The 10 Best Rain Garden Plants and Flowers

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Whether you live in an area with constant heavy rains or have the kind of yard shape that makes it easy for water runoff to accumulate, it’s worth considering a rain garden. Take that unused area that “traps” the water and make smarter use of it by planting some suitable plants. Rain gardens are great solutions for many yards when you also take into account the beneficial effect on the environment. They support wildlife habitats and often encourage pollinating insects and hummingbirds to visit.

Rain gardens can become great attractions if you choose the right plants that beautify the area. It’s not simply a functional landscaping solution. This article will provide some solid inspiration in terms of choosing the best plants to add to your rain garden. There are many beautiful options and lots of varieties to consider but some plants perform better in this kind of wet environment. Rain garden plants need to be hardy enough to withstand different types of extreme conditions such as prolonged drought and standing water.

1. Astilbe

This is a moisture-loving perennial that can be easily integrated into a sunny rain garden. It thrives with a lot of light exposure but it may require a bit of protection from the intense afternoon sunlight. This is why it’s recommended to pair astilbe with tall shrubs that provide some shade. The blooms of astilbe show off a varied range of colors such as pink, white, and purple.

2. Bee balm

A great summer attraction for pollinators, bee balm represents a great rain garden addition. It’s suitable for sunnier areas of the garden and requires consistent levels of moisture to reach its full growth potential. Bee balms can be susceptible to powdery mildew so it’s recommended to opt for a hardy variety that offers good resistance to the disease. Flower colors for this plant can range from red and purple to pink and white.

3. Winterberry

Although winterberry shrubs can be a little too large for most rain gardens, there are dwarf cultivars that would fit well, especially if the area is very shaded. This plant offers a pop of color through the production of red berries. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that you will need a male plant together with a female one for pollination. Many colorful birds are attracted by the fruits of winterberry shrubs.

4. Cardinal flower

With rich red blooms, the cardinal flower is worth planting in your rain garden. It tolerates well different light exposure conditions, including partial shade. The vibrant flowers of this plant are highly attractive for hummingbirds while providing some nice contrast against other plant life found in the rain garden. Cardinal flowers require consistent soil moisture to thrive.

5. Coral bells

If you’re interested in a great foliage plant for the rain garden, Heuchera could be an excellent choice. Also known as coral bells, this perennial shows off a vibrant selection of foliage colors to make your rain garden livelier. The plants also produce small flowers on spikes that add some nice visual appeal. Shady areas of the garden are optimal to grow coral bells. Use them for the edges to take full advantage of their mounding habit.

6. Switchgrass

Switchgrass is a versatile plant that’s grown primarily for its beautiful green foliage that grows quite tall at around 3 feet. It’s recommended for the moist soils of a rain garden although the plant performs just as well in regular soils. Switchgrass is a solid ornamental plant for your rain garden. It produces a finely textured seedhead that contributes to its overall visual appeal.

7. Swamp Milkweed

As the name of the plant suggests, swamp milkweed is very well adapted for wet environments. It will perform ideally in the basin of your rain garden where you can admire its gentle blossoms with a vanilla-like fragrance. Swamp milkweed plants will attract beneficial insects and hummingbirds during their summer blooming period. As long as the tall height of the plant doesn’t bother you, it could be worth integrating into the rain garden.

8. Hibiscus

Incredibly versatile for different areas of the rain garden, hibiscus plants can become the highlight of the area. The tall height also makes the plant ideal to work as a backdrop if you prefer it that way. Hibiscus doesn’t have particular soil type preferences and will thrive in partial shade even though it likes full sun ideally. The colorful blooms in shades of pink, red, and white are attractive for hummingbirds yet resistant to deer.

9. Black-eyed Susan

A familiar sight for many gardeners, Black-eyed Susan offers some beautiful gold blooms to adorn a rain garden. This is a fairly hardy plant that works best in mass plantings along the slopes of a rain garden. The vibrantly colored flowers of Black-eyed Susans will easily draw the attention of songbirds.

10. Tall Joe-Pye weed

The tall variety of Joe-Pye weed could be an ideal choice for giving a structural shape to your rain garden. Considering the plant’s ability to reach impressive heights of around 8 feet, the tall Joe-Pye weed will make it easy to see the rain garden from a distance. This plant produces pink blooms in clusters that will attract various beneficial insects. A moist soil rich in organic matter seems to be ideal to grow this native plant of wet meadows.


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