Rent Shop Volunteer Join

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
3 ratings

Monday - April 19, 2010

From: Wake Forest, NC
Region: Southeast
Topic: Rain Gardens
Title: Rain garden plants for NC
Answered by: Anne Bossart

QUESTION:

I have a small creek at the back of our property, it's normally dry except when it rains. Builders removed the natural plants and left it bare. What native plants could I plant in it to bring it back to normality? Look forward to your advice.

ANSWER:

This is a great opportunity to create a rain garden that willl not only be an attractive addition to your property but will restore some natural habitat.  Planting in the area will also slow down storm water runoff, facilitating infiltration (which reduces pollution). 

As you have already realized, this will not really be a stream planting as the area is dry when there is no rain. That means you will want to select plants that can tolerate not only saturated soil, but dry conditions as well.  

The North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service has a Rain Garden web page that you will find very helpful. They have general information about rain gardens and also have plant lists for different regions of the state.  Their instructions are for gardens with an oval layout where there is no place for the water to flow, but your situation will be similar enough, depending on how quickly the water runs off/infiltrates. Their plant list also indicates the amount of saturation and/or drought each plant can tolerate.

I would start with one of their lists of recommended plants for the Piedmont Region (depending on whether you have sunny or shady conditions).  You can then refer to our Native Plant Database  for more detailed information about and images of the plants you are not familiar with. You can copy and paste the plant names from their list into our database.  

Here are a few plants I have selected from their lists that I think you will like:

Shrubs

Callicarpa americana (American beautyberry)

Clethra alnifolia (coastal sweetpepperbush)

Itea virginica (Virginia sweetspire)

Ilex glabra (inkberry)

Perennials

Asclepias incarnata (swamp milkweed)

Baptisia australis (blue wild indigo)

Coreopsis lanceolata (lanceleaf tickseed)

Osmunda cinnamomea (cinnamon fern)

Grasses

Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats)

Panicum virgatum (switchgrass)

They have many other plants on the lists; all of which are excellent choices.

The basic premise of the Sustainable Sites Initiative is that every landscape (garden) can be a functioning ecosystem and we applaud your efforts!


Callicarpa americana

Clethra alnifolia

Itea virginica

Ilex glabra

Asclepias incarnata

Baptisia australis

Coreopsis lanceolata

Osmunda cinnamomea

Chasmanthium latifolium

Panicum virgatum

 

 

 

 

More Rain Gardens Questions

Need suggestions for plants for bioswales in Philadelphia, PA
August 24, 2015 - Hello, Are there a handful of species you would recommend for inclusion in bioswales throughout the US? I realize plants need to be selected based on climate, but I'm wondering if there are two or...
view the full question and answer

Edible Plants for a Virginia Rain Garden
October 21, 2009 - Can you recommend edible plants that would be appropriate for use in a rain garden? I'm located in Charlottesville, VA, but this can be in general as well.
view the full question and answer

Rain garden Plants for Colorado
April 22, 2010 - Can you recommend native plants for a rain garden in Colorado Springs
view the full question and answer

Rain Garden plant for N. Mississippi
March 03, 2010 - Rain Garden Plants for North Mississippi/Mid-South Region. I wish the search parameters included plants which tolerate seasonal flooding and droughts, so that each state might search for its own r...
view the full question and answer

Plants for a ditch in PA
June 09, 2012 - I have a property in the suburbs about 20 miles south of Philadelphia, PA. There is a small creek running across the property. The "ditch" holding the creek is about 5 feet across, but the creek i...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.