Rain Gardens

rain garden with dry river bed made of stones
This rain garden on the UF campus has a dry “river bed” coursing through it that will also collect water. See more of the garden on our Flickr site.

Rain gardens are an easy way to return water to our aquifer, reduce erosion, and help prevent stormwater runoff.

Running down the driveway or patio, rainwater can pick up lawn chemicals and pesticides. A rain garden is basically a low section of the landscape planted with native plants that like to get their “feet” wet. The garden collects rainwater, giving it a chance to “strain” out impurities before draining into the aquifer.

They work best when they’re placed at the bottom of downspouts or naturally low spots in the landscape, usually where water tends to puddle. They’re especially useful for collecting runoff from paved surfaces. Rain gardens can be any size or shape and can attract thirsty wildlife.

When selecting plants, you’ll need to consider how much sun your site gets and how much space is available. Make sure you select plants that are not just water-tolerant, but also drought-tolerant for the times between rains.

Plants for Your Rain Garden

Rain gardens rely on plants that will survive dry spells but then soak up excess stormwater during Florida’s rainy months, preventing the water from running across your landscape.

Include different types of plants in your rain garden to create a complete and cohesive look that will provide year-round interest.

Good flowering plants for rain gardens are blue flag iris, goldenrod, swamp sunflower, spider lily, and milkweed. Many of these are native and will attract butterflies and other wildlife.

Appropriate ornamental grasses include Florida gamma grass (also called fakahatchee), muhly grass, and wiregrass. For shrubs, try Virginia willow, buttonbush, or wax myrtle.

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