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Best Plants to Grow on Steep Hillsides and Slopes (2023)

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plants for steep sloping terrainSlope gardens offer a sense of adventure and allow you to make the most of every inch. With thoughtful planning, you can transform uneven terrain into a lush, welcoming space.

Start by evaluating the steepness and analyzing sunlight. That helps determine suitable anchor plants like trees and shrubs that add structure while preventing erosion.

Don’t forget hardy groundcovers—periwinkle makes a lovely low-maintenance carpet. Or go contemporary with ornamental grasses like carex, which soften edges with graceful movement.

You’ll also need to address practical matters like building retaining walls or terraces to create garden beds. But a thoughtfully designed hillside becomes a beautiful, restful refuge that immerses you in the beauty of nature—and reminds you that every challenge presents possibilities if you approach it with imagination.

Smart slope design lets you turn challenging terrain into a gorgeous garden that becomes an extension of your living space. Evaluate the area to choose anchor plants like trees and shrubs that stabilize the soil.

For easy-care beauty, carpet the slope in drought-tolerant periwinkle or other hardy groundcovers instead of grass. Contemporary ornamental grasses like carex offer graceful movement and soft texture.

Landscape roses and catmint yield splashes of cheerful color. Don’t forget practical steps like terracing and retaining walls to create planting beds.

A hillside garden designed in harmony with nature connects you to the land while providing a space for outdoor living. And turning a problematic slope into a beautiful, fertile garden gives you a sense of accomplishment.

The key is embracing the site’s unique challenges as opportunities to create something special.

Key Takeaways

  • Evaluate slope conditions such as pitch, sunlight exposure, and soil type before choosing plants.
  • Use trees, shrubs, and groundcovers with extensive root systems to prevent erosion on steep slopes.
  • Design terraced garden beds, retaining walls, and paths to optimize plantings and create habitat on a steep slope.
  • Choose a mix of trees, shrubs, and groundcovers to provide multi-level plantings that stabilize the slope.
  • Space plants appropriately for growth, allowing room for roots to spread and support the slope.

Evaluate the Slope

Evaluate the Slope
You’ll want to check the pitch and runoff before plantin’ that steep slope. Anything over 30 degrees, you’ll be terracing to make sure those soils stay put. Choose plants with roots that’ll hold tight, like ajuga, creeping juniper, fountain grass, forsythia, or cotoneaster.

They’ll hug the ground and prevent erosion. Add some taller shrubs for dimension – just don’t overdo the height. Stick with tough, low-maintenance varieties that won’t leave a mess. Space things out in nice sweeps and curves.

You’ll be glad you took the time to plan it right when you’re relaxing on that hillside oasis.

Choose Anchor Plants

Choose Anchor Plants
When tackling a steep slope, start by choosing anchor plants like trees and shrubs that will stabilize the terrain. Their extensive root systems will hold the soil in place and prevent erosion. Select hardy varieties that require minimal care once established, so you can enjoy the view without constant pruning or cleanup.


Here are some suggestions to add trees for shade and dimension on that slope, friend. Use deep rooted varieties to stabilize the soil. Siberian cypress and burning bush will anchor without much fuss. Plant them in groups for best effect. Pick spots with appropriate sun exposure. Trees oxygenate the air and soothe the soul.


Burning bush and fragrant sumac will sculpt appeal on that hillside, my friend. Catmint, deutzia, forsythia, honeysuckle, and cotoneaster are shrubs that will thrive. Catmint’s purple blooms attract pollinators for months on end. Deutzia’s pink bells herald spring’s arrival! Bright forsythia bursts forth with cheer.

Honeysuckle vine bears fragrant flowers and fall berries. Cotoneaster’s red berries follow its white blooms.

Select Groundcovers

Select Groundcovers
You’ll want to consider hardy, low-maintenance groundcovers like periwinkle and cotoneaster to blanket slopes and prevent erosion. Periwinkle is a fast-spreading option with glossy leaves and purple spring blooms that thrives in sun or dappled shade.

Cotoneaster offers white spring flowers followed by red fall berries, and it is a rugged, sprawling groundcover that quickly covers large areas in full sun.


Periwinkle quickly spreads to cover large areas on slopes with minimal care. The glossy green leaves and pretty purple flowers of this adaptable groundcover thrive in sun or shade once established. An easy solution for erosion control, its vining habit fills in quickly. Other carefree choices like ajuga, creeping juniper, hardy roses, and vinca also prevent runoff while providing beauty.


You’d be amazed that cotoneaster spreads over 6 feet in just one season, effortlessly blanketing that sloped terrain as a fast-growing groundcover with cute white blooms and vivid red berries. Turning into a lush blanket with ease, this adaptable plant quickly covers large areas with minimal care, preventing erosion with its spreading habit.

Consider Grasses

Consider Grasses
But hold on, let’s also talk about ornamental grasses and sedges. These plants add visual interest and dimension to slopes with their unique forms and textures. Sedges come in a variety of colors to complement other plantings, and ornamental grasses like red fescue, little bluestem, and switchgrass provide movement and elegance.

Consider incorporating some of these grasses into your slope planting palette to enhance the design.

Ornamental Grasses

You’ll find clumping ornamental grasses like red fescue, little bluestem, and switchgrass add lovely dimension to sloped gardens. Ornamental grasses such as catmint, fountain grass, maiden grass, periwinkle vine, and Russian sage thrive on slopes, providing interesting foliage, drought tolerance, and long-lasting color.


You can bet sedge adapts to soils and stays drought tolerant when settled in, making it a savvy pick for tricky slopes. Daylilies, violets, roses, bulbs, and deadnettle thrive beside clumping sedge’s grassy texture.

Combining it with hardy, colorful perennials and groundcovers guarantees a gorgeous slope that feels downright homey.

Add Color With Flowers

Add Color With Flowers
For long-blooming color, catmint is a great choice. Its purple flowers will attract pollinators and bloom for months in full sun. Roses are another classic option that come in a huge range of colors and sizes – from rambling to miniature varieties, there’s a rose suited to almost any sloped area that gets at least 6 hours of sun.


Catmint’s a standout for slopes, spillin’ purple flowers that’ll keep bloomin’ for months.

  1. Hardy perennial, drought tolerant
  2. Attracts pollinators, fragrant foliage
  3. Long bloom time from spring to frost
  4. Deer resistant, pest free
  5. Low maintenance, shear after bloom

With its prolific flowers and carefree nature, catmint brings reliable color to tricky slopes while askin’ little in return.


Roses will splash color across your slope while their roots work to hold the hillside’s soil in place. Rugged shrub roses, climbing roses, and even groundcover roses will give a reliable show of colorful blooms.

Look for disease resistant types that will thrive with minimal care. Plant in groups for biggest impact.

Pick Vines for Drama

Pick Vines for Drama
To add dramatic vines to your steep slope, consider fragrant honeysuckle and graceful clematis. Honeysuckle vine offers wonderfully scented flowers that attract hummingbirds in late spring. Throughout summer and fall, colorful berries provide continued interest. For stunning clematis blooms, plant in part shade to full sun areas and provide support structures as the vines climb 10-15 feet high.

With proper site selection and care, these vigorous climbers can beautifully accentuate the vertical dimensions of a sloped garden.


Fragrant honeysuckle vines will weave their sweet scent through your hillside garden as the hummingbirds feast. Their vining stems clamber over rocks and groundcovers, mingling with sedges and daylilies.

Interplant with prostrate kinnikinnik or juniper for texture. Give honeysuckle full sun to keep it blooming into fall when vinca fades.


You’ll be amazed at how clematis will make your hillside pop with color as the vines scramble up trellises and drape over rocks.

  • Clematis flowers come in shades of purple, pink, and white.
  • Plant clematis where the vines can climb a trellis or cascade over boulders.
  • Give the vines full sun to encourage prolific blooming.
  • Prune the vines in early spring to shape and stimulate new growth.

Use Hardscaping Wisely

Use Hardscaping Wisely
Adding hardscaping can help tame steep slopes while creating useful garden spaces. Blending terraces with retaining walls allows you to transform awkward grades into beautiful multi-level designs. Whether built from stone, concrete, or timber, thoughtfully planned structures will help you optimize your plantings and connect the different levels of your sloping landscape.

Retaining Walls

You can stabilize sloped terrain and create planting nooks by installing a retaining wall. Strategically placed boulders or stacked stone walls anchor the hillside while providing pockets to tuck in ajuga, cotoneaster, creeping juniper for erosion control.

Periwinkle vine and fountain grass cascade artistically over the edges, softening the hardscaping and complementing the plant palette.


Terracing a long, steep slope divides it into multiple garden levels and creates flat planting beds, while stairs can connect the different tiers. For example, you could build short stone walls to make 3-4 terraces down a backyard hillside and plant roses, catmint, and maiden grass on each level.

  • Vinca minor (periwinkle) – Trails nicely over walls.
  • Juniperus horizontalis (creeping juniper) – Drapes down terraces.
  • Deutzia gracilis (slender deutzia) – Cascades at ledge edges.

Groundcovers like Japanese pachysandra, creeping juniper, deutzia, and vinca help prevent erosion on terraced slopes while softening the hard edges.

Control Erosion

Control Erosion
When tackling steep sloping terrain, consider the power of plant roots and groundcovers to control erosion. Their extensive root systems help anchor the soil while their spreading foliage shields the ground from the impact of rain.

By establishing the right mix of hardy, low-growing vegetation, you can stabilize the soil, prevent runoff, and create an attractive slope garden that protects itself.

Plant Roots

Establish deeply rooted groundcovers like vinca, juniper, and roses on your hillside. Their extensive root systems will grab and hold onto the land, preventing erosion. Trailing perennials such as Russian sage and cotoneaster are also effective for stabilizing slopes.

As they spread out and cover the soil, their roots prevent runoff and help maintain the integrity of steep terrain. Mixing these types of plants with deeply rooted trees and shrubs will further stabilize your hillside by anchoring the soil in place.

With the right selection of plant roots holding the soil, you can prevent erosion and runoff on even very steep slopes.


Establish hardy groundcovers like creeping juniper and vinca minor to cloak the slope’s surface and prevent erosion through their dense, interwoven root systems. Beach strawberry, creeping juniper, vinca, ajuga and English ivy stabilize and protect, creating a living blanket over vulnerable inclines.

Their hardy foliage spreads, anchoring soil against runoff. Groundcovers spare steep slopes from bareness – their beauty cloaks and shields the land. Hardy groundcovers establish easily and spread readily to stabilize slopes. The dense roots of creeping juniper, vinca, and ivy weave together to hold soil in place.

Beach strawberry makes an attractive, edible choice. Ajuga and vinca offer purple blooms. Evergreen ivy lends rich greenery year-round. Together, these tough plants protect and beautify steep areas.

Nestle Boulders for Stability

Nestle Boulders for Stability
Nestle boulder clusters into the loose hillside soil to anchor it. Partially burying large rocks stabilizes slopes by anchoring the soil. Nestle boulders in strategic spots along the hillside, sinking them about one-third to one-half of their height into the ground.

Use a small excavator to dig holes and settle the boulders into place. Backfill the spaces around them with soil and tamp it down firmly. The exposed portions will add visual interest while the buried sections grip the earth.

Over time, dirt and debris collect in the crevices, further securing the heavy rocks. Hardy sedums, grasses and groundcovers planted in the spaces between will help prevent erosion. With boulders stabilizing the slope, you’ll create a sturdy foundation for landscaping.

Design With Nature in Mind

Design With Nature in Mind
Design in harmony with the natural contours and features of the land when planning a hillside garden. Study the slope’s existing drainage patterns and soil composition. Select plants suited to the conditions, like drought-tolerant catmint, creeping juniper, and Russian sage.

Include deep-rooted perennials and groundcovers, like daylilies and roses, to stabilize the slope over time.

Curving beds and paths prevent erosion by following the land’s natural lines. Use terracing or low walls to create planting beds on steeper inclines. Work with the landscape, not against it. Your hillside will reflect the beauty of its natural state while providing a welcoming habitat.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are some good plants for slopes that get full sun?

Let me tell you, planting slopes takes real skill. Forget grasses – they’re a total waste. Groundcovers? Meh. For full sun, go bold with junipers, roses, sagebrush. Their deep roots will hold tight to the slope, and their pretty blooms will distract from the angle.

How often do I need to water plants on a slope?

Water plants on slopes more frequently until established. Check soil moisture daily the first few weeks. Gradually taper off watering as plants grow roots. Mature plants only need weekly deep soakings if rainfall is lacking.

Should I amend the soil before planting on a steep slope?

Yes, amend steep slope soil before planting. Dig in 3-4 inches of organic material such as compost to improve drainage, moisture retention, and give plants’ roots a boost.

What’s the best way to keep gravel or mulch in place on a slope?

To stay put, gravel and mulch need containment. An edging of stone, brick, landscape timbers neatly holds them in place, making your slope secure. Select durable materials that blend with the site, then install them levelly. This terracing effect will keep your hillside materials where they belong, while adding decorative appeal.

Are there slope plants that are safe for pets and kids?

Yes, there are safe slope plants for kids and pets like sedum, thyme, and vinca. Look for non-toxic varieties with low-growing foliage that will not obstruct play. Opt for soft textures over spiky plants to prevent injuries. Prioritize native species that also attract butterflies and birds.


Wise buddy, let your garden dance upon the slope. Let periwinkle and catmint wind round your feet, and honeysuckle perfume the air. Plant boulders deep for strength, and terraces for rest. But most of all, delight in nature’s artistry.

With thoughtful choices, your hillside will sing a verdant song for years to come.

Avatar for Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim is a published author and software engineer and agriculture expert from the US. To date, he has helped thousands of people make their yards lush and thick.