Learn From Our Mistakes

Learn from our Mistakes

Here are a few things to remember when working with your rain garden. We had to learn them the hard way, but we are sharing the information with you so that you don't have to.

Voluntary anise hyssop

Native Plants Move

  • Native plants have survived for thousands of years without human help (though those prairie fires set by Native Americans helped some plants at the expense of others). Native plants are aggressive living things. Some of these plants will spread and even take over other native plants.
  • But native plants also have very specific requirements. If your garden doesn’t provide the proper environment, the plants will die or fail to regrow the next spring.
  • Enjoy the changing garden and look for new surprises every year.

Hmm, this anise hyssop certainly wasn’t planted purposely on the garden path.

Garden with chicken wire perimeter

Native Plants Do Not Have Super Powers

  • If a drought occurs, native plants can survive, but it might not be pretty. Remember that your rain garden should stand as an example for successful stormwater management and water your plants when the weather is dry.
  • Rabbits and deer are kryptonite to native plants, especially in the first few years after the garden is planted. Spray a repellant like Plantskydd or put up chicken wire while your rain garden is young. Again, your plants will probably survive the herbivory if you do nothing, but it won’t be pretty.
The stakes around the perimeter of this garden hold up chicken wire to keep out herbivores.

Canada Thistle

Weeds Do Have Super Powers

Yes, native plants can usually hold their own against weeds, but remember that this is a rain garden, not a wild prairie, and pull the weeds. Especially in larger gardens, weeds can become very prevalent and slowly take over the space native plants need to survive.

Since your rain garden’s purpose is to clean stormwater, do not spray weed killer. Spend the time pulling weeds by hand and make sure to pull the roots cleanly out of the ground. Quack grass can resprout if even the tiniest root piece remains in the ground.

Canada thistle can be especially prevalent in your rain garden. To remove it without getting stuck full of spines, dig below ground and pull the plant out by the root.

Two headed Black Eyed Susan


Just because a plant is native does not mean it is persistent. Practice these techniques every couple of years to keep your garden full of native plants: replant new seedlings, plant seeds taken from existing plants, and divide crowded plants and redistribute them.

Black-eyed Susan is a good example: people love to plant it, but forget it is a biennial and soon find weeds replacing their thick bed of yellow flowers.

Must be something in the water: a two-headed black-eyed Susan.