Rain Garden Plants

The following are some native plants suitable for rain gardens, listed by region. They are also attractive to butterflies, birds, and other wildlife. Be sure to choose species appropriate for the degree of sun or shade on the site.

Northeast and Middle Atlantic states and southeast Canada

Wildflowers, Ferns, Grasses, and Sedges:

  • Asclepias incarnata, Swamp milkweed
  • Chelone glabra, White turtlehead
  • Eupatorium maculatum, Joe-pye weed
  • Lobelia cardinalis, Cardinal flower
  • Lobelia syphilitica, Blue lobelia
  • Monarda didyma, Oswego tea
  • Vernonia noveboracensis, Common ironweed
  • Athyrium filix-femina, Lady fern
  • Osmunda regalis, Royal fern
  • Osmunda cinnamomea, Cinnamon fern
  • Carex pendula, Drooping sedge
  • Carex stipata, Tussock sedge

Trees and Shrubs:

  • Amelanchier laevis, Shadbush
  • Asimina triloba, Pawpaw
  • Betula nigra, River birch
  • Cephalanthus occidentalis, Buttonbush
  • Clethra alnifolia, Sweet pepperbush
  • Cornus amomum, Silky dogwood
  • Fothergilla gardenii, Dwarf fothergilla
  • Ilex verticillata, Winterberry holly
  • Lindera benzoin, Spicebush
  • Liquidambar styraciflua, Sweet gum
  • Sambucus canadensis, American elderberry
  • Viburnum dentatum, Arrowwood

Southeast and Deep South

Wildflowers, Ferns, Grasses, and Sedges:

  • Eupatorium coelestinum, Blue mist flower
  • Habranthus tubispathus, Texas copper lily
  • Helianthus angustifolius, Swamp sunflower
  • Iris fulva, Red Louisiana iris
  • Lobelia cardinalis, Cardinal flower
  • Penstemon tenuis, Gulf coast penstemon
  • Physostegia virginiana, Fall-blooming obedience plant
  • Rudbeckia maxima, Giant coneflower
  • Stokesia laevis, Stokes aster
  • Adiantum capillus-veneris, Southern maidenhair fern
  • Onoclea sensibilis, Sensitive fern
  • Chasmanthus latifolium, Inland sea oats
  • Muhlenbergia capillaris, Gulf muhly grass

Trees and Shrubs:

  • Acer rubrum var. drummondii, Southern swamp maple
  • Betula nigra, River birch
  • Cephalanthus occidentalis, Buttonbush
  • Gelsimium sempervirens, Carolina jessamine
  • Ilex cassine, Dahoon holly
  • Ilex decidua, Possumhaw
  • Ilex verticillata, Winterberry holly
  • Magnolia virginiana, Sweetbay
  • Myrica cerifera, Southern wax myrtle
  • Sabal minor, Dwarf palmetto
  • Taxodium distichum, Bald cypress

South Florida

Wildflowers, Ferns, Grasses, and Sedges:

  • Canna flaccida, Golden canna
  • Eupatorium coelestinum, Blue mistflower
  • Helenium pinnatifidum, Everglades daisy
  • Lobelia glandulosa, Glades lobelia
  • Sabatia spp., Marsh pinks
  • Acrostichum danaefolium, Leather fern
  • Osmunda regalis var. spectabilis, Royal fern
  • Thelypteris palustris, Marsh fern
  • Woodwardia virginica, Virginia chain fern
  • Muhlenbergia capillaris, Gulf muhly grass

Trees and Shrubs:

  • Acer rubrum var. trilobum, Red maple
  • Annona glabra, Pond apple
  • Cephalanthus occidentalis, buttonbush
  • Chrysobalanus icaco, Cocoplum
  • Ilex cassine, Dahoon holly
  • Ilex glabra, Galberry
  • Magnolia virginiana, Sweetbay
  • Myrica cerifera, Wax myrtle
  • Myrsine floridana, Myrsine
  • Sabal palmetto, Cabbage palm
  • Salix caroliniana, Coastal plain willow
  • Sambucus canadensis, American elderberry
  • Serenoa repens, Saw palmetto
  • Taxodium ascendens, Pond cypress

Midwest and Great Plains states and south central Canada

Wildflowers, Ferns, Grasses, and Sedges:

  • Aster puniceus, Purple-stemmed aster
  • Caltha palustris, Marsh marigold
  • Eupatorium maculatum, Joe-pye weed
  • Eupatorium perfoliatum, Boneset
  • Geum rivale, Bog avens
  • Helianthus grosseratus, Big-toothed sunflower
  • Liatris pycnostachya, Prairie blazing star
  • Lobelia spicata, Pale-spiked lobelia
  • Mimulus ringens, Monkey flower
  • Solidago spp., including S. gigantea, S. ohioensis, and S. riddellii, Goldenrods
  • Verbena hasta, Blue vervain
  • Vernonia gigantea, ssp. gigantea, Tall ironweed
  • Thelypteris palustris, Marsh fern
  • Calamagrostis canadensis, Canada bluejoint
  • Carex comosa, Bottlebrush sedge
  • Carex muskingumensis, Palm sedge

Trees and Shrubs:

  • Alnus incana ssp. rugosa, Speckled alder
  • Asimina triloba, Pawpaw
  • Betula nigra, River birch
  • Decodon verticillata, Water willow
  • Myrica gale, Sweet gale
  • Sambucus canadensis, American elderberry
  • Spiraea virginiana, Spirea
  • Viburnum dentatum, Arrowwood

Western Mountains and Pacific Northwest

Wildflowers, Ferns, Grasses, and Sedges:

  • Aquilegia formosa, Columbine
  • Aralia californica, Elk clover
  • Aruncus dioicus, Goatsbeard
  • Caltha leptosepala, Marsh marigold
  • Camassia quamash, Camas
  • Cimicifuga laciniata, Bugbane
  • Darmera peltata, Umbrella plant
  • Heracleum lanatum, Cow parsnip
  • Mimulus guttatus, Monkeyflower
  • Adiantum pedatum, Maidenhair fern
  • Athyrium filix-femina, Lady fern
  • Woodwardia fimbriata, Chain fern
  • Carex obnupta, Sedge

Trees and Shrubs:

  • Acer circinatum, Vine maple
  • Clethra alnifolia, Sweet pepperbush
  • Cornus alternifolia, Pagoda dogwood
  • Cornus sericea, Creek dogwood
  • Gaultheria shallon, Salal
  • Ilex verticillata, Winterberry
  • Physocarpus capitatus, Pacific ninebark
  • Ribes sanguineum, Red-flowering currant
  • Rubus spectabilis, Salmonberry
  • Salix purpurea 'Nana', Dwarf blue willow
  • Salix scouleri, Scouler's willow

California

Wildflowers, Ferns, Grasses, and Sedges:

  • Aquilegia formosa, Columbine
  • Aralia californica, Elk clover
  • Aristolochia californica, Pipevine
  • Darmera peltata, Umbrella plant
  • Delphinium glaucum, Tower delphinium
  • Dicentra formosa, Pacific bleeding heart
  • Epipactis gigantea, Stream orchid
  • Lilium pardalinum, Leopard lily
  • Mimulus cardinalis, Scarlet Monkeyflower
  • Mimulus primuloides, Primrose monkeyflower
  • Rudbeckia californica, Coneflower
  • Polypodium californicum, California polypody
  • Carex nudata, California black-flowering sedge
  • Juncus patens, California gray rush

Trees and Shrubs:

  • Calycanthus occidentalis, Western spicebush
  • Corylus cornuta var. californica, Hazelnut
  • Myrica californica, Wax myrtle
  • hysocarpus capitatus, Ninebark
  • Populus fremontii, Freemont cottonwood
  • Salix lucida ssp. lasiandra, Yellow tree willow
  • Ribes sanguineum, Red-flowering currant
  • Rubus spectabilis, Salmonberry
  • Vaccinium ovatum, California huckleberry
  • Washingtonia filifera, California fan palm

Desert Southwest

Wildflowers and Grasses:

  • Baileya multiradiata, Desert marigold
  • Gaillardia spp., Blanketflowers
  • Machaeranthera bigelovii, Purple aster
  • Mirabilis multiflora, Giant four o'clock
  • Penstemon spp., especially P. ambiguus, P. fendleri var. venusta, and P. superbus, Penstemons
  • Salvia greggii, Cherry sage
  • Zinnia grandiflora, Desert zinnia
  • Aristida purpurea, Purple three-awn

Trees and Shrubs:

  • Acacia gregii, Catclaw acacia
  • Celtis reticulata, Desert hackberry
  • Cercidium microphyllum, Foothill palo verde
  • Ephedra trifurca, Comatilla
  • Justicia californica, Chuparosa
  • Lycium fremontii, Wolfberry
  • Olneya tesota, Ironwood
  • Prosopis velutina, Velvet mesquite
  • Yucca baccata, Banana yucca

Janet Marinelli is the former director of publishing at BBG. Her book, Plant, published by Dorling Kindersley, showcases 2,000 species worldwide that are threatened in the wild but alive in cultivation.


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