Do you have that one spot in your yard that always collects water after a heavy rain? That area is probably a great spot for a rain garden.
What is a rain garden you might ask? It is a double duty garden! First it will help filter the rainwater runoff to reduce pollutants from impervious surfaces; secondly it provides a habitat and floral resource for pollinators. What a rain garden is not…it is not a pond or area of longstanding water. Stormwater should be gone within 12-24 hours. Actually these gardens are usually dry most of the time. By using native plants with a deep root systems, these gardens will tolerate a wet spell as well as drought. The extensive root systems help to filter the waters as well as reduce erosion.
There are typically 3 zones to a rain garden. The lowest point will be the dampest area after rain showers, then a wet area and lastly your driest area. Plant your selected plants densely and allow them to fill in gaps over time. Doing so allows the plants to slow water movement through the garden. Planting densely also allows roots to knit together and hold the soil in place. Be sure to select a palette of plants that bloom at different times of the year. And don’t forget to incorporate grasses into your garden design, they help to slow water flow through the garden all year long.
Here is a list of plants suitable for your rain garden in the Midwest (you can find more plants here, rain garden plant list):
Sedges Carex spp.
Wild Blue Flag Iris Iris virginica
Cardinal Flower Lobelia cardinalis
Great Blue Lobelia Lobelia siphilitica
Goldenrod Solidago spp.
Swamp Milkweed, Asclepias incarnata
Switch Grass Panicum virgatum
Sneezeweed Helenium Autumnale
Joe Pye Weed Eupatorium maculatum
Wild Bermagot Monarda fistulosa
Button Bush Cephalanthus occidentalis
Red twig dogwood Cornus sericea
River birch Betula nigra
Some great rain gardens to inspire you!