Rain gardens look their best when they mimic the environs of a native, natural stream. Before you pick up a shovel, here are a few things to consider.
When planning a rain garden, a few things must be considered before you begin. Is the area in sun or shade? Is it in the right location? What plants should be used?
If you’re not already familiar with rain gardens and their many benefits, get to know them here. This article will address plant selection for rain gardens specifically.
I’ll walk you through two different designs: one for shade or partial shade and another for full sun. Remember that the plants you place at the base of the rain garden must be tolerant of poor drainage.
Shade/Partial Shade Rain Garden
Look to nature for inspiration. When you take a stroll near a perennial or ephemeral stream, what do you see growing in the shade? I see Turk’s cap, inland sea oats and frogfruit among other things. These are some of the plants you want in your rain garden, the plants that can handle periods of inundation as well as dry periods and, of course, shade. Turk’s cap, inland sea oats and frogfruit are all beneficial to wildlife AND are included in the WaterSaver Landscape Coupon. They can be placed at the base of the garden, the sides and/or at the top of the garden.
Sun Rain Garden
Seek out plants that seem to thrive in sunny spots near streams or dry creek beds. If you’re utilizing the landscape coupon (and why wouldn’t you?), the plants that come to mind are Lindheimer muhly grass, gulf muhly grass, snakeherb and frogfruit. Again, these can be placed at the top, sides and base of the rain garden.
Before heading to the nursery, put your design down on paper. Start by drawing the outline of your rain garden and then place the larger specimens first. Be sure to take into account the mature height and width of the plants. Then, follow with the smaller specimens for your rain garden. You may prefer the look of one of these plants planted en masse, or you may want diversity in the rain garden.
Whatever your preference, the WaterSaver Coupon can help offset the cost of the planting material. Remember the area transformed from turf to a landscape bed must be at least 200 square feet. If your rain garden is not that large, consider planting the area around the rain garden to equal the minimum square footage required for coupon eligibility. Also, remember there must be at least 15 plants in the new landscaped area.
There’s really no reason not to plant a rain garden. It will improve the aesthetic of your property, solve drainage issues, provide refuge and nectar sources for pollinators and birds, encourage groundwater infiltration and help improve the water quality of your local rivers and streams.
Here’s a great step-by-step tutorial on how to install a rain garden when you’re ready. Also, the San Antonio River Authority has a wealth of information on the subject.