Riparian Plantings

* Potential permits required: CWA 404, Threatened & Endangered Species, Floodplain

* Heavy equipment may be required: Depending on project size and details.

Materials and Tools needed
varies by project.

Riparian vegetation is unique to local areas and its success is highly dependent on being planted at the right elevations. Riparian planting can provide:

• Wildlife Habitat & Food
• Shade
• Stream access
• Views
• Fall color
• Streambank stabilization

Similar to upland plantings, there are many benefits to riparian plants. These plants will often include trees, shrubs, grasses, sedges and flowers. Different types of plants will grow at different elevations along the streambank. Riparian planting materials include wetland/riparian seed, sedges, rushes, flowers, shrubs, willow and cottonwood stakes and trees. There is also wetland sod, which can be used to quickly establish wetland plant species.

Planting Zones: Prior to planting riparian vegetation, it is very important to assess where the planting area is in relation to the stream. If it is below the annual high water level, you may need to consult your local Corps of Engineers office or watershed coalition to see if you need to apply for a permit. It is also important to understand the relationship to the stream level so that you know what types of plants will survive there. Will this area be flooded multiple times a year, once a year, or only once every few years?

Stream Corridor Benefits: Riparian plantings can have a number of environmental benefits. Wildlife will use dense plantings for shelter and habitat. Many wetland and riparian plants produce berries that wildlife depend on as a food source. Willows and other shrubs that grow along the streambanks shade the stream, creating areas of cooler water that fish use as shelter.

Riparian plantings will also stabilize the streambanks and create terraced benches that hold up to flood flows better than vertical streambanks. As water flows from upland areas down through these terraces, many of the plants will filter the water, improving the water quality in the stream itself.

Landowner benefits: In addition to the environmental and stream benefits, riparian plantings can improve the quality of your property as well. Many riparian plants flower or have unique foliage that can add interest to your stream edge and make it a more inviting place to spend time.

You can use riparian plantings like willows to create filtered views to the water’s edge, or to block unwanted views. Willows can grow tall and dense, but it is possible to cut gaps in them to provide access and create framed views. Lower growing plant species such as riparian grasses and sedges can be planted directly behind the willows to create a layered effect.

Ultimately, the design of riparian plantings should be based on your tastes and available land, as well as working with the existing natural systems on your property. Always consider using native plants when possible as they are suited for survival in your area and they are much less likely to become invasive.

Additional Resources for Riparian Plantings

Sustainable Landscaping

When a Landowner Adopts a Riparian Buffer – Benefits and Costs

Wetland and Stream Buffers: A Review of the Science and Regulatory Approaches to Protection

More Strategies to help accomplish Objectives you identified in the Questionnaires: