5 Rain Garden Ideas for Your Stormwater Runoff

Rain gardens are a way to keep storm water from running off your garden while making it more beautiful. With a little planning, you can set up a beautiful, easy-to-maintain rain garden that keeps water in your garden where your plants can use it – and doesn’t run off or wash away fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides, pollutants and animal waste into the storm sewer and local streams and ponds.

Tips for Designing a Rain Garden

Most residential rain gardens are quite compact, typically ranging from 60 square feet to 180 square feet. Water gardens can be any shape and size, including popular designs like a straight rectangular flower bed, a circle of flowers, or a crescent-shaped garden along a slope.

The standard way to size a rain garden is to 30% of the size of the area it drains into. Look at the nearby roof, driveway or sidewalk that drains water during storms. (Also check gutters and garden drains.) If your roof is 1,000 square feet, make your rain garden 300 square feet to collect runoff.

Plant flowers and shrubs that grow best in drier conditions at the edge of your rain garden, and water-loving plants in the center that will stay moist the longest as your rain garden drains.

The plants mentioned below should thrive in hardiness zones four to eight and keep healthy in full sun to partial shade unless otherwise specified.

Rain Garden Design Ideas

1. The minimalist

Credit: Examined/Amazon/Walmart

Create a minimalist rain garden look with mulch.

Have the look:

You don’t need an elaborate planting scheme to have a rain garden. If you don’t like fussy blooms, you can create a simple, modern rain garden out of stones, mulch, grasses, and native sedges like this one. garden of contrasting squares.

Pair shimmering golden sedge as round, mound Evergold (Where hummock sedge if you prefer a straighter look) with a deeper green with soft edges Pennsylvania sedgegreen and red change grass, or Appalachian spiked sedge, and leave moist centers open with pale round stones and contrasting mulch. Avoid dyed mulch if possible and be aware that the open stone center will need to be weeded (maybe lots of weeding).

2. Go green

Two images of green spider plant and grass.

Credit: Amazon / Revised

Mix and match your greenery.

Have the look:

Do you have a shady and humid site? Plant short ferns and shade-tolerant grasses to green the site and slow down water like this curbside garden in Portland, Oregon. You can include some low shrubs like Clethra alnifolia “Humming-bird” Where Itea virginica “Little Henry” that every two to three feet stick out (so they don’t block the sight lines of drivers) and offer delicate white blooms in midsummer and fall color.

You can also plant spring bulbs like daffodils or irises among the grasses. Their foliage will die back in mid-summer when the grasses begin to grow in size.

3. Large bright flowers for birds and bees

Two close-up images of purple coneflower and wheatgrass.

Credit: Amazon / Revised

Create a splash of color with the purple cone flower.

Have the look:

Rain gardens can be the perfect spot for large, bright summer blooms, like in these rain gardens in Canada, Virginia, Ohioand Illinois. Mix and match your summer blooms with green grasses and sedges for the lower, wetter areas, and you’ll have a beautiful, bright yard from midsummer through fall. Bonus: Butterflies, bees, and pollinators love these flowers, and birds love the seed heads, so don’t cut the flowers off when they’ve finished blooming! Let them feed our feathered friends.

Try to buy native species instead of designer flowering plant varieties if possible. Brand plants have generally been bred to have different colors, petals or shapes than native species and are less attractive to pollinators.

For the simplest, pollinator-friendly large-flowered garden, pair black-eyed Susans with purple cone flowers, as in this garden presented by the Watershed Institute.

4. The Big Three

Two close-ups of daisies and white flowers.

Credit: Amazon / Revised

Augment your perennials with black-eyed Susans.

Have the look:

Sometimes a few large plants are enough to create a spectacular garden. Rain Dog Designs in Seattle has created a stunning rain garden composed of just three main plants: Russian sage, Black-eyed Susans and sedum Autumn Joy, with pebbles and water-loving grass for the wetter center. This Cincinnati Rain Garden takes that same Autumn Joy sedum and pairs it with purple conical flowers and tall Sorghastrum grass for a different, stunning look.

5. Purple Rain

Purple flowers and a butterfly

Credit: Reviewed/Amazon

Add beautiful purple plants to your rain garden.

Have the look:

This garden will bring you no heartache or pain, in fact, it will do quite the opposite, spicing up your usual green landscape with a splash of purple flowers and foliage.

Pair daisy-like purple coneflowers with fuchsia blazing star tips, and mossy lavender Russian sage and blue-violet blue tall verbena for summer blooms, with purple New England asters at yellow center to keep the color in the fall. Switchgrass complements the moist center with purplish-red flower spikes in spring, turning yellow in fall, while grape-bubble-gum-purple berry bushes and tall purple-leaved elderberry shrubs bear berries that feed the birds.

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