Vines and vine-like plants are a wise choice to cover a hillside in many circumstances. There are a number of species that will spread to cover large areas quickly and are effective at erosion control because they put down additional roots as they grow. The selection ranges from small and dainty vines for woodland gardens to large, sprawling types that can cover an eroded hillside in a short time.
The shade and rich soil of woodland gardens provides habitat for a unique selection of fine-textured plants. Akebia (Akebia quinata) has intricate foliage and fragrant white or purple blossoms in spring. It grows in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 through 9 and covers the ground very quickly. The foliage is not very dense and the vines will creep gracefully around other forest species when planted on a shaded hillside. Equally spectacular is the shade-loving "Arctic Beauty" kiwi (Actinidia kolomitka) which features triple-variegated pink, green and white leaves. The foliage really stands out on a shaded slope, with this unusual kiwi hardy in USDA zones 3 to 9.
The "Lady Banks" rose (Rosa banksiae) is a good choice for a sunny slope, with white and yellow cultivars to choose from. It grows in USDA zones 6 to 11 and will form a vining ground cover about 3 feet tall if left to ramble down a slope. "American Pillar" (Rosa spp.) is another rambling rose with fragrant pink blossoms that will cascade down a hillside in full or part sun. This rose is hardy in USDA zones 5 to 9 and is tolerant of poor soils, though it is susceptible to mildew.
For large eroding slopes in both sun and part shade, Chinese wisteria (Wisteria sinensis) quickly covers the ground and showers the earth with long, fragrant clusters of purple, white or pink blossoms in spring. Wisteria grows in USDA zones 5 to 9 and forms a thick mat of roots as it grows, though it can become highly invasive in some areas. Another rampant grower for erosion control purposes is the purple passionflower (Passiflora incarnata), a southeast native vine that grows in USDA zones 6 to 9. This hardy relative of tropical passionfruit has the same exotic flowers and is great for holding the soil when planted on a slope.
Annual vines shouldn't be ruled out as an option for growing on hillsides, as well. Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus) is an annual vine with lush round leaves that look great flowing down a hillside. It is easily started from seed in the place where it is to be grown and will often re-seed itself year after year. Nasturtium likes shade in hot zones and has edible orange flowers that can be used in salads. Gourds (Curcurbita and Lagenaria spp.) are fast-growing annuals that can cover a lot of ground on sunny hillsides. Varieties range from those used to make birdhouses to others for making spoons and water dippers or as purely ornamental objects for fall decorating.
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