Select Other RainScaping Options flowchartWhen dealing with consistently or frequently wet soils in low areas, remember that pooling water is an indication of poor drainage and low infiltration rates into the soil. It is, therefore, not the ideal site for a rain garden. This situation is, however, a perfect opportunity for plantings of native moisture-loving plants to create a functional solution to an otherwise problematic site.

There are many attractive native wetland plant species that thrive in poorly drained, wet soils. Many of these are the same species used for planting rain gardens and bioswales. A list of plant species for wet soils is useful when designing a garden for this situation. (See Select Plants.)

Native suckering sedges can be used to create low maintenance landscapes where there are poorly drained and/or clayey soils in your yard. They need an edge such as mowed lawn, concrete curbing or a building to contain growth. Gold sedge (Carex aureolensis) at 18 inches is a good choice for shade; creeping quickly fills into a solid mat. It will fill in during a single growing season, greatly reducing weeds and the need to mulch. Simply mow in March and remove occasional weeds throughout the growing season. Brown bog sedge (Carex buxbaumii), riverbank sedge (Carex emoryi), tussock sedge (Carex stricta) and wool sedge (Carex lanuginose) are other top-performing low-maintenance groundcovers for wet soils.

You can choose to dig a basin in a low wet area in your yard to create a small pond. If you install a pond in your yard, consider submerged plants you can include in your pond, and plants for moist soils for the area surrounding the pond.

Link to Work Wonders with Woodlands section Link to Conquer Compacted Soils section Link to Stabilize Steep Slopes section Link to Let Loose on Low Wet Areas section Link to Transform Turf section Link to Design & Build a Rain Garden page Link to Select Plants page

Problem Areas to Avoid

Under some conditions, any kind of rainscaping (landscaping to manage stormwater) is not recommended. If the following conditions exist at your site, consider installing a rain barrel, vegetated roof or choose another site to rainscape:

  • over septic systems
  • in contaminated soils or groundwater
  • adjacent to a karst sinkhole leading directly to groundwater reservoir
  • for runoff from vehicular areas, in wellhead protection areas or within a horizontal distance of 2× the depth of any nearby wells
  • within 10–20 feet of footings, pavement or any building, including those on neighboring properties
  • within 5 feet of the property line
Managing Challenging Areas

Under other challenging landscape conditions, rain gardens are not recommended but other viable landscaping alternatives exist.

Utilities: Choose short stature plants to plant underneath overhead utility lines. Do not install rain gardens or trees over underground utilities. Call 1 (800) DIG-RITE to find out where the underground utilities are located.