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Plantings for Pond Shorelines

Are eroding shorelines interrupting your picturesque pond view? Shoreline erosion can be a significant pond maintenance issue because it contributes to infill of ponds, water quality issues, and can be pretty unattractive, too. A major cause of shoreline erosion is one that might surprise you: mowed turfgrass along the shoreline. Mowed turfgrass on banks lacks the deep root system or tolerance to moist soil conditions needed to withstand fluctuating water levels and wave action in ponds. The result means undercutting, erosion, and slumping banks creating a hazard along your waterfront.

Fortunately, a fix to shoreline woes can be one that allows the home gardener to get their green thumb a little “wet.” Consider using wetland-type native grasses and flowering perennials to stabilize pond banks. These plants have proliferating root systems and can tolerate “wet feet,” which helps them withstand the tough conditions along pond banks. Another perk of shoreline plantings is that the plants used, like two of my favorites, pickerelweed (Pontederia cordata) and marshmallow hibiscus (Hibiscus moscheutos), give you a chance to incorporate new and attractive options into your landscape. A planted shoreline has other benefits as well, such as serving as a pollution filter for surface runoff, providing habitat for fish, wading birds, and pollinators, and providing a fun gardening project for your family or neighborhood.

The best time of the year to tackle a shoreline planting is during fall or early spring. To get the biggest bang for your gardening buck, concentrate on the few feet of shoreline above and below the normal pond level, as this area is the most susceptible to erosion. For a natural feel to your shorescape, incorporate several different types of plants, plant in odd numbered clusters, and space plants on 1.5 to 2 foot intervals.

When choosing shoreline plants for transplanting, look for native plants that are well-adapted to our climate and soil conditions. Use the Carolina Yards Plant Database at clemson.edu/cy for help. Steer clear of invasive plants that can run the risk of spreading downstream.

Worried about your view? Consider lizard’s tail (Saururus cernuus) or Southern blue flag iris (Iris virginica).

“Blue flag iris, Iris virginica, is one of our native irises and a good option for those worried about maintaining a view of their waterfront.”

“Blue flag iris, Iris virginica, is one of our native irises and a good option for those worried about maintaining a view of their waterfront.” Guinn Wallover, ©2019, Clemson Extension

Want to attract pollinators? Try cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis) or scarlet hibiscus (Hibiscus coccineus).

Problems with geese? Avoid extra nibbles from waterfowl and consider powdery alligator-flag (Thalia dealbata) or soft rush (Juncus effusus).

“Powdery alligator flag, Thalia dealbata, is a favorite of butterflies and hummingbirds, has a unique purple, clustered bloom, and can grow up to 6-ft in height.”

“Powdery alligator flag, Thalia dealbata, is a favorite of butterflies and hummingbirds, has a unique purple, clustered bloom, and can grow up to 6-ft in height.” Guinn Wallover, ©2019, Clemson Extension

For more information on planting around freshwater ponds, see HGIC, 1855 Shorescaping Freshwater Shorelines or HGIC, 1709 Aquatic and Shoreline Plant Selection.

And, for our coastal, brackish ponds, check out: HGIC, 1856 Life Along the Salt Marsh: Protecting Tidal Creeks with Vegetative Buffers.

 

If this document didn’t answer your questions, please contact HGIC at hgic@clemson.edu or 1-888-656-9988.

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