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Watershed Education: Rain Gardens

Recommended Rain Garden Plants


Grasses

Korean Feather Reedgrass Calamagrostis brachytricha
Height: 3.5'
Spread: 2.5'
Description: Native to woodland edge in Asia. Glossy foliage with feathery pink flowerheads in September. Prefers consistent moisture. Easy to grow in most soils. Excellent in containers.
Native: No
Longhair Sedge Carex comosa
Height: 1-2'
Description: Grass-like plant with coarse-textured, bright green foliage. It prefers moist conditions making it perfect for a rain garden or water garden. It's also deer-resistant.
Native: Yes
Gray's Sedge Carex grayi
Height: 2-3'
Spread: 2'
Description: This Midwestern native forms a dense clump of bright green leaves; known for its unique pale green mace-like flower heads; easy to grow in any moist soil; ideal for rain gardens.
Native: Yes
Porcupine Sedge Carex hystericina
Description: Prefers wet habitat such as wetlands or riverbanks. In right conditions can spread aggressively. Interesting, prickly seedheads.
Native: Yes
Ice Dance Sedge Carex morrowii
Height: 1'
Spread: 1-2'
Description: Grass-like leaves are dark green with white edges, with the color often persisting through winter. Prefers moist soils with part to full shade. Slowly spreads and looks nice in a container.
Native: No
Palm Sedge Carex muskingumensis
Height: 2.5'
Spread: 2-3'
Description: Grass-like leaves radiate out from the stem. Light green foliage turns yellow with frost. Full to part sun, moist soil.
Native: Yes
Plaintain-Leaved Sedge Carex plantaginea
Height: 1'
Spread: 1'
Description: Clump-forming sedge with broad, 1" shiny evergreen leaves. Best growth in moist soils and part shade, but tolerates dry soils.
Native: No
Long-Beaked Sedge Carex sprengelii
Height: 2-3'
Spread: 18"
Description: An attractive fountain-like mound of bright green foliage with loose, pendant flower spikes. Grows best in part to full shade and moist soil, but tolerates dry shade. Remains green well into winter. Excellent in containers.
Native: Yes
Canada Wildrye Elymus canadensis
Height: 3'
Spread: 3-4'
Description: Attractive nodding seedheads remain attractive well into winter. Blue-green foliage turns tan in fall. A fast growing, somewhat short-lived cool season prairie grass. Full sun, adaptable, naturalizing.
Native: Yes
Common Rush Juncus effusus
Height: 3-4'
Spread: 18"
Description: A native clump-forming wetland plant with very dark green foliage; excellent for its fine textural contrast to bold perennials; prefers low spots or boggy soils; ideal for rain gardens.
Native: Yes
Autumn Red Miscanthus Miscanthus
Height: 3-4'
Spread: 2'
Description: Reddish tinged flowers become white seed plumes and last well into winter. Foliage turns dazzling shades of orange and red in fall that also persist. Full sun to part shade, site adaptable.
Native: No
Dewey Blue Switchgrass Panicum amarum
Height: 3'
Spread: 4'
Description: An excellent selection of a native grass with silvery blue foliage. Airy flowering plumes in late summer give way to beige seedheads that last through winter. Plant in full sun with well-drained soil.
Native: No
Prairie Wind Panicum Panicum
Height: 7'
Description: An extra tall version of switchgrass. Leaves and seedheads sway in the wind. Full to part sun in average soil.
Native: No
Dallas Blues Switchgrass Panicum virgatum
Height: 6-7'
Spread: 2-3'
Description: This selection is noted for its wide, blue-green leaves and upright vase shape; long, upright seed heads are dusted in pink, blooming in August; easy to grow and dependable in sunny location.
Native: Yes
Northwind Switchgrass Panicum virgatum
Height: 4-5'
Spread: 2'3'
Description: Great Panicum for the landscape. Upright blue selection with wide bluish leaves turning golden yellow in fall. Vigorous and rust-resistant.
Native: Yes
Shenandoah Switchgrass Panicum virgatum
Height: 4'
Spread: 4'
Description: Foliage emerges blue-green in spring and quickly becomes red. Reddish pink flowering plumes become beige seedheads. Grows best in full sun with moist soils.
Native: Yes
Indian Steel Indiangrass Sorghastrum nutans
Height: 5-6'
Spread: 2-3'
Description: Blue-green foliage turns yellow in fall. Golden flower plumes become bronze seedheads in fall. Grows upright in full sun and dry soil.
Native: Yes
Tomahawk Indiangrass Sorghastrum nutans
Height: 4-5'
Description: Wider light green leaf turns reddish-yellow in fall and persists through winter. Golden seedheads are another attractive characteristic of this warm season grass. Full sun, drought-tolerant.
Native: Yes

Perennials

Sweet Flag Acorus calamus
Height: 3'
Spread: 2'
Description: Long, sword-like leaves similar to iris foliage; tolerates wet, boggy soils; spreads by rhizomes; bruised foliage emits fragrant scent.
Native: Yes
Nodding Pink Onion Allium cernuum
Height: 18"
Spread: 15"
Description: Clumps of grasslike leaves; blooms spring to fall; grows best in full sun with well-drained garden soil; especially nice in rock gardens. Nodding flowers in shades of pink to white.
Native: Yes
Asclepias incarnata
Height: 2-4'
Spread: 2'
Description: Native with light pink flowers. Full sun, attracts butterflies & hummingbirds.
Native: Yes
Sweet Indian Plantain Cacalia suaveolens
Height: 5'
Description: Spreading plant from aster family that prefers moist soils in sun to part shade. Many white flowers July-September above triangular leaves. Great for bog or water garden.
Native: No
Bluebell Bellflower Campanula rotundifolia
Height: 1'
Spread: 1'
Description: Clusters of bright blue bells in early spring. Woodland native along the Niobrara valley in Nebraska; prefers rich, moist soil and shade.
Native: Yes
Turtlehead Chelone lyonii
Height: 2-4'
Spread: 2'
Description: Upright 2-4' clump-forming plant with hooded, snapdragon-like pink flowers in spike-like racemes late summer to fall. Prefers rich, moist soils.
Native: Yes
Prairie Jewel Eupatorium Eupatorium altissimum
Height: 3'
Spread: 2-3'
Description: Native prairie plant with mottled foliage and clusters of small white flowers in fall. Well-drained, moderately dry soils and full sun. Zone 4
Native: Yes
Little Joe Coastal Plain Joe-Pye Plant Eupatorium dubium
Height: 3-4'
Spread: 2'
Description: This eastern U.S. native has a bushy, compact habit, topped with clusters of purple-pink flowers in late summer; a favorite of butterflies.
Native: No
Gateway Joe-Pye Plant Eupatorium purpureum
Height: 4-5'
Spread: 3'
Description: Choice selection with large clusters of lavendar-pink flowers in late summer; butterfly magnet; prefers rich, moist soils so ideal for rain gardens; GreatPlants Perennial of the Year
Native: Yes
Meadowsweet Filipendula rubra
Height: 4-5'
Spread: 3'
Description: Very large pink flowers through summer, vigorous. Sun to part shade
Native: No
Queen of the Meadow Filipendula ulmaria
Height: 3-4'
Spread: 3-4'
Description: Creamy-white, asilbe-like, fragrant flowers in crowded clusters summer till fall. Full to part sun.
Native: No
Prairie Smoke Geum triflorum
Height: 1'
Spread: 1'
Description: Nodding pink flowers and feathery seedheads on 12-15" native. Full sun.
Native: Yes
Pink Clouds Hibiscus Hibiscus
Height: 4-5'
Spread: 3'
Description: Large, pink flowers with long bloom and leaves similar to Norway maple. Best in rich soil & good air circulation; tolerates light shade, but flowers more in full sun. Periodic deep watering helpful.
Native: No
Meadow Blazing Star Liatris ligulistylis
Height: 4'
Spread: 18"
Description: Great Plains native with showy, crimson buds opening to reveal purplish-pink flowers; a Monarch magnet in late summer; tolerates moist soils; ideal for rain gardens.
Native: Yes
Eureka Gayfeather Liatris pycnostachya
Height: 5'
Spread: 4'
Description: Rosy-purple flower spikes on 3-4' stalks. Full sun and combine with tall prairie grasses to reduce flopping; Fine for cut flowers. GreatPlants release!
Native: Yes
Blue Select Lobelia Lobelia siphilitica
Height: 3'
Spread: 2'
Description: A Nebraska woodland native. Dark blue tubular flowers in late summer. Light green, lance-shaped foliage. Part to full sun.
Native: Yes
Gooseneck Loosestrife Lysimachia clethroides
Height: 2'
Spread: 2'
Description: Attractive clean foliage topped with arching white flowers in late spring; long bloom season on this aggressive spreading plant; needs confined root space; great as a cut flower.
Native: No
Monkey Flower Mimulus ringens
Height: 3'
Spread: 18"
Description: Nebraska lowland native; bushy, upright plants with shiny foliage; blooms profusely with lavendar-blue spikes in summer; best for moist soils, rain gardens and water gardens.
Native: Yes
Lemon-Scented Beebalm Monarda fistulosa
Height: 4'
Spread: 2'
Description: Spidery, lavender flowers bloom mid to late summer, are fragrant and attract butterflies, bees and hummingbirds. Needs good air circulation in full sun.
Native: Yes
Prairie Gypsy Beebalm Monarda
Height: 1.5-2'
Spread: 1.5'
Description: Raspberry-pink floral tubes, and colorful lines of narrow spots. Clean, mildew-resistant foliage, shade-tolerant, compact and early blooom time. Zone 4
Native: No
Vivid Obedient Plant Physostegia virginiana
Height: 3'
Spread: 2'
Description: This adaptable, dependable native plant is topped with showy, bright pink spikes in late summer; can be aggressive spreader; plant in confined space; ideal for rain gardens.
Native: Yes
Pickerel Rush Pontederia cordata
Height: 2'
Spread: 18"
Description: This Midwestern native is ideal for water gardens, bog gardens or rain gardens; shiny, attractive foliage; spikes of blue flowers in late spring; a favorite of butterflies;
Native: No
Cabbage-Leaf Coneflower Rudbeckia maxima
Height: 5-7'
Spread: 3'
Description: Blue-gray paddle-shaped basal leaves 1-2' long and 8-10" across. Drooping yellow petals and jutting conical disk. Well-drained soil, full sun, drought and deer-tolerant. Zone 4
Native: No
Zigzag Goldenrod Solidago flexicaulis
Height: 1-3'
Spread: 1-3'
Description: Distinctive crooked stems bend at 45° angles. Starry, medium-yellow flowers. Deadhead to limit self-seeding.
Native: Yes
Fireworks Goldenrod Solidago rugosa
Height: 2-4'
Spread: 2-3'
Description: Delicate, lacy spikes from mid-Sept to late Oct.
Native: No
Solidaster Solidaster luteus
Height: 1.5-2'
Spread: 1.5'
Description: Mix of goldenrod/white aster. Yellow clusters of daisy-like flowers in late summer attract butterflies. Deer-resistant; needs good air circulation to avoid diseases.
Native: No
Nodding Ladies Tresses Spiranthes cernua var. odorata
Height: 3-4"
Spread: 6"
Description: Basal rosette of narrow, dark green leaves up to 8" long with white flowers arranged on a wand in a twisting spiral; fragrance similar to vanilla or jasmine. Easy to grow in damp, organic soils.
Native: Yes
Stoke's Aster Stokesia laevis
Height: 1.5'
Spread: 1'
Description: Large disc flowers are lilac/blue. Plant in full sun. Good cutting flower.
Native: No
Purple Meadow Rue Thalictrum dasycarpum
Height: 5'
Description: Attractive columbine-like foliage in spring give rise to "purple" colored hollow stems topped by a cloud of snowy white flowers in early summer. It can be cut back after flowering. Grows best in rich, moist soils and in full sun to part shade.
Native: Yes
Culver's Root Veronicastrum virginicum
Height: 4-5'
Description: Pink-white tubular flowers in July-August.
Native: Yes

Shrubs

Bottlebrush Buckeye Aesculus parviflora
Height: 8-12'
Spread: 8-12'
Description: Showy, white bottlebrush-like flowers in June-July. Large, handsome dark green leaves turn yellow in fall. Attracts butterflies and hummingbirds. Prefers rich, moist, well-drained soil in dappled shade.
Native: No
Buttonbush Cephalanthus occidentalis
Height: 10'
Spread: 10'
Description: White, pincushion-like flower clusters appear in early summer. The honey-scented blooms attract butterflies and bees. Grows in full to part sun and prefers moist soils--even standing water.
Native: Yes
Silky Dogwood Cornus amomum
Height: 10'
Spread: 10'
Description: Full sun to part shade. Flowers cream in late spring followed by showy blue fruit.
Native: Yes
Spicebush Lindera benzoin
Height: 6-12'
Spread: 6-12'
Description: Small yellow flowers bloom in early spring. Light green leaves turn yellow to gold in fall. Prefers moist soils in full sun or partial shade.
Native: No

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Rain Gardens