13 Best Ground Covers for Erosion & Slopes (Zone 5)

Whether your slope is eroding or not, I’ve included the best drought-tolerant ground covers for zone 5 on various slope types in this post. You’ll find a mix of plant types suitable for full sun, erosion control, and even rocky slopes. Some are fast-growing, evergreens, or deciduous.

Further details about each plant are below with pictures that make the ‘no’ pile easy.

In general, drought-tolerant plants are typically suitable choices for erosion control. Slopes tend to dry out quicker because less water is absorbed on a slope than on a flat surface. Once the surface does dry, water is repelled from even absorbing similar to a completely dry sponge—it takes more effort to wet a dry sponge than a pre-moist sponge. So drought tolerance is essential if you’d like your chosen plants to survive.

An article published by the Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute (MDPI) goes into detail about the “Comparison of Vegetation Types for Prevention of Erosion and Shallow Slope Failure on Steep Slopes in the Southeastern USA.” They compared plots and discovered that intentionally planted vegetation out-performed slopes that were allowed to naturally grow on their own.

Herbaceous vegetation is generally associated with appropriate roots for erosion control. Many have a mix of fine roots with denser longer roots.

These dozen plants listed below have the above qualities which make them exceptional choices for erosion control in USDA zone 5.

Before planting any of these options check with your local invasive plant council or regional extension office for guidance on plants that may be invasive in your area.

Yarrow (Achillea)

Pink flowers from a yarrow plant
Photo by Peter O’ConnorYarrow (Achillea millefolium), pink variety, Taken on September 18, 2010
  • A fast-growing perennial to zones 4-8
  • Flowers from June to August, and attracts a variety of useful pollinators and predators
  • Semi-shade or full sun
  • Grows in light to heavy soils, prefers dry or moist soil, and tolerates droughts, established plants are very drought tolerant and live longer in poor soils
  • Is a dynamic accumulator potent in nutrients (which makes great compost and companion for other plants!)
  • Root system spreads easily and can become invasive, but it can simply be removed to build up nutrient-rich compost for your other plants
  • Edible leaves for teas

Sea Holly (Eryngium maritimum)

Photo by: Gilles San Martin, Taken on July 24, 2019, Eryngium maritimum
  • An evergreen seashore-hugging perennial in zones 4-8
  • Pollinated by bees during flower from July to October
  • Prefers sandy soils and doesn’t need nutrient-rich soil to grow well, the extensive root system holds together hot sandy shores
  • Prefers dry or moist soil and tolerates drought once established
  • Full sun
  • Edible young shoots are similar to asparagus, edible roots are similar to parsnips and carrots

Rockcress (Arabis caucasica)

Photo by: Jan Sølve Borlaug, Taken on May 3, 2009, Arabis caucasica
  • Rockcress is part of the brassica family and is highly ornamental for zones 4-9
  • It blooms in early spring, depending on climate between January to May, and attracts bees, moths, and butterflies
  • Suitable for light sandy soil, everything in between, to heavy clay soils,
  • Rockcress is one of the best ground covers for rocky slopes
  • rockcress prefers good drainage, prefers poor soils, and prefers dry or moist soil
  • When established, drought tolerance is no problem, these grow well in dry areas
  • Horizontal spreading becomes a carpet suited for full sun or partial shade, but also tends to clump with limited spreading
  • Can become invasive, check to see if your area says anything about this plant
  • Leaves are edible

False sunflower (Heliopsis helianthoides)

Photo by: daryl_mitchell, Uploaded on December 11, 2011, Easy Growers
  • False sunflowers grow in zones 3-9, lives for about 5 years, and bloom from June to August
  • It grows in soils from light and sandy to heavy in clay with a preference for good drainage and dry or moist soil
  • Tolerates droughts and moderate floods
  • It has fibrous and deep roots making it an excellent choice for erosion or slopes
  • Flowers are edible

Prairie sagewort (Artemisia frigida)

Photo by: Matt Lavin, Taken on August 12, 2021, Artemisia frigida
  • Prairie sagewort grows in zones 3-10
  • It grows in light sandy to medium-weight soils, prefers dry or moist soil with good drainage, and grows better in poor soil
  • It can tolerate drought but not shade, established plants are very drought tolerant and this is a plant that gets selected often in landscaping to prevent erosion
  • Has a fibrous and fine root system
  • Leaves used as a condiment/flavoring

Pennsylvania sedge (Carex pensylvanica)

Photo by: Doug McGrady, Taken on April 13, 2017, Carex pensylvanica (Pennsylvania sedge)
  • This sedge can grow in full shade, partial shade, or full fun
  • Zones 4-8
  • Sandy or clay soils are fine, dislikes compacted soil
  • Good drainage, dry or moist soil is best, and drought is tolerated well
  • Attracts plenty of wildlife for habitat
  • Easy to contain and low maintenance

Butterfly Pea (Centrosema virginianum)

Photo by: Stephanie Harvey, Taken on June 9, 2022, Centrosema virginianum
  • Perennial to zones 5-9, flowers from July to August and attracts bees
  • Nitrogen fixer
  • Suitable for poor light to medium soils, prefers dry or moist soil, and tolerates drought well
  • Full sun
  • Extensive roots hold bare soils together and can be staked to grow vertically or left to sprawl and cover the ground

Whorled tickseed (Coreopsis verticillata)

  • A fast-growing perennial to zones 3-9 with edible flowers
  • Can be used as a decorative erosion controller in landscapes
  • Grows well in poor dry soils. Dry or moist soil is suitable and drought is tolerated. Light sandy soil to medium silt with good drainage is best
  • Blooms from summer to late fall and attracts butterflies and makes a good cut flower in arrangements
  • Heat and dryness are very well tolerated, and has fine fibrous roots

Orchardgrass (Dactylis glomerata)

Photo by: Radu Chibzii, Taken on May 21, 2018, Dactylis glomerata (2018).

This article was originally published on foodforestliving.com. If it is now published on any other site, it was done without permission from the copyright owner.

  • An evergreen perennial to zones 4-8
  • Grows in a range of soil from light and sandy, medium and silty, to heavy and clayey
  • Doesn’t do well in waterlogged or compacted clay
  • Prefers good drainage and moisture, drought is tolerated, and high heat
  • Partial shade or full sun
  • Used to conserve soil and revegetate disturbed areas
  • Has a deep root system and tends to form dense clumps

Sand ryegrass (Leymus arenarius)

Photo by: Matt Lavin, Taken on May 31, 2020, Elymus (Leymus) arenarius – sand ryegrass
  • Perennial to zones 5-9
  • Very extensive root systems and often used to stabilize sand
  • Can become very invasive
  • Suitable for most areas and soils, but prefers sand and full sun
  • Very drought tolerant when established

Phlox (Phlox x)

Photo by: Lydia Fravel, Taken on March 30, 2022, “Creeping Phlox (Phlox subulata)”
  • Phlox, creeping phlox, or moss phlox are all good choices
  • Medium-speed growing evergreen perennial to zones 4-9
  • Attracts butterflies, moths, bees, and hummingbirds with fragrant blooms from May to September
  • Prefers good drainage in lighter soils
  • Prefers moisture but tolerates drought
  • Grows in shade, partial shade, or full sun
  • Long-living plant with fibrous and deep roots excellent for erosion control and soil building

Kudzu Vine (Pueraria montana lobata)

Photo by: Melissa McMasters, Taken on August 13, 2014, Kudzu
  • A perennial vine to zones 5-9
  • Flowers from September to October
  • Nitrogen fixer
  • Grows in sand, silt, or clay-based soils with a preference for good drainage and moist soil
  • Drought is very well tolerated once established because of deep roots
  • Best in full sun, and becomes invasive in warmer climates, great for soil-building
  • Edible flowers, roots, leaves, and shoots, are a staple crop in Japan

Psoralea esculenta (Breadroot)

Photo by: Matt Lavin, Taken on May 30, 2006, Pediomelum esculentum
  • Breadroot is perennial in zones 4-8 and flowers from May to July
  • Nitrogen fixer
  • Prefers dry or moist soil but grows well in light, medium, or heavy soils
  • Needs full sun
  • Good soil stabilizer across North America
  • Edible tuberous roots

Up Next: The Benefits of Edible Forest Gardens & Are They Effective?


Pick the best plants first by looking at what environment is best for them to thrive. If your eroding slope is in full shade, you won’t want a plant that needs full sun. Once you have suitable choices, pick the ones that are going to be most useful to you!

I’ve included as much detail as possible in this post so you can leave with an easy decision.

Please leave a comment if you have any other questions or suggestions about what information should be included for each plant!

Related: 28 Thriving Plants for Clay Soil and Full Sun (Pictures)


While Rachelle's hands are clean for the keyboard, she enjoys writing and designing creative content and resources. You will most likely find her outside planting a cabbage, foraging berries for breakfast, and collecting herbs for year-round tea or making food.

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