SHOP PRODUCTS
Houzz Logo Print
webuser_709519012

Hillside ground cover - fixable or start over?

25 days ago

Just moved into a new home a year ago with a beautiful view. This is our second spring/summer, and we are finally getting to know all the plants and their cycles!

From the walkout basement, there is a full set of stairs leading down the hillside to a huge backyard bordering a creek. The hillside is covered with ground cover and various perennials… and weeds. I don’t think they were ever controlled and the perennials were planted pretty willy-nilly. I like a bit of a cleaner look and want to be able to control the weeds as best as possible, but I have absolutely no idea where to start. Can it be saved? Or do you remove it all and start over?

Comments (38)

  • 25 days ago

    I’ll be interested in what people with more knowledge than I have to say about this. I’m assuming the slope was planted to help with erosion control? If it was, you will need to figure out an alternative plan. First thing I would do is get rid of the ivy on the trees. Not sure where you are located, but in most places, ivy climbing on trees (or any structure for that matter) will eventually take over everything. Pull it off the trees and anywhere you see it on the ground. It’s relentless, so you will need to keep after it for quite some time.

  • 25 days ago

    i cant seem to ID anything with these pix... close up pix.... with a scale for each type of plant...


    and IDing everything is the starting point...


    and a big city location is the second most important info ...


    ken



  • Related Discussions

    Bare Hillside needs cover!

    Q

    Comments (2)
    Wood chips would look good, but in a good rain could well just slide down the hill. Straw is more likely to stay in place. Any mulch will deter weeds, and no mulch will ultimately prevent erosion like planting some kind of ground cover.
    ...See More

    Low ground cover for west facing hillside in 5a?

    Q

    Comments (10)
    Jules my friend has a similar area - in shade almost all day and then wham! That hot, relentless, late afternoon to evening sun. Full shade plants keel over and die. Full sun plants die a slow death because they don't get enough sun and then get blasted in their weak condition. Over the years we tried several things that just didn't work, at least not for more than a season or two. Our latest attempt is sedum kamtschaticum. I have it on a very dry, hot, full-sun, southwest facing slope at the edge of my yard along the street (no sidewalks - in addition to sun the heat just radiates off the asphalt all day) and it does well there. In her yard, her situation was an island bed in the middle of the yard, with three large oaks, surrounded by grass, and as I said, in shade almost all day. There was just this southwest end of the bed that got hit with the sun in late afternoon. The soil is much richer than my poor lean, inch-of-soil-on-solid-ledge slope. So I was hesitant to try the sedum. But it's been about 5 years and it's doing quite well. The bloom might not be as prolific as mine but I happen to love sedum for the foliage anyway, and having a green groundcover is better than bare dirt, lol. Good luck with whatever you choose! :) Dee
    ...See More

    Battle of the Ground Covers: Algerian Ivy vs. Juniper & Cotoneaster!

    Q

    Comments (4)
    I'd vote to get rid of the ivy and see what you have left. The ivy is very aggressive, tends to be a home for rats, and will swamp anything else you want to plant. Ceanothus 'Yankee Point' is a great cultivar for covering ground fast, and the leaves are attractive so it looks nice even when it is not in bloom. The flower color is a lovely medium blue. It's not super long-lived (like all Ceanothus) but I have a bank that I planted with about 6 flats of 4" pots maybe 10 years ago and it is still in great shape. Manzanita is fine but you could choose lots of other things. On slopes it's really helpful to use small plants to start as they are far easier to plant without disrupting or destabilizing the slope.
    ...See More

    Easy to start and maintain ground cover for hillside

    Q

    Comments (14)
    Too shady for junipers. In the PNW and a steeper wooded setting, I'd go with a native groundcover. Something like salal (Gaultheria shallon) or creeping mahonia (Mahonia nervosa or repens). Both spread stoloniferously but are not overly aggressive. And they are fully evergreen, ideal for a dry shade situation, pretty much ignored by deer and are recommended for erosion control. Rarely (never?) available by seed so you will have to dig and plant. But because of their spreading nature you won't have to plant many. If the English ivy already exists, I'd suggest you leave it where it is but keep it restrained. Yes, it is an invasive nightmare here and new plantings prohibited and existing ones highly encouraged to be removed. But removal in that situation will further destabilize the slope and complete removal in our area is pretty much just wishful thinking anyway. But you will need to stay on top of its maintenance and do not let it spread, flower or set seed or begin to grow up any trees.
    ...See More
  • 25 days ago

    If it were me, I was try to pull as many weeds as possible. There are always going to be weeds, but the stuff you don't pull, will have a head start. They're already growing! You can't get rid of weeds without some sort of effort.

  • 25 days ago

    You could benefit from a landscape architect who would identify the plants in your garden, advise you on what to keep, and help you plan the garden that you desire.

  • 25 days ago

    Lisa - taking a stab at this, but you should give us a closer photo if you can, and put your foot in the view for scale! Taking a wild guess here, I am wondering if the main plant on the slope is vinca. This would have been, IMO, a good choice for possible erosion, and it is a worthwhile plant, not a weed per se. It has pretty blue-violet blooms in the spring (now here in Massachusetts) and has no drawbacks (no bugs or disease as far as mine goes). Many folk do not care for it -- it can/will spread slowly over time, but it not really difficult to keep in bounds.


    The palmate plant with five leaves that rises above is familiar to me, but I am having a senior moment just now and cannot recall its name. Sorry about that!


    Frankly, I quite like your "weedy" slope -- it IS in the eye of the beholder, so if it doesn't suit your taste, I understand. But I warn you, that starting over and getting rid of all that lovely greenery will be both hard work and likely expensive. If it were mine, I just enjoy it, and do a modicum of hand-weeding for certain things as needed.


    Good luck, and do let us know how it turns out.

  • 25 days ago
    last modified: 25 days ago

    Lisa, it would help a lot if we can see closer pictures to identify the plants growing there now. Does that slope get sufficient moisture from rain, or is it more on the dry side? Do you any idea what you'd like there. Do you prefer a monoculture of a species, or would you prefer a mixture of 2 or more species? I'm not trying to push sedges on you, just trying to get an idea about your preferences. Sedges look great with ornamental plants growing between them too. Again just exploring your personal taste and not pushing sedges. How do you feel about low growing, spreading shrubs. Diervilla lonicera, Native Honeysuckle is low growing and has yellow and orange tubular flowers that attract hummingbirds. It's an agressive spreader that could cover a hill in about 2 years. The mower would keep and wandering suckers under control. Diervilla covers well so it will not have many weeds growing throughout it.







    Diervilla lonicera

    Diervilla lonicera

    Diervilla lonicera

  • 25 days ago

    Just want to add, re vinca. It has escaped into the wild in many places. I remember seeing huge explanses of it in remote woods in upstate New York. If you do replace what's on that slope, use natives--Carex pennsylvanica is a great option.

  • 24 days ago
    last modified: 24 days ago

    I agree with others - we need closer pictures. But I too see virginia creeper, on the ground and on the trees, and what looks to be liriope (the taller, thin, grassy-looking leaves).

    If you can post closer pictures of all the different plants, and give us an idea of what your preferences are, what look you are going for, and where you are located, you will get many helpful suggestions, I'm sure.

    Also, google "planting ideas for slopes" or something similar. Just browsing the pictures will help you narrow down the look you are going for.

    :)

    Dee

    P.S. the "planting ideas for slopes" above is a link if you want to click it. The links used to appear as green but I'm not seeing it, so just letting you know!

  • 24 days ago

    Be careful. You have Virginia Creeper, so you most likly have poison ivy. Ask me how I know!

  • 24 days ago
    last modified: 24 days ago

    Good morning - thank you all so much for the feedback. This is the first time I've posted here, so my apologies for the lack of good pictures. Hope you'll give me some "newbie" grace!

    It would be a bit of a task to take a close up of each plant, because there are SO MANY different ones on this hillside. But it does sound like identifying everything first and knowing what I have is a better place to begin, rather than just starting over. That feels aggressive, yes, I worry about erosion, and frankly, there are quite some pretty things in there!

    I am definitely overwhelmed with the task of hand-weeding this hillside. It is quite large, and I don't think that it's probably ever really been done (except to knock it down with a weed-wacker). Everything feels very wild... not the good kind of wild, the out of control kind... but I suppose good things take time and effort, so perhaps some patient weeding over a period of a few years will get me where I want to go.

    I may post a few more pictures to get me started if anyone is willing to help identify what should stay and what should go. Or is there a good reference resource that will help me learn? I think someone may have asked my location too. I am in Ohio in Zone 6a.

  • 24 days ago
    last modified: 24 days ago

    Trying to make sure I answer all your questions...

    - I would say the slope gets plenty of rain and is not dry

    - there is definitely Virginia creeper and vinca, also some hostas and lilies

  • 24 days ago

    I agree that first need to identify what appears to be the “ groundcover”, as there does appear to be a pretty homogeneous background plant. If it’s doing well, it’d be hard to improve on that by trying to improve on that and then establish ANOTHER groundcover, which would greatly disturb soil and require planting hundreds of plugs or pots of a groundcover, then watering and intense weeding for several years. Instead you could aim to get a bit of weed control - yes some you can hand pull, but they may be tenacious, and digging/ pulling “ wakes up” more weed seeds, so sometimes I use a targeted shot of Roundup here and there. That’s why it’s important to know the groundcover-some are actually quite resistant to herbicides and therefore aren’t easily damaged by a stray drop especially not the older grow leaves ( not suggesting indiscriminate spraying!).

    There was a recent discussion on hillside / slope planting & weed issues ~ a couple weeks ago, but I can’t find it now.
  • 24 days ago

    Meant “ trying to eradicate that” instead of repeating “ improve on that”.

  • 24 days ago
    last modified: 24 days ago

    There ae apps to indentify plants. I have not used it, but there is supposed to be a good one on Iphone. You just go in the app and take a photo.

    The firts thing I would do is kill the Virginia creeperl. Pull it out on cardborad and spray with regular roundup or Poison ivy roundup. Cut it and pull off the trees.

  • 24 days ago

    I have a steep slope in our backyard (sadly, no creek at the bottom). I have planted it with trees and shrubs mostly. You already have some trees. I have a mix of deciduous and evergreen, with the evergreens to the back of the property. With the view you have, I would probably not add more trees. Mixture of shrubs, too. I am getting too old to fool with perennials and the shrubs are easier. I have been planting natives for about five years now, but still have non-natives mixed in that I am not going to take out. Any that I lose will be replaced with natives.

  • 24 days ago

    Regarding Virginia Creeper --

    1. Environmental Benefits: Virginia creepers provide food, shelter, and nesting sites to many animals, particularly songbirds.
    2. Non-Invasive: Although fast-growing and aggressive, Virginia creepers are typically non-invasive and can be easily controlled.
    3. Non-Damaging: In most cases, the vines do not harm walls and can be grown on fences, gates, wooden house walls, masonry, and more without causing problems.
    4. Groundcover: Virginia creepers are an excellent groundcover since they spread quickly, reduce erosion, and choke out competing weeds.
    5. Grow on Trees: Virginia creepers are well suited to climb up the trunk of trees and rarely cause damage to the support plant, especially if it is an established tree.
  • 24 days ago
    last modified: 24 days ago

    Please no periwinkle it gets full of leaves and it is impossible to blow, mow, or exticate by hand. and theres no limit to its growth. itll be up to your porch before you know it.

    Virginia creeper: will you have reason to go ever go on that slope after its planted? a vine is an underfoot trip hazard. i planted sumac Low Grow on a big slope . sometimes i want to go there ”just because” snd im tripping all over the tangled shoots. and branches

    i used to just get a bruise when i fell. now i cant risk a broken arm or hip. i presume you cant either.

    . Actually i dont think maintenance of a vine covered slope is necessarily easy. Will you care if leaves and debris get caught? are you willing to ignore it or pay someone to clean it?

  • 24 days ago
    last modified: 23 days ago

    This is embarassingly long.

    May i ask Why do you want to fix this?

    because its close to the house? because it is not pleasing to the eye? ( i think thats a legit reason) because you love to garden and the slope is a blank canvas that you must fill?

    Will you mind maintenance ? in 5 years will you have pay someone to weed it?

    i think questions like these might point you in the direction of a solution.

    i have a huge planting of geranium macrorizzome ”spessart ” and g. sanguineum (magenta)covering a slope that runs the length of my property. i found i could break the plants into pieces with roots, throw em on the ground then throw a shovel ful of dirt on each division( I did not even dig holes) honestly i dont remember watering; maybe it rained, maybe I got the hose out once.

    anyway they are called ”big root geranium” cause the big fleshy roots make them very drought resistant.

    the slope in photo filled in over 5 or so years. yours would be far less. Part of the slope is in full shade and a planting of yellow tall doronicum had taken off.

    on a whim i grabbed handfuls and planted divisons on among the established geraniums or empty spots in the same careless way. They are naturalizing now. Its quite a combo when the magenta and yellow blooms overlap. im not trying to win a garden contest. Im covering a quarter acre slope which would otherwise be home to buckthorn, PI, !! virgina creeper, lesser celandine.and garlic mustard.

    i acquired some light pink big root geraniums: perhaps Max Frei. ill pull out some handfuls of established plants and stick in some of those divisions randomly and have a mixed planting of drought resistent , weed smothering perennials that needed minimal weeding at first and none later. oh, let me add: i about 4 years ago i was surprised to see a few daffodils blooming. never planted by me- the squirrels musta done it! now i have about 7 small groups- the originals must have spread. A couple of other varieties were relocated by some source. it is freeing to just watch the slope evolve and not feel responsible for perfection.


    geraniums not in bloom yet; doronicum is gently spreading



    mass of geranium not in flower. i agree

    that without color it is flat. but the texture is great and a good gardener can fix boringi hadnt moved doronicums here yet



    NOID geranium in full sun.havent tried it on Geranium Slope. it might be too short. Try it anyway!


    these are the pink ones i want to introduce to the ”Slope”

    im going to find Thyme to Dig’s Slope garden photos. Slope of a an entirely different kind. All garden not groundcover

  • 24 days ago
    last modified: 24 days ago

    Marie, I like your idea of having a five year plan. I may be gung ho now but will I be an enthusiastic weeder of this slope forever? That’s why I am transitioning from a complex scheme to creeping juniper or phlox on my steepest slopes and geraniums in the shade.

  • 23 days ago
    last modified: 23 days ago

    Be careful coming into contact with virginia creeper sap. It can cause a rash in sensitive people. I found out the hard way!

    To completely replace the plants you have now on that large sloped area will involve a lot of work to remove it, replant and to care (weed, water) for the plants while they establish on the slope.

    If complete replacement requires more work and $ than you want to commit, consider removing the creeper from the tree trunks, edging around the bed borders, and removing any obvious weeds along with everything in the the first 2-3 feet around the areas adjacent to the steps and paths. Then plant non-groundcover perennials, grasses, bulbs and/or small bushes that are suitable for the area.

    You may be able to divide some of the existing plants (I see hostas, etc) and plant in the new border beds. Pick plants that are easy to grow and will fill in the new border to help contain the virginia creeper.

    Please post photos of your project!

  • 23 days ago
    last modified: 23 days ago

    Lisa, i dont think weve asked where you live + zone. this is important! whats the exposure? and is there a water source nearby for a hose or sprinkler?

    My experience with woody plants on a steep hill would make me hesitate to use them.

    i had a thriving rhodie and big viburnum on the hillside.One died and the other lost big branches. For me to get to them carrying loppers or a handsaw then remove the debris would be an arduous job. so there they sit.

    thats a good reason to choose minumum care, well ”regulated” plants that look good all year, are weed smothering, that dont create a lot of seasonal debris , and .dont need mowing blowing or raking

    What about selectively removing the weeds and undesirable plants and plugging in the groundcovers you prefer.? something like the g. macrorhizzum would easily root and slowly spread. then you wouldnt be starting from scratch. it will take a few seasons but it takes the pressure off, leaves room for experimentation and mistakes. And time to correct them.

  • 22 days ago

    Marie that photo of your slope of geraniums is wonderful! Yes, no color when not in bloom but I find geranium foliage to be quite nice (as a mainly shade gardener you grow to appreciate foliage lol!)


    And yes, Thyme to Dig's slope immediately came to my mind as well. She did such a lovely job with it.


    Lisa let us know what you decide, and be sure to post before and after pics so we can follow along please!


    :)

    Dee

  • 22 days ago

    Marie - I’m in Ohio, zone 6a, and there is a water source near the hill. 👍🏼 I don’t think I will start over based on more thinking, research and everyone’s very helpful comments. I guess I just want a more “cleaned up” look. I love that pic of the geraniums — it’s just a sea of all the same beautiful color and shape. I just feel like everything on my hill is too hodgepodge. I’m going to start with hand-weeding, and then maybe just trying to remove some things that don’t look like they belong with their grouping. (And I can replant/replace where necessary.) Does that make sense? I’m also going to work on my patience!! Experimenting sounds fun, and like someone said, letting go of the idea of perfection is going to be good in this case!! Two more questions that I was wondering about…. 1) can you use a product like Preen to control the weeds in an area like this? and 2) I’m so worried about stomping on all of the good stuff when I weed; maybe it depends on the plant, but is ground cover usually good at bouncing back if you step on it?

  • 21 days ago

    That makes sense to me. Really do need to identthis “ groundcover “. Most can take a bit of stepping , for weeding or trimming, through even if not true “ foot traffic”, but obviously some more/ less than others. You might have a local Master Gardener group who would send somebody out for a small fee ( $40-50 donation) to identify. That also helps you know more about how best to encourage the groundcover itself. I would put a plant ID visit at top of list, because that drives a lot of plans or how to get advice.

    I’m a bit worried about the ivy up the trees, because that suggests ivy is mixed in with something else. Plain ivy ( which I have & wish I didn’t) is still a good groundcover if you inherit it in a confined space all its own, or has a perimeter that can be policed, but it’s terrible if trees are within, or if intertwined with a more desirable groundcover.
  • PRO
    21 days ago
    last modified: 21 days ago

    I love periwinkle for a really carefree ground cover it does take time toreally get going unlees you plant hundreds at the beginning but over time it becomes just a nice evergreen mat and pretty purple flowers every spring . You can walk on it no problem and I musc prefer it to ivy .

    I ahve it on a hill between my neighbor and us on a very steep slope it is really beautiful and no upkeep at all.

  • 21 days ago

    I don’t know where you are Patricia, but as someone mentioned upthread, Vinca aka periwinkle has the potential to escape into the wild and smother native plants. and I found it a bear to maintain as well as a trip hazzard. Weeds seeded into the vinca bed, and the vines root in multiple places, so doing the maintenance meant that it was quite easy to trip when my foot caught in a loopof vine. Just another perspective.

  • PRO
    21 days ago
    last modified: 21 days ago

    I think it depends on where it is placed I have a client where we planted it on a city property borderong her property so an eyesore that was changed barmaticcaly by planting vince to cover the the ugly bare dirst where weeds grew all the time . Now no weeds just lovely evergreen vinca. I would not use it ina space where you want other plants I guess my love of it is the fact it is evergreen and grows fast . I cut it back when it looks like it is growing into a place where I don't want it a pretty easy job with a weed wacker once every spring. I find most leaves that fall just rot away during the winter and lwave behiind the nice healthy vinca and pretty flowers. The geranium you show is a weed where i live and lot more invasive tha the vinca I am in Zone6-7 in Canada

  • 21 days ago
    last modified: 21 days ago

    I can find no reference to Geranium macrorrhizum being invasive anywhere in Canada.(Where P Colwell is.) Vinca, on the other hand, is. https://www.ontarioparks.ca/documents/content/10/203#:~:text=2.5%20Periwinkle,-Name%3A%20Periwinkle%20

  • 21 days ago

    The OP is in Ohio and vinca (periwinkle) is invasive in Ohio.

  • 21 days ago
    last modified: 21 days ago

    thank you Flora for responding to another inaccurate ”invasive” label with short substantive information based on research.

    Unlike vinca, g. macrorizzum can be easily removed . The rhizomes are largely on the ground’s surface. It offers no resistence and can be pulled up in big handfuls, unlike vinca which has multiple stems, each rooting where itouches the ground , making, in my experience, mats that are difficult to penetrate with a shovel or remove efficiently by hand. i know because ive done both.

    Also periwinkle , unless if it is variegated, is a periwinkle , is a periwinkle.

    Without looking at a book i can think of 15

    perennial getaniums with different height., leaf texture leaf color, some strongly scented leaves, with no scent, flower form with markings, no markings white, white with stripes and freckles, soft pink, tinted pink, hot pink,magenta, purple, , light blue, deep blue, eyes, no eye. Some hardy to minus 15 or lower, others not hardy below zone 7. i readily acknowledged6 my hillside doesn't reflect the variety of the species.

    i have a sea of periwinkle in one location i dont want to replace it with geraniums. But in honesty vinca is a 2 note groundcover. Geraniums are a huge varied family. . My scrappy hillside planting doesn't begin to do them justice.

    An online purveyer of geraniums is ”Geranacea” in California, The little on line catalogue has about 200 different hardy geraniums. it is still in business

  • 21 days ago
    last modified: 21 days ago

    While not advocating planting periwinkle anywhere it is an invasive species, I'd just mention that there are several named cultivars of V. minor with different flower colours, petal shapes and variegations. Not anywhere near like the number of Geraniums, but definitely more than just one.

  • 20 days ago

    I live in Pittsburgh, and one of my favorite ground covers I've had is pachysandra. Once it takes root, it becomes very dense and provides a nice textural aesthetic. So dense that you shouldn't have to weed.

  • 20 days ago

    From what I can see of the OP's photos (which admittedly isn't much) what is growing up the trees looks to me like virginia creeper, not ivy.


    Lisa, I think your plan sounds reasonable. ID what you have, try to get out the worst weeds, and yes maybe if you rearrange the plants in there (the hostas, liriope, etc) and try to keep the main slope as one groundcover, it will already look better.


    If you can get us closer pictures I really think that will help us help you. Especially pics of that groundcover.


    As to your second set of questions, I agree with marmiegard that most groundcovers can take some stepping on, although you should try to tread lightly. Can't help you with the Preen question as I don't use it. Might be too late this year anyway as from what I've read Preen works on stopping germination of weed seeds, and I'd say it's too late in the season for that. But maybe someone with actual experience with it can back up or correct me.


    Good luck. Please post closer pics and keep us posted!

    :)

    Dee

  • 20 days ago
    last modified: 20 days ago

    Yes. Close ups of the different plants will almost certainly get you ids. So far I can see Lamium galeobdolon, Virginia creeper AND English ivy, some tree seedlings, Vinca and something with opposite foliage which might be a shrubby honeysuckle.

    P.s. I'm not counting the hostas and lily of the valley above the row of stones.

  • 20 days ago
    last modified: 20 days ago

    As your property borders a creek, Preen usage is probably not advised (read the product label and US EPA website). Also if your creek attracts snakes, be careful working in that hillside bed. At my house (also bordered by water), I run a small landscape rake (prongs up) over my nearby beds or leaf piles before digging in there to scare off the critters (mostly harmless garter and ring snakes but every so often a copperhead).

  • 20 days ago
    last modified: 20 days ago

    While Virginia Creeper is a native and good for wild life, it and the native trumpet vine is a thug in a small garden and will take over. I do not have a problem here with periwinkle, but I do with the first two.

  • 20 days ago
    last modified: 20 days ago

    OMGosh, Sherry is SO right! We thought, oh how nice a native vine. It popped up on it's own on our small 1/4 acre lot and we let it do it's thing. It quickly filled in a border 6ft x 60ft and completely covered a 6ft fence along the length of one lot line or 80ft. Not sure how many years it took to do that, but, it smothered a lot in it's path and we've started pulling it out and it's no picnic. We still have more to do. We will be completely removing it from the property.

    We have vinca [periwinkle?] and we don't have a problem, but, it is bordered on one side by the driveway and the street on another. It's bordered by a fence on a third side and it has escaped into our neighbor's yard. Thankfully, he's just as happy to have it, but that is what it can do. On the fourth side, it's to open ground but we keep it in check on that side easily with just trimming the runners in the spring.