Sample garden design: sun native rain garden

A rain garden is a depression about 15 centimetres (6 inches) deep that collects runoff from a roof, driveway or yard, and absorbs that water.

A rain garden is not a pond; it allows water to soak into the ground and is dry between rainfalls. Rain gardens are not breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Mosquitoes require one to three days of standing water in order to breed. The water in a rain garden only remains standing for a few hours before being absorbed.

Plants used in this design

Spring interest

  • Lobelia cardinalis, cardinal flower
  • Baptisia alba, white false indigo
  • Geum triflorum, prairie smoke
  • Amsonia species, blue star

Summer interest

  • Eupatorium species, Joe Pye weed
  • Sisyrinchium species, blue-eyed grass
  • Asclepias incarnata, swamp milkweed
  • Liatris aspera, blazing star

Fall interest

  • Chelone glabra, white turtlehead
  • Carex grayi. morning star sedge
  • Symphyotrichum laeve, smooth blue aster
  • Oligoneuron ohioense, Ohio goldenrod


At least six hours of direct sunlight.


Identify your soil type before determining the size of your garden. Sandy soils absorb water the fastest, while clay soils absorb the slowest. If you have clay soil, your garden will need to be larger than one in sandy or silty soils, as water needs to soak into the ground within 24 hours for ideal plant conditions. Add 5 centimetres (2 inches) of organic material (e.g. compost, manure, leaf mold) every two years to maintain good soil conditions for both plants and water absorption.


A rain garden is ideally designed to catch water fl owing from a downspout, and spread the water evenly across the entire length of the garden. The garden should be as level as possible so that water does not pool at one end and spill out of the garden before it has a chance to be absorbed. This garden is designed with plants that thrive in both very wet and very dry conditions, and should not need extra watering once the plants are established.

1 MBPrint-friendly: Sun – Native rain garden