Landscaping Hillside Areas: Ideas for Planting Steep Slopes
If you live in a home that has large slopes and banks, you might be wondering what you can do with those areas to make them more functional or aesthetically appealing—and also to prevent problems such as erosion or drainage issues.
There’s no question that landscaping hillside areas can be challenging, but that’s not to say that it can’t be done.
What’s important, is that it’s done right and that comes down to hiring someone with experience. Making the wise choice in hiring an experienced landscape professional will determine the end result. By finding the right landscape contractor for the project, you should have several design possibilities to choose from when it comes to landscaping hill ideas.
Ultimately, instead of looking at a steep hill that gives you virtually no appeal you could be enjoying a beautiful landscape with a design that works. We’ll discuss some of the ideas to avoid, as well as some to consider.
What to Avoid When Planting Steep Slopes
There are definitely some landscaping hill ideas to steer away from as you consider what to do with your large bank areas. One idea that you may see a lot of, but that is a relatively boring solution, is to plant all of just one plant material on the entire hill. It just doesn’t do much to create any visual interest and adds very little appeal to your property.
The type of plant material that you choose also makes a huge difference in the success of planting on your steep slopes. It’s important that you opt for deep-rooted plants and shy away from plant materials with shallow roots that can’t grasp the soil. You also want to avoid invasive species, such as bamboo, which will really take over the area and can become unsightly.
Though it’s sometimes used on hills, we do not recommend Liriope Spicata. It spreads and holds the soil nicely but can also give the appearance of unmowed grass which may make your hill area look un-maintained.
Maintenance is obviously a huge factor to consider when planting steep slopes. It’s ideal to choose more drought-tolerant plants since steep slopes are usually more of a dry microclimate. You should also choose plants that will require little maintenance as they mature since steep slopes can be difficult to traverse.
When considering maintenance of your hillside areas, it’s important to ask:
- Who is going to maintain the area? Will I have it professionally done by a landscaper or will I be doing it myself?
- How accessible is the area to maintain? Could it be dangerous?
- What type of ongoing maintenance do the plants require?
Answering these questions will help guide you in the decision process of plant material for your steep slope.
Landscaping Hill Ideas
Now that you have some sense of what ideas might not work so well for your hillside areas, and what to avoid doing, you’re probably wondering what will work. One solution that may have already come to mind is adding retaining walls. Retaining walls can do the functional job of holding back erosion and also provide some varied textures for an upgraded look. But walls are also the most expensive form of mitigation and not your only option.
Planting on a steep hillside is certainly possible if you choose the right plant material. As mentioned, it’s important to select plants that are deep-rooted and have the proper structure for holding onto the soil, despite the sloping earth beneath them. You’ll want to choose plant material that not only has these characteristics but also provides an aesthetically interesting appearance to the slope.
Some of the plants we might suggest for a steep slope include:
- Evergreen Shrubs: Siberian Cypress or Junipers
- Deciduous Shrubs: Little Princes or Hidcote
- Shade Groundcovers: Pachysandra or Periwinkle
- In-Sun Groundcovers: Coneflowers, Sedums, or Roses
- Ornamental Grasses: Sedge or Fountain Grass
Planting on banks does not mean that you just have to have one big hillside of material. As we mentioned, that can be very boring, visually. Terraced plant beds with multiple levels of plantings (as well as different plant species) is a better option that will create visual interest and also break up your hillside. With plantings broken up into different areas, the hillside may also be easier to maintain.
Beautiful and Functional Ideas
If you’re interested in a water feature, then a steep slope is actually the ideal location for one. Whether it’s a cascading waterfall that runs down a series of boulders for a more natural look or an architectural design with formal stonework for a more modern look, a custom water feature will definitely add visual interest to your hillside.
You might also consider adding landscape lighting into any hardscaped areas or to highlight plantings on your hillside. This can add additional aesthetic appeal but also the functional purpose of illuminating the space in the evening hours.
It just so turns out that the biggest eyesore on your property could end up being one of it’s most stunning elements when designed in the proper manner.
Choosing a Registered Landscape Architect for Landscaping Your Hillside
As mentioned, planting on banks takes experience and know-how and it’s important to choose a company that is skilled with these types of projects. When done improperly a sloped property can cause stormwater runoff issues and erosion concerns, and can even be a danger. A failed retaining wall, for instance, is also a serious hazard.
That’s where a Registered Landscape Architect (or RLA) becomes invaluable. There are a lot of considerations that come into play when landscaping a hillside which cannot be ignored.
Here are just a few things that an RLA will take into account when planning a project for your sloped yard:
- Where should we direct water to drain?
- Are we going to be cutting into a bank to create a slope or are we going to be adding more soil to it?
- If the slope goes right up to the edge of your property line, how will we get equipment into your yard without disturbing your neighbor’s property?
All of these factors, which make a really big difference with the end result, are what sets a company with an RLA apart from your average landscape firm. An RLA will perform an analysis that covers all possible scenarios in order to account for every issue that could arise. An RLA will also look at your project every which way to determine proper site grading.
Using Earth, Turf & Wood for Landscaping Your Hillside
At Earth, Turf, & Wood, our in-house RLA will help you determine some of the best possible ideas for landscaping your hillside. We have lots of experience working with steep slopes. That’s important as we can help you determine what’s safe and effective when it comes to working with your large bank areas.
By choosing a landscape contractor wisely, you’ll no longer be frustrated by your sloping yard but instead, will begin to see all of the possibilities for what it could be. You don’t have to live with a yard that you don’t love. We can overcome challenges and find solutions to help you achieve the property of your dreams.