What is: Rain Garden Plants

Rain garden plants are a type of vegetation specifically chosen and cultivated to thrive in the unique conditions of a rain garden. A rain garden is a landscaped area designed to collect and absorb rainwater runoff from roofs, driveways, and other impermeable surfaces. By using plants that are well-suited to these conditions, rain gardens can effectively manage stormwater, reduce erosion, and improve water quality.

The Benefits of Rain Garden Plants

Rain garden plants offer a range of benefits, both for the environment and for homeowners. One of the primary advantages of using rain garden plants is their ability to absorb and filter rainwater. This helps to prevent runoff from entering storm drains, which can lead to pollution in local waterways. By capturing and filtering rainwater, rain garden plants can help to improve water quality and protect aquatic ecosystems.

In addition to their water management benefits, rain garden plants also provide aesthetic value. With their vibrant colors and diverse textures, these plants can enhance the visual appeal of a garden or landscape. They can also attract pollinators such as bees and butterflies, contributing to the overall biodiversity of the area.

Choosing the Right Rain Garden Plants

When selecting plants for a rain garden, it is important to choose species that are well-adapted to the specific conditions of the site. Rain gardens can vary in terms of sunlight exposure, soil type, and moisture levels, so it is crucial to consider these factors when making plant selections.

Native plants are often a good choice for rain gardens, as they are adapted to the local climate and soil conditions. They also tend to have deep root systems, which can help to improve soil infiltration and prevent erosion. Some popular native rain garden plants include cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis), swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), and blue flag iris (Iris versicolor).

Planting and Maintaining Rain Garden Plants

Proper planting and maintenance are essential for the success of rain garden plants. When planting, it is important to prepare the soil by removing any weeds or grass and loosening it to improve drainage. The plants should be spaced according to their mature size, allowing enough room for them to grow and spread.

After planting, regular watering is necessary to establish the plants. However, once they are established, rain garden plants typically require minimal watering, as they are adapted to the natural rainfall patterns of the area. Mulching can help to retain moisture and suppress weeds, while regular pruning and deadheading can promote healthy growth and flowering.

Common Rain Garden Plant Species

There are numerous plant species that are well-suited to rain gardens. Some common examples include:

– Joe Pye weed (Eutrochium purpureum): This tall perennial produces clusters of pink or purple flowers and attracts butterflies.

– Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta): This popular wildflower features bright yellow petals with a dark brown center.

– Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum): This native grass species is known for its ornamental seed heads and tolerance to a wide range of soil conditions.

– New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae): This perennial produces masses of purple flowers in the late summer and fall.


Rain garden plants play a crucial role in managing stormwater and improving water quality. By selecting the right plants and providing proper care, homeowners can create beautiful and functional rain gardens that benefit both the environment and their own landscapes. Whether it’s attracting pollinators or preventing runoff, rain garden plants are a valuable addition to any garden or landscape.