Best Plants to Include in a Rain Garden

October 2011

Rain garden designs do more than beautify Portland and Lake Oswego landscaping; they also help manage water runoff, which protects the health of our watersheds. Increased wildlife, more bountiful aquifers and protection against flooding are a few more benefits of installing a rain garden on your property. However, unless you happen to run a Lake Oswego landscaping company, it can be difficult to figure out which plants to incorporate in rain garden designs.

When choosing rain garden plants, think about where they will be located and how much water they are likely to see. For instance, some plants thrive in well-drained areas that see plenty of water. Others prefer bog-like conditions where the soil is moist most of the time. As you select plants, remember that the areas closest to the inflow (where the roof or sidewalk runoff enters the rain garden) are usually the wettest. The amount of sunlight is also an important consideration for plant health. In general, the rules that apply to general plant selection also apply to rain garden designs.

With that said, you’ve probably noticed a few rain garden superstar species around Portland and Lake Oswego. Landscaping gurus often turn to the native species listed below for reliable performance in rain garden designs.

Dwarf redtwig dogwood offers year-round interest. Even in the depths of winter, its red bark is a striking vertical element in any garden. Spring brings white blossoms to redtwigs, while in fall the plant offers red berries to attract birds. The dwarf variety is recommended for rain garden designs with limited space.

Douglas Spirea is a shrub that grows to be 3 to 4 feet in height. The feature that most people recognize when they see Douglas Spirea is the tall spikes of clustered, tiny pink flowers, which grow on the ends of the branches.  The beautiful flowers of this plant attract butterflies, bees and other insects. When Douglas Spirea form dense thickets, it is a perfect hiding spot for small mammals, amphibians, and birds.

Slough Sedge is a robust sedge that grows 60-150 cm tall;  this densely tufted, grasslike plant has stout, creeping rhizomes. The leaves are w-shaped, coarse, with the margins rolled under. The 4-8 cylindrical flower spikes are very large and long (5-12 cm) and loosely aggregated at the tip.

To learn about other species that work well in rain garden designs, contact a Lake Oswego landscaping company today.

[ photo by: Sulfur on Wikipedia Commons ]

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