It’s summer and the rain is coming down hard, or at least when and where you don’t want it to. Even if you’re praying for rain to keep the lawn green I bet you have a spot in the yard where that much needed water causes a big mess. I’m talking about erosion here, and it’s a serious problem if any of your property is on a slope. I’ve got a dirt “road” let’s call it that drains a large portion of my new property and in a heavy rain you’d think you were looking at a river.
If you’re like me you don’t have enough money for a giant earthworks project to deal with your runoff so I’m going to have fun with plants. Liriope to the rescue! For this application the right plant for the job is the old fashioned spreading type called Liriope spicata.
Liriope spicata specs
– evergreen grass reaches 8-10 inches tall
– spreads by underground roots, can run up to 1 foot in all directions per year
– comes in dark green or a variety called Silver Dragon that has bright white leaves
– can be mowed down to 2 inches in mid February to produce clean new growth
– will grow in sun or shade, wet or dry soils
– VERY drought tolerant once established
– tolerates more foot traffic than most ground covers (daily walking will wear down the grass but feel free to walk on it as needed to pull weeds or cross the bed)
When I say spicata can spread, you should read that it is aggressive. With erosion problems aggressive is just what you want because it takes some serious growing power to put down roots where water is rushing by. If you want to contain Spicata in a set area you will need edging in the ground or a concrete barrier like a driveway or sidewalk. Without edging it will keep spreading outside the target zone into the lawn or garden beds.
Personally I don’t think this is such a big problem. At my house the Spicata will spread into the lawn where it will mix with the grass and I’ll just mow over it as part of my lawn. On the other side it will spread up to a hedge of azaleas whose shade will stop the growth any further. Again, I don’t think spreading is such a bad thing, especially in erosion areas, I just want you to be aware of what you’re planting.
As for preparing the area to be planted I’ve drawn up a diagram to help. Plant Spicata closely (1 foot apart to help right away) in strips that run perpendicular to the flow of the water. If this is an area where you need to walk on a regular basis place stepping stones along your footpath and allow the Spicata to fill in around it. The fix won’t be instant but it will help slow down the water right away and in a few years what was once a torrent of mud will be a lovely patch of evergreen grass that saves your yard and helps heal our waterways.
PS We’ve just received a new variety of Liriope called Isabella that, while not being the same species, spreads just like Spicata. Isabella has fine textured leaves just like Mondo Grass but spreads much faster and should be well suited for erosion control just like Spicata. Use Isabella if you like finer textured leaves and all the same great qualities of Spicata. Look for more information on Isabella in a future blog post!
*For severe erosion problems, especially ones that threaten the integrity of a building please consult a professional. The Landscape Division at Tallahassee Nurseries has multiple experts in erosion control and can help with any runoff problem no matter the size.