How To Start A Rain Garden + 14 Best Plants To Put In It


Rain gardens are an eco-friendly and beautiful way to manage rainwater runoff and create a habitat for various plant species. In this article, we will guide you through the process of starting a rain garden, including selecting suitable plants that thrive in wet conditions.

What is a Rain Garden?

1. Purpose and Benefits

A rain garden is a shallow, planted depression that collects and absorbs rainwater runoff from roofs, driveways, or other impermeable surfaces. It helps reduce water pollution, replenish groundwater, and prevent erosion. Rain gardens also attract beneficial insects and birds, providing a habitat for biodiversity.

2. Location and Design Considerations

Choosing the right location for your rain garden is crucial. It should be situated in a low-lying area where water naturally accumulates. The size and shape of the garden will depend on the available space and the volume of water it needs to manage. Consider factors such as soil type, sunlight exposure, and proximity to structures.

Steps to Start a Rain Garden

Follow these steps to start your rain garden:

1. Assessing the Site

Evaluate your property to identify the most suitable location for your rain garden. Consider factors such as drainage patterns, existing vegetation, and potential sources of water runoff.

2. Determining Drainage Patterns

Observe how water flows across your property during rainfall events. Identify areas where water accumulates or flows rapidly. This will help you determine the optimal placement and size of your rain garden.

3. Selecting Appropriate Plants

Choose plants that thrive in wet conditions and can tolerate periodic flooding. Native plants are often the best choice as they are adapted to the local climate and support local ecosystems. Select a variety of plants with different heights, textures, and bloom times to create visual interest throughout the year.

4. Digging and Shaping the Garden

Mark the boundaries of your rain garden and start digging. Create a gently sloping basin with a depth of around 6 to 8 inches. Gradually transition the slope from the edges towards the center to facilitate water absorption.

5. Amending the Soil

If your soil has poor drainage, consider amending it with organic matter such as compost. This helps improve water infiltration and nutrient availability for the plants.

6. Planting and Mulching

Plant your selected rain garden plants, spacing them according to their growth requirements. Add a layer of mulch around the plants to help retain moisture, suppress weeds, and protect the soil.

7. Watering and Maintenance

Water the newly planted rain garden regularly, especially during the establishment period. Once the plants are established, they will require less watering. Monitor the garden for weeds, pests, and diseases, and perform necessary maintenance tasks such as pruning and fertilizing.

14 Best Plants for a Rain Garden

Here are 14 plants that thrive in rain gardens:

  1. Swamp Milkweed
  2. Joe-Pye Weed
  3. Blue Flag Iris
  4. Cardinal Flower
  5. Switchgrass
  6. Black-Eyed Susan
  7. Red Chokeberry
  8. Ostrich Fern
  9. Culver’s Root
  10. New England Aster
  11. Turtlehead
  12. Blue Lobelia
  13. Boneset
  14. Joe-Pye Weed

These plants are known for their ability to tolerate wet conditions and provide beauty and habitat value to your rain garden.


Starting a rain garden is a sustainable and rewarding endeavor. By implementing the steps outlined in this article and selecting appropriate plants, you can create a vibrant and functional rain garden that not only manages stormwater but also enhances the beauty of your outdoor space and supports local biodiversity.


Q: Can I create a rain garden on a sloped property? A: Rain gardens are best suited for relatively flat or gently sloping areas. If your property has a significant slope, consider creating terraces or using other erosion control methods to manage water runoff effectively.

Q: How much maintenance do rain gardens require? A: Once established, rain gardens generally require minimal maintenance. Regular weeding, pruning, and monitoring for pests and diseases are important. Additionally, it’s crucial to ensure that the garden is properly draining and that the plants receive sufficient water during dry periods.

Q: Can I incorporate a rain garden into an existing landscape design? A: Yes, rain gardens can be incorporated into existing landscape designs. With careful planning and consideration of the existing elements, a rain garden can seamlessly blend into your overall landscape while providing its functional and ecological benefits.

Q: Are rain gardens suitable for all climates? A: Rain gardens can be adapted to various climates. However, plant selection should consider the specific requirements of the local climate. It’s best to choose native plants that are well-suited to the regional weather conditions and soil types.

Q: Can I install a rain garden on a small property? A: Yes, rain gardens can be scaled to fit small properties. Even a small rain garden can effectively manage runoff and provide habitat benefits. The size and design can be adjusted based on the available space and water management needs.

Leave a Comment