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How to Plan Landscaping On a Hill

Planning landscaping on a hill is both exciting and challenging. Some of the most beautiful examples of landscaping are set on hills, but it was almost certainly a job of work to make this happen.

How the landscape is planned on the hill depends on what the area will be used for. If it’s to be an area for recreation and entertaining, it’s best if the hill is terraced. You’ll also need to terrace the hill if you’re planning a cutting garden or a vegetable garden. A series of small terraces or outdoor rooms built on a steep hill are more esthetically pleasing than one long terrace.

However, if you don’t want or need a terrace on the hill, the best thing is to cover the hill with plants to not only beautify it but to prevent erosion. But even this needs careful planning and a bit of work.

First, the plantings should be easy to get to and care for. This might necessitate building steps. Moreover, grass lawns should be avoided on very steep hills. Grass makes a hill look more intimidating than it is, and if the hill is really steep, it can be arduous and even dangerous to mow. This is why landscape designers recommend that a hill that slopes more than a foot in height for every three feet of lateral distance not be mown at all. Flowering groundcover like creeping phlox are ideal for planting on steep hills.

• About Microclimates
Since warm air rises and cooler air sinks, hills also create their own microclimates. The top of the hill will tend to be warmer than the bottom, and a north facing hill is much cooler than a south facing hill. This means that plants with different requirements for climate can be planted at different elevations on the same hill.

• Where Is the House?
A house on the top of a hill looks rather grand, even if it’s small. One way to take advantage of this is to build a meandering walkway to the front door edged with shrubs, flowers and other interesting elements.

• How to Plant
Before any plants are established on a hill, the soil will need to be amended so it’s not too acidic or too alkaline. After that, the hill will need to be covered with landscape fabric and the fabric covered with mulch. This will keep down the weeds, which can be difficult to control on a hill. It also controls erosion.

The plants all need to have enough space on the hill for their roots to establish themselves firmly. If the plant is large, like a sapling, the uphill part of the hole should be dug a bit deeper than usual. The downhill side of the hole should have soil mounded up around it to stop erosion. Holes can be dug flush with the slope of the hill for smaller plants.

Though it takes a bit more planning and work than a more level area of land, landscaping on a hill can bring its own unique beauty and satisfactions in the end.


Trey Palmer is the owner of, a leading provider in Zoysia Sod and other turfgrass needs.

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