Select Other RainScaping Options flowchartYard with lawn replaced by a variety of plantingsReduce the amount of turf in your yard to slow down stormwater runoff and increase infiltration, allowing water to percolate into the soil. Identify areas that can be converted from turf to plantings of trees, shrubs and low-maintenance ground covers to absorb rainwater. Use of native perennials, shrubs and trees reduces the need for fertilizers and pesticides. Consider more sustainable ways of maintaining the turf that remains—organic fertilizers, less mowing, use of regional low-maintenance turf blends and minimizing or eliminating pesticide use.

Trees are the ultimate multi-taskers. The leafy canopy of a tree intercepts rain, slowing it as it falls to the ground. Water evaporates from the tree’s large surface area-leaves, branches and trunk. Tree roots contribute to soil stabilization and make the soil more porous; allowing it to become a ‘sponge’ that readily absorbs rainfall rather than letting it run off the surface. The growth of a tree depends upon water – tree size and tree species are two factors that influence how much water a tree uses. These attributes have a significant impact on stormwater management. In addition, trees add beauty to the landscape while filtering the air we breathe, providing habitat for wildlife, providing shade, and helping to reduce energy costs for air conditioning.

Learn more about benefits of trees in your yard
Learn how to plant a tree

If you have overhead utility lines, do not plant tall trees in that location.

Check with your local municipality to see if it has a tree ordinance regulating the planting and preservation of trees. Some municipalities, such as the City of Webster Groves also provide a list of approved tree species.

Shrubs, Perennials and Groundcover
Shrubs and perennials can be planted in masses to create a low-maintenance planting. Deeper rooted perennials and low-growing shrubs are useful when planted in large masses as groundcover to replace large expanses of mowed lawn. Design areas with large groupings of shrubs surrounded by low maintenance perennials that function as ground cover. The deeper root systems of these plants will increase the porosity of the soil. The maintenance of these types of plantings, once they are established, is lower than that of mowed turf, typically needing only an annual pruning with a diminished need for irrigation, fertilizer and pesticide use.

There are plants, both native and non-native, that fit every site requirement, from sun to shade locations, and from dry to wet soil. Once established, groundcover plantings are relatively low maintenance alternatives to mowed lawn grass.

Go to the Select Plants page to download a table with plants that are useful as groundcover.

Prairie and Prairie Gardens
A seeded prairie planting is a low-maintenance, low-cost solution for open areas and is predominantly used for larger properties. Once established, mowing is needed only once a year and there is no need for irrigation, fertilizer, or pesticides. Prairie plantings can replace turf and provide a practical option for difficult-to-mow areas such as slopes and large properties.

For smaller properties and in more formal areas such as entrances and around buildings, a prairie garden is a viable option. This can be a simple island bed or strip planted with fewer and shorter prairie species. It can be seeded, planted or a combination of both.

Native prairie plants can be used to accent an entry point In cases where a naturalistic prairie style may not blend in with a more traditional landscape, design a garden with prairie species and use containerized plants to create a landscape feature designed to blend with more conventional settings. Some properties make use of both by seeding larger prairies in the outer areas of the property and planting more traditionally designed prairie gardens using containerized plants closer to the entrance and home.

Kill or remove existing vegetation prior to planting. Be sensitive to any potential for erosion and take measures to stabilize the soil. Mow or weed-eat the area to a short height first. Lay a thick layer of newspaper, mulch, old carpet or plastic over moved vegetation. Vegetation should be dead within one month. Leave the dead vegetation to prevent soil erosion until you are ready to plant. If you use plastic or carpet, remove it before planting. When you are ready to plant, do not till or disturb the soil, just dig the planting hole, amend the soil if necessary and plant.

See the Select Plants page or the Resources page for plant lists, plant selection resources and seeding guides.

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.