A rain garden is a landscaping technique that can help protect water quality and conserve water by diverting runoff from rooftops, away from impervious surfaces like streets, into planted areas. Rain gardens act as natural filters, absorbing pollutants from the rainwater before it enters our local rivers and streams.

They also reduce flooding potential by allowing the stormwater to soak into the ground slowly over time instead of gushing directly into drainage systems.

Rain gardens are easy and affordable to build yourself with basic tools and materials and a good plan. The cost of building a rain garden varies based on size, shape, plants used, and soil type, ranging from $50-$500 or more.

Project lengths depend on how much work is done, ranging from one weekend to several weeks if hiring someone. Consult with your local municipalities for any construction regulations or laws. However, if you follow these steps, you can easily build your rain garden.

Here is How to Build A Rain Garden: 6 Steps

Things You Need

Sure! Here’s a table outlining the equipment, tools, materials, and plants you’ll need for installing a rain garden:

Soil test kitTo assess the soil’s composition and drainage capabilities
ShovelFor digging the rain garden bed and removing sod
WheelbarrowTo transport soil, compost, and mulch
Garden hoseFor marking the garden shape and watering the plants
RakeTo level the soil and spread mulch
Pruning shearsFor trimming plants as needed
Mulching forkTo spread mulch evenly around the garden
Water-absorbing compostTo add or amend the soil for better drainage and plant growth
Topsoil (if needed)To add or amend soil for better drainage and plant growth
MulchTo suppress weeds, retain moisture, and regulate soil temperature
Native plants and grassesChosen for their ability to tolerate wet and dry soil conditions
Border plantsPlanted around the edges to define and enhance the rain garden

It’s important to note that the specific plants, compost, and topsoil requirements may vary based on your location, soil type, and personal preferences.

Consulting with local gardening resources, such as extension services or native plant nurseries, can provide valuable guidance in selecting the most suitable plants for your rain garden.


Step-1: Plan and prepare

  • Determine where you want to install the rain garden. Consider factors like water runoff, proximity to downspouts, and available space.
  • Contact your local utility company or use diggershotline.com to mark the location of underground utilities at least three business days before you start digging.
  • Locate your underground sewer pipe (lateral) and keep the rain garden away from it to prevent any issues.

Step-2: Design the garden

  • Decide on the shape of your rain garden, such as kidney, crescent, or teardrop. Ensure it’s visually appealing and easy to maintain.
  • Position the garden so that the widest part faces your house, and the water source enters close to the middle.
  • Consider the size of your rain garden, with an average range of 100 to 300 square feet. You can start with one capturing water from a single downspout and expand later.

Step-3: Dig the rain garden

  • A rope, hose, or cord outlines the garden bed’s shape.
  • Remove the sod with a shovel or rent a sod-cutting machine for easier removal.
  • Dig the rain garden to a 5 to 8 inches depth throughout the entire bed. Create a level surface and build a berm on the garden’s far sides to retain water if necessary.
  • Improve drainage in heavy soil by incorporating a two-inch layer of compost into the top 6 to 12 inches of soil. Consider adding Malorganite slow-release fertilizer for healthier plants.

Step-4: Direct water to the garden

  • Redirect your downspout to the rain garden. You can create a rock-lined swale or bury a downspout extension to channel the water into the garden.
  • Place stones where the swale or downspout empties into the rain garden to prevent erosion and washouts.

Step-5: Choose and plant suitable plants

  • Select a variety of plants that thrive in wet and dry soil conditions. Consult your local extension service, university, or nature centers for suitable plant lists.
  • Plan for spring and fall flowers, incorporating grasses and sedges for texture and movement.
  • Plant in clusters for visual impact and follow spacing recommendations on the plant labels.
  • After laying out the plants, dig holes, place the plants in the ground, cover the roots, and water thoroughly to remove air pockets.

Step-6: Maintain the rain garden

  • Monitor the soil moisture and water the garden until the plants establish deeper root systems.
  • After a year or two, water only during extended dry periods.
  • Apply mulch around the plants, ensuring not to bury the crowns. Use certified mulch that conserves moisture and suppresses weeds.
  • Regularly check the garden for maintenance needs, such as removing debris and pruning plants.

Following these steps, you can install and maintain a rain garden, benefiting your landscape and the environment.

How to Choose The Location of the Site?

A well-designed rain garden should be located at least 10 feet from the house, in a natural site such as a low spot that collects water. Ideally, this area receives full sun, but at a minimum should get a half day of sunshine.

For proper drainage and so you don’t have to dig too much for installation, it’s best to choose a relatively level area. The rain garden should also have a slight slope (at least 1 percent grade) that leads from the water collection area (such as your roof or driveway) down to the garden.

When it comes to plants for your rain garden, Hydrangea arborescent ‘Annabelle’ is an excellent native species choice that thrives in these conditions–it can withstand flooding and other conditions brought on by heavy rains and survive periods of dryness during dry spells. It’s attractive flowers and lush green foliage add beauty to any landscape that incorporates its use.

How to Prepare The Soil For Rain Garden?

Once you’ve identified the location for your new rain garden, it’s time to start preparing the soil. You should remove the sod and dig a shallow depression approximately six inches deep. You must slope the sides gradually out from the deepest area so stormwater can be absorbed into the ground more quickly and uniformly.

When digging up the soil, use some to form a berm — or slightly raised area — along one side of your rain garden. The berm will help contain stormwater and allow it to percolate slowly through. Ensuring your rain garden is no deeper than 6 inches, rainfall can usually be absorbed in one to seven days.

This quick absorption timespan also helps minimize mosquito problems since eggs require an environment that takes seven to ten days to hatch and mature.

Which Plants Are The Best For Rain Gardens?

When creating a rain garden, plant selection is crucial for success. The best plants for rain gardens typically feature deep root systems and strong water-loving abilities that can thrive in moist conditions. Here are some top picks when it comes to which plants are the best for rain gardens:

Native Species: Native species of plants are always a great choice because they’re already adapted to the local climate. Consider native grasses, perennials, and shrubs for your rain garden.

Perennials: Plants like Joe-Pye weed (Eupatorium maculatum), with its large pink flowers, lobelia (Lobelia cardinalis), with its bright blue blooms, or black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) are excellent choices for a rain garden.

Grasses: Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), and Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans) are all ideal selections that can tolerate wet areas.

Installing and maintaining a rain garden is an excellent way to help improve the environment around your home while providing beauty and value to your landscape. Following the above steps, you can easily create and enjoy your beautiful rain garden.

Tips On Maintaining Rain Garden

Maintaining a rain garden is important to keeping it healthy and functioning properly. Here are some tips for maintaining your rain garden:

1. Monitor Soil Moisture Levels – Rain gardens must be constantly monitored to ensure the soil has the right moisture. Check with a soil moisture meter or by digging into the soil periodically to ensure enough water.

2. Fertilize – Rain gardens should be fertilized at least once a year to help the plants grow and stay healthy. Use a slow-release fertilizer designed for rain gardens to get the best results.

3. Prune – Pruning is important for controlling the size and shape of plants, as well as encouraging new growth. Be sure to prune at the right time and use the proper tools for the best results.

4. Weed – Weeds can quickly take over a rain garden if left unchecked. Regularly removing any weeds that appear will help maintain the balance of your garden and keep it looking its best.

5. Replace Plants – If a plant looks unhealthy or isn’t thriving in the rain garden, it may be time to replace it. Find a species better suited for your rain garden’s environment and soil to ensure success.

Frequently Asked Questions [FAQs]

1: What Is The Purpose Of A Rain Garden?

Rain gardens are designed to capture and absorb rainwater runoff from roofs, hard surfaces, and lawns. They help prevent water pollution, reduce the risk of basement backups, and support groundwater replenishment. Additionally, rain gardens attract pollinators and songbirds, adding beauty to your landscape.

2: How Do I Determine The Size Of My Rain Garden?

The size of a rain garden depends on factors like rainfall, soil type, and available space. As a general guideline, an average-sized rain garden ranges from 100 to 300 square feet. You can start with a smaller rain garden capturing water from one downspout and expanding over time.

3: What Plants Should I Choose For My Rain Garden?

It’s best to select native plants and grasses that thrive in wet and dry soil conditions. These plants are adapted to the local climate and require minimal watering once established. Consult resources such as local extension services, universities, or nature centers for suitable plant lists based on your region.

4: How Do I Maintain A Rain Garden?

Once established, rain gardens require minimal care. Water the garden as needed during dry periods until the plants establish deeper root systems. Mulch the soil to conserve moisture and suppress weeds.

Regularly remove debris and prune plants as necessary. Conducting periodic inspections to ensure proper functioning and address maintenance needs is also beneficial.

5: Can I Install A Rain Garden On My Own?

Yes, installing a rain garden is a feasible DIY project. However, it does require planning and some physical effort. You’ll need to assess the site, dig the garden bed, choose appropriate plants, and follow proper installation techniques. Consulting resources such as online guides and gardening books or seeking advice from local experts can provide valuable assistance.


Rain gardens help reduce water pollution and provide various other benefits. Once established, They require minimal maintenance, but monitoring soil moisture levels is important, as fertilizing, pruning, weeding, and replacing plants as needed. You can create and maintain a beautiful rain garden in your yard or landscape with the right planning and care.

About the Author

Virginia E. Hayes is a gardening enthusiast who loves to write about gardening tools, safety issues, and ways to keep gardens clean and safe. With her vast experience in gardening, she provides valuable insights and tips to help fellow gardening enthusiasts to enhance their gardening experience. Her passion for gardening and writing has made her a sought-after author in the gardening community.

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