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Thursday - April 22, 2010

From: Oklahoma City, OK
Region: Rocky Mountain
Topic: Rain Gardens
Title: Rain garden Plants for Colorado
Answered by: Anne Bossart

QUESTION:

Can you recommend native plants for a rain garden in Colorado Springs

ANSWER:

As you know, a rain garden is a great way to slow stormwater runoff, allowing it to infiltrate the soil and return clean water to our streams and rivers. Also, when you choose native plants for your rain garden you are restoring a little bit of badly needed natural habitat (especially in a suburban area).

When selecting plants for the garden the most important consideration is your soil and the natural infiltration rate.  If your soil is clay and the water you collect in your garden sits for several days and stays damp long after the rain event the plants you choose will be very different than if your soil is sandy and the water infiltrates in a matter of hours and is bone dry until the next rain.

It is likely that your situation is somewhere between the two extremes, but you will want to observe the area before making a huge investment in plants.  Generally, though, you will select plants that can tolerate saturated conditions in the lowest part of your garden and more drought tolerant ones around the upper edge.  There are not a lot of plants that will thrive in both extremes, but there are a few.

You can begin the selection process by visiting our Native Plant Database and doing a combination search for Colorado.  Select the light conditions you have (sun/shade) and then the plant type (I find it simpler to search trees, shrubs and perennials individually instead of all in one search).  Choose wet conditions and then look at the plants individually to determine their drought tolerance.  Site them in your garden accordingly. In general, shrubs and grasses are more tolerant of a wide range of conditions than herbaceous plants so you will have to keep an eye on things for the first season or so.  We also recommend you contact your local Agricultural Extension Offce to see if they have information and plant lists.  You may also find this manual informative and helpful even though it was published for Wisconsin gardens.

Here are some plants I have selected from those lists (without a consideration of light conditions) that should work for you:

Shrubs

Rhododendron albiflorum (Cascade azalea)

Rosa acicularis (prickly rose)

Sambucus nigra ssp. canadensis (common elderberry)

Perennials/Grasses

Asclepias incarnata (swamp milkweed)

Calamagrostis canadensis (bluejoint)

Carex stipata (owlfruit sedge)

Eupatoriadelphus maculatus (spotted trumpetweed)

Iris missouriensis (Rocky Mountain iris)

Vernonia fasciculata (prairie ironweed)

 

 


 

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