromatic, attaining large size
  • Pinus coulteri, Coulter Pine; at higher elevations: P. jeffreyi, Jeffrey Pine or P.  ponderosa, Ponderosa Pine
  • Quercus spp. (Oak) such as Q. agrifolia, Coast Live Oak; Q. dumosa, Scrub Oak; Q. wislizenii, Interior Live Oak
  • Sambucus mexicana, Elderberry  W/Y – pretty flower clusters and berries; takes moisture or drought



  • Alnus spp., Alder – moisture to get established                  
  • Brickellia grandiflora, Brickell Bush  W – dry                        
  • Calycanthus occidentalis, Spice Bush R – dry or moist   
  • Cercis occidentalis, Western Redbud  P – dry             
  • Cornus spp., Dogwood  W – moist                           
  • Euonymus occidentalis, Burning Bush P – moist
  • Iva hayesiana, San Diego Marsh Elder – dry or moist
  • Quercus chrysolepis, Canyon Live Oak – dry or moist
  • Ribes spp., Currants and Gooseberries – dry or moist
  • Rosa californica, Wild Rose  P – moist; tolerates dry
  • Salix spp., Willow – moist or wet  
  • Spiraea douglasii, Spiraea  P  – moist
  • Symphoricarpos mollis, Snowberry P – dry or moist
  • Umbellularia californica, CA Laurel  W – dry or moist