Creating a "Rain Garden" Out of Poor Drainage Areas
It's Easy. 


I had a poor drainage area on the side of a driveway, and was able to create a 
rain garden in very little time and with very little effort. My favorite way to do things..

Louisiana Iris - great for bogs and poor drainage areas

this photo shows the area on the right where this garden was installed.

Sweet Flag starts out a bright green, then turns green with gold edges as it matures.
It stays evergreen (the garden was in USDA http://zone 8). It has a very "earthy" herbal scent.
Tops at 12"wx12" high when mature. Likes wet feet, can even grow immersed in water. Handles 
drought, and has no pest problems (except for rabbits and i can't say that i blame 'em).

They are mounded and dont' need trimming. Very beautiful when the wind blows, 
they add movement to your landscape. It can take sun and some shade - i'm going to use it in the 
foreground of a lot of my plantings. It would make a fabulous lawn replacement plant. 
Below are plants purchased in 1 gall. pots, about 6" high. the sticks mark newly-planted 
Louisiana Iris and Japanese Iris bulbs. Reminder: do not plant irises deep.
Most of my success with irises (photos of my beauties will be posted on this site) 
is from planting with the top third of the bulb exposed, and ignoring them. 
**They're also a xeriscape star - i haven't watered any variety of my irises in 30 years.

Here is the new rain garden. It needs no attention or maintenance
Apparently, the weeds in the photo have been eliminated at the driveway edge.

The area next to my driveway, the right of way between houses that also leads 
me to my backyard gets water-logged after every rainy day. The area is not useable 
for anything. I didn't want to invest in a french drain or new sump pump system 
if i could use the area as a garden instead.

The only water the garden gets is from the rain. Plants chosen were especially suited to the 
environment they're in, my planting zones, and my needs - My gardens need to be 
self-sufficient, insect- and drought-resistant, resistant to animals whenever possible.
I chose marginal pond plants, bog plants and flowering perennials that like wet or dry feet. 

The bog plants had to also deal with occasional drying out and not need to be always 
moist or wet. I used non-invasive Louisiana Irises, dwarf irises, japanese irises, 
Rosa Rugosa, Sweet Flag grasses I covered the top with a layer of pea gravel - 
very pretty when water sits on top. The birds and dragonflies love it there.

Note: You can create rain gardens in multiple planting zones with many of the same plants.

Low maintenance, colorful and fragrant. The areas around the new garden are less 
saturated, there's less runoff from the driveway into the stormwater drains. 
No chemical fertilizer needed, no insects except butterflies and dragonflies. I added epsom salts to the 
growing area after i dug out the garden to give them a "green" boost, and about once a month under each 
plant. Location of your garden: anywhere rain puddles and runoff hang around for a few days 

How I Created My Rain Garden

Note:Never dig or use earth-moving machinery without checking with the utility 
commission to come out and mark your property for power lines, etc. it's free!


The hardest part is removing all of the grass and weeds from the already soggy 
area, and digging the holes for the plants. I dug out all the grass carefully by hand, as 
utility lines are buried in that side of my front yard, and i'm never feeling lucky. 
Arrange to have your utility companies flag where lines are burie before using a shovel. It's free.
To find plants suitable for a rain garden, do a search online for "marginal pond plants" or 
"bog plants". Always ascertain that you're not using an invasive pond or marsh plant.

The "wildly" popular but very invasive Louisiana Yellow Flag Iris is being promoted in certain zones
as a good bog garden plant - do NOT use this if you are planting near a neighbor or in your front yard.

This wonderful site has a listing of invasive plants. I admit that I have successfully used some plants considered 
invasives in other parts of the country for covering large, wild areas where spreading is not a concern.
Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center listing of invasive plants

Remove all the sod, grass, and weeds, outline your garden with stones, 
or edging if you wish, but remember to leave an opening 
where the water naturally flowed in to create the wet areas in the first place.! I outlined the back of mine with 
brick edging left around the property. Recycle landscape materials when you can. My edging is movable - as i 
expand the water garden, i'll move the brick pavers out a little more. 
I'll be adding sculptures and rock features as i go along.

Once the grass is eliminated, dig the center of the garden a little deeper than the outer edges. Dig out deeper 
areas with your trowel or shovel in various areas of your garden to create valleys where water will pool more. 
Make sure that wherever the water runoff is coming from that originally started you on this project can still
run into the garden - you can dig a little bit of a downward slant from the source of the runoff to the rain garden.

I added pea gravel to the top to eventually blend in with the other gardens 
i've started and to add a bit of a serene and clean feel to the water area.

My garden was simplified, and i didn't need any heavy machinery to create it. 
It can be elaborate as you wish, and some of the info may not apply in your planting zones. 
But it is an in-depth and practical look at creating rain gardens.
This garden was created in USDA Zone 8. Most plants i use can also be used in 
USDA Zone 5. Check the hardiness zone map prior to designing and purchasing plants.


click here to view and download a .pdf file with complete 
instructions for creating a rain garden, from the u of nebraska.

Articles, design  and photography Mary's Bloomers 2005