Inexpensive Ways to Landscape Hills


Many hills aren't good for traditional flowerbeds or vegetable gardening, but you can still make them more attractive and help control erosion by adding the right kind of plants. This doesn't have to break your bank; doing much of the work yourself and thinking creatively can help you finish your landscaping job within your budget.

Get Your Hands Dirty

  • Doing the landscaping work yourself to save money. Much of the cost of professional landscaping is the labor, but you can save this money by getting your hands dirty. Draw up your plan and set a realistic timeline. It's unlikely you can finish the entire project in one day, so break it down into smaller, more manageable pieces so you'll have time to do the work yourself.

Erosion Control

  • Water that runs down the hill can take dirt and some of your shallow-rooted plants with it. Help control the erosion by installing plants that are native to your area. These tend to establish faster than non-native varieties, and they often require less care. In many cases, these plants are less expensive than non-native ones because they are easy to grow commercially in your area. Perennial ground cover plants help control the erosion, especially when planted between spaced rows of low-growing shrubs, such as the "Glencoe" boxwood (Buxus "Glencoe) in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 through 9. These rows basically replace terraces, which might be too expensive for your budget. The shrubs form a break for the running water, and the perennials save you money because they don't have to be replaced every year. Ground cover such as bishop's weed (Aegopodium podagraria) thrives on slopes in USDA zones 4 through 9, while goldmoss sedum (Sedum acre) lives in USDA zones 3 through 9.

Add Some Height

  • Scattering some taller plants and larger shrubs around the hillside adds dimension and visual interest. Try plants such as "Tiger Eyes" sumac (Rhus typhina "Bailtiger") in USDA zones 4 through 8 or shrubby hare's ear (Bupleurum fruticosum) in USDA zones 7 through 11. To save money, buy the shrubs when they're small -- younger plants usually cost significantly less than larger plants. It might take a little longer for the plants to reach their mature height, but it helps you stay inside your budget. Anchor areas of your hillside with the larger plants, such as the corners, or group them as an oasis planting in the center. Choose evergreen shrubs for all-year bang for your buck. Picking shrubs with different foliage shades adds more interest to the hillside, such as "Royal Purple" smokebush (Cotinus coggygria "Royal Purple") in USDA zones 5 through 9.


  • Even when you choose native perennials that don't need much care, you still need access to them to prune, fertilize or check for disease and pests periodically. Instead of springing for expensive steps, pick cheaper pavers that match your landscaping style. These come in a variety of styles, colors and materials, but the least expensive ones tend to be basic concrete squares or circles. Dig shallow holes to place the pavers in -- the tops should be level with the ground to prevent them from washing away in heavy rains. Let the path meander from the bottom of the hill to the top for a more natural look, and allow it to branch out between shrub rows if desired. This option might not work for extremely steep hillsides, so make sure your hill has a gentle enough slope to make installing pavers a safe alternative to stairs.

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