Choosing the right plants for your rain garden

To have a successful rain garden, you'll need to familiarize yourself with plants that tolerate both saturated and drought conditions. Native plants are a great choice because they are already adapted to our region and will use less water and require less maintenance once established. They can also provide habitat for wildlife. 

Rain gardens have three planting zones characterized by different soil conditions. Here are some plants that are well-suited to rain gardens.

  1. Sun
  2. Shade
  3. Pollination
  4. Color

Native plants for sunny areas

Common name Scientific name
Coastal Strawberry Frageria chiloensis
Common Camas Camassia quamash
Dense Sedge Carex densa
Douglas Aster Aster subspicatus
Northwest Cinquefoil Potentilla gracilis
Oregon Iris Iris tenax
Slough Sedge Carex obnupto
Tufted Hairgrass Deschampsia cespitosa
Western Columbine Aquilegia formosa
Yarrow Achillea millefolium

More about choosing the right plants

Did you know there are different planting zones within a rain garden? See sample planting plans and learn which plants to place in your rain garden to help it thrive and function as designed.

Get to know your planting zones

Your rain garden has three distinct planting zones. Learn about each zone, see examples of which plants do well in each zone, and see a sample layout showing where zones should be located.

  1. Planting zone descriptions
  2. Planting zone layout
  3. Plants by zone for shady gardens
  4. Plants by zone for sunny gardens

Planting zone descriptions

Zone 1: The bottom of your rain garden, which is the wettest area. 

Zone 2: The side slopes of your rain garden, which may become wet and need to be able to occasionally tolerate standing water.

Zone 3: The area around the perimeter of your rain garden and or/on the berm, where plants will grow in drier soil.

Caring for your plants

Once a rain garden is built, new plants need to be watered regularly for the first two to three years until they are well established. Mulching annually conserves water and reduces weeds until the plants close in over the soil. You can also help the plants to establish by weeding in the spring, summer, and fall months. If you use native plants and mulch them with leaf litter or arborist wood ship mulch, there should be no need for fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides. Keep the inlet and outlet clear of debris and well protected from erosion with rocks. Appropriate care and regular maintenance can protect your investment for many years to come.

- Page 9 from Managing Rainwater: A Homeowners Improvement Guide for Low Impact Development (LID) in Bothell (PDF)

Oregon Iris (PNG)

Maintaining your rain garden

Learn how to care for your rain garden in Section 4 of the Rain Garden Handbook for Western Washington: A Guide for Design, Maintenance, and Installation (PDF).