Planting Your Rain Garden


Garden Maintenance



Plants for the Coastal Plains
Planting Plans for Coastal Plains
NEW! Native Plant List and Descriptions
Plants for the Central Piedmont
Piedmont Sun Garden Layout
Piedmont Shade Garden Layout
Plants for the Mountain Region
Mountain Sun Garden Layout
Mountain Shade Garden Layout

Please note: each specific garden layout refers to the model oval garden detailed above.

What kind of plants should I use?

Use container-grown plants with a well-established root system. It’s fun to sow native wildflower seed, but experience shows that this doesn’t work too well in a rain garden. Flooding, weeds, and garden pests will be hard on your seeds, and the garden will be mostly weeds for the first few years. You can start plants from seeds indoors, grow them for a few months, and then move the plants outdoors. You might be able to get transplants from a gardening friend, or you could participate in a plant rescue where groups dig up plants from construction sites before the heavy equipment moves in.


What are the best plants for where I live?

Plants that are native to your area should need the least maintenance – they have adapted to the climate and rely on the insects that live in your area. Using little or no fertilizer and pesticides works toward our goal of improving water quality. There are many spectacularly beautiful plants that are native to North Carolina to choose from. Where you live in North Carolina and where you place your garden will determine what type of plants are best for you. Associated plant lists are available for different regions of North Carolina.

Planting several species in your rain garden can create a long flowering season, and give your garden depth and dimension.


How should I put the plants in the ground?

Lay out the plants in the garden before putting them into the ground to see how they will look. If you have them in pots in your yard for more than a day before planting them, make sure and water them, and keep them out of direct sunlight.

Dig the hole for each plant twice as wide as the plant container and deep enough to keep the crown of the young plant right at the soil line, as it was in the container. After you put the plant in the ground, firmly tamp the soil around the roots so you don’t have air pockets, which will dry out the roots and can kill the plant.

Make sure to dig a wide enough hole for the plant to thrive well. After planting, lightly tamp down the soil around the plant to eliminate air pockets.

Your rain garden will have a couple of different wetness zones in it. In the deepest part of the garden, you can put plants that withstand a couple of days of flooding at a time. In the shallower parts and on the edges, you can put more typical landscape plants.

Water immediately after planting, and then water twice weekly (unless rain does the job for you) until the plants are well established. After the first growing season, you shouldn’t need to water the plants unless there is a lengthy drought.

Add mulch two inches thick, but avoid burying your new plants with the mulch. You want mulch that won’t float away…hardwood mulch is best.








Consider enhancing your rain garden by using stone or ornamental fences. Especially while your rain garden is young, this can give it a neat and attractive appearance you and your neighbors will appreciate!



For more information on rain garden and wetland plants, see the Additional Links page or download our PDF Brochure here.


Garden Maintenance

NC Cooperative Extension is based at North Carolina's two land grant institutions, NC State University and NC A&T State University, and in all 100 counties and on the Cherokee Reservation.