21 Top Rain Garden Plants for a Lush, Eco-Friendly Oasis
Discover top rain garden plants that aren't phased by a heavy downpour and will keep your garden looking vibrant
Explore our lineup of awesome plants for rain gardens, picked for their resilience in wet conditions. These plants can handle occasional flooding and will keep your garden vibrant all year with beautiful flowers and lush foliage.
1. ROSE MALLOW
Looking for impressive rain garden flowers? These perennials descend from native wildflowers that grow naturally in swampy areas. Nicknamed "dinner-plate-hibiscus," rose mallow has large 6- to 9-inch blooms in shades of red, pink, lavender, white, or combinations thereof.
2. ELEPHANT’S EAR
Heart of the Jungle®
With huge deep green leaves, elephant ear plants are a showstopper in any garden. You can grow them as annuals in cooler climates or as perennials in warmer areas. As water-lovers, they are one of the best plants for rain gardens where they flourish and become a natural focal point.
Graceful Grasses® Tut Series
These fun, interesting grasses are happiest with their feet wet—think the edge of a pond or even standing in shallow water. They'll turn that soggy part of your rain garden into a little slice of paradise with their tall, graceful stems. Plus, they're just the thing to bring in that lush, tropical look.
4. CANNA LILY
Looking for something bold for the edges of your rain garden? Canna lilies are just the ticket. Not only do they bring a pop of color with their tropical blooms, but they also handle wet soil like champs. Just plant them on the outskirts, and they'll do the rest.
Opening Act Series
If you're aiming for a splash of lasting color for your rain garden phlox won't disappoint. They love soaking up the sun and grow best in moist, well-drained spots. These flowers come in different colors like purple, pink, and white. They are great for making a smooth transition from the wet center of your rain garden to the drier edges.
6. FIBER OPTIC GRASS
Graceful Grasses® Fiber Optic Grass
Looking for something whimsical? Meet fiber optic grass! It's not tall, but it's a real conversation starter and does well with wet feet. In the summer, its tiny brown flowers twinkle like a light show. Plant a bunch for a soft, feathery effect.
7. SWITCH GRASS
Prairie Winds® Series
Switch grass is like the superhero of the grass world. Standing tall at 3 to 6 feet, this native thrives in wet areas and is perfect for your rain garden. With airy flowers, foliage that goes from green and red to golden and finally a tawny brown, it's a four-season wonder. Plus, it helps fight soil erosion and keeps your garden's ecosystem in tip-top shape.
8. BEE BALM
'Pardon My' Series
Say hello to bee balm, the life of the garden party! This native North American dazzler grows anywhere from a cute 10 inches to a towering 4 feet. Plus it's a color festival with blooms in red, pink, purple, lavender, or white that pollinators love. And the scent? Imagine mint with an attitude. It's right at home by streams or ponds, so it'll be more than happy in your rain garden.
Quirky and captivating are two great ways to describe this deciduous shrub that comes alive with fragrant white pincushion-like flowers from early summer to fall. This North American native gem has an upright, bushy habit and can reach between 5 to 12 feet tall. It grows happily by rivers and in wetlands, which makes it a natural choice for your rain garden. And as a bonus, the bees, butterflies and hummingbirds love it too!
Low Scape® Series
Chokeberry, a native to open woodlands, swamps and bogs, is truly a champ in wet areas where other shrubs struggle. Choose from short, mounded shrubs like Low Scape Mound, or taller, bushier types. Plus, it bears edible fruits that while tart, are teeming with health benefits. Chokeberry is a standout that brings multi-season interest.
Elderberry knows how to make a statement, especially the stunning Black Lace® with its eye-catching dark and intricately cut foliage. It's a natural star along streambanks and in woodlands with springtime blooms of white or pink and summertime blue-black or red berries. Those berries are edible too–and sweet! Elderberry is a feast for the eyes and the snack bowl, perfect for dressing up any rain garden.
Summersweet grows well in spots that mimic its coastal swamp and woodland origins. With the Vanilla Spice® variety, you get showy bottlebrush flowers, ranging from crisp white to blushing pink. Perfect as a backdrop in your rain garden, or ideal for mixed borders and naturalizing, especially wet and semi-shady sites. With its wonderful fragrance, you'll want to take a moment just to breathe it in.
13. VIRGINIA SWEETSPIRE
Virginia Sweetspire, especially the charming Little Henry® variety, is all about putting on a year-round show. In late spring to early summer, it sports arching spikes of white flowers that are nothing short of elegant. Come fall, it's a fiery festival of reds, oranges, and golds. It's also great for keeping erosion in check and adding a lush background to your rain garden.
Hostas are like the Swiss Army knives of the shade garden world – so versatile! With their lush foliage in a kaleidoscope of colors, shapes, and patterns, they're a top pick for jazzing up wet areas by streams or ponds. These rain garden rockstars are native to Asia where they drink in up to 60 inches of rain each year. The Shadowland® 'Autumn Frost' variety is a stunner with leaves that can make any shady spot pop.
15. JAPANESE PAINTED FERN
Japanese painted ferns, like 'Crested Surf', are trendy in shady gardens with silver-patterned fronds that bring light to dark areas. These ferns are easy to care for and have a strong visual effect. They can thrive in water and are resistant to pests and diseases. Use them to create a serene woodland atmosphere in your rain garden.
Ready to make a bold statement? Ligularia, 'Bottle Rocket' in particular, is your go-to with its big, bold leaves and sunny yellow flower spikes. Originally from Asia's stream banks, this herbaceous perennial is a natural when it comes to wet spots. Whether it's adding drama to your rain garden, or chilling by a pond, this plant offers lush, water-side elegance.
If your rain garden has a shady spot, 'Cutting Edge' foamflower is a must-have. This clumping perennial boasts green leaves with striking burgundy centers—adding a splash of color even before the creamy-white bottlebrush-like flowers bloom. It doesn't mind getting its feet wet and will happily soak up the extra moisture during rain storms. Plus, it's a breeze to care for, making it a practical yet pretty choice.
Ideal for moist, shady spots, lungwort loves consistent water. This hardy perennial brings a dance of color to your garden with salmon pink buds that transition to rich blue blooms. After the spring show, its green foliage speckled with silver keeps the interest going. Try the 'Spot On' variety to attract bees and hummingbirds, so your rain garden will be a bustling hub of nature's activity.
19. JACOB’S LADDER
Jacob's ladder is a charming perennial, adored for its green, fern-like leaves with purple highlights. Come late spring, it delights again with fragrant blue flowers in loose clusters. The 'Heaven Scent' variety is a superb companion for hostas, sharing similar care needs and thriving in cool, moist environments. It resists deer and brings an upright thrill to borders or mass plantings.
Ideal for wet areas, winterberry is a wildlife magnet, easy to maintain, and a top pick for adding a splash of color to the winter garden. Berry Poppins® has a compact form that fits just right in home landscapes. For those vibrant berries, make sure to plant a Mr. Poppins® nearby for pollination.
Arctic Fire® Series
Dogwoods, especially Red-Osier types, are excellent for rain gardens because they are happy in wet conditions. Their strong root systems also help manage water runoff and reduce erosion. Arctic Fire® varieties light up winter landscapes with their fiery red or yellow stems, adding a splash of vibrant color when the rest of the garden is asleep.
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