En EspaŅol

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?


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
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Wednesday - March 23, 2011

From: Washington, DC
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Rain Gardens
Title: Rain garden plants for DC
Answered by: Anne Bossart


Please recommend deep-rooted, native, perennial plants, 1-3 feet high, for an area that is moist and gets approximately 3 hours of day of afternoon sun. During rain storms this garden is in a low area and can experience pooling water. Thank you!


The situation you are describing is very similar to a rain garden or bioswale which is a created area much like you already have.  It is used to facilitate the infiltration of stormwater runoff, decreasing erosion and pollution.

You will find some very useful information about rain gardens here on the Landscape for Life website.  There are links to other sites with more information and plant suggestions.  Although none of them are specifically for the DC area, there are many native plants with broad ranges, so there will be plenty of choices for you.  You will find the plant lists posted on the Brooklyn Botanic Garden website particularly helpful.

You can also create a list of plants to choose from by visiting our Native Plant Database and doing a Combination Search.  Select: District of Columbia, herbaceous plant, part shade and wet conditions.  A list of 60 plants is generated that are native to your area and will survive in your conditions.  (If you feel that the conditions are not wet all the time, select moist as well and your choices will expand significantly). The plant names on the list are linked to detailed information pages.

Here are some suggestions from that list:

Aruncus dioicus (Bride's feathers)

Chelone glabra (White turtlehead)

Eupatorium perfoliatum (Common boneset)

Gaura biennis (Biennial beeblossom)

Iris versicolor (Harlequin blueflag)

Lobelia cardinalis (Cardinal flower)

There are a number of ferns that will fit the bill as well:

Athyrium filix-femina (Common ladyfern)

Osmunda cinnamomea (Cinnamon fern)

Osmunda regalis (Royal fern)

Woodwardia areolata (Netted chainfern)

Aruncus dioicus

Chelone glabra

Eupatorium perfoliatum


Iris versicolor

Lobelia cardinalis

Athyrium filix-femina

Osmunda cinnamomea

Osmunda regalis

Woodwardia areolata






More Rain Gardens Questions

Plants for freestanding water in Oklahoma
July 28, 2013 - I have an overflowing gutter and the ground below becomes a muddy hole. I'd like to put a basin or pot in/or above the ground with a rain chain. Are there any plants--shrubs or otherwise that flouris...
view the full question and answer

July 27, 2015 - Hi, thanks for all your help in the past! I have a generous spot in my spacious back yard that is begging to be filled. The top soil is 4" sandy loam, below which is black clay.With frog strangler r...
view the full question and answer

Looking for native plants for a rain garden in Arlington, TX.
March 12, 2012 - I am looking for native Texas plants that would do well in rain gardens. Do you have any suggestions?
view the full question and answer

Plants for area with occasional standing water in Illinois
June 25, 2010 - ..similar to the question posed by the Aurora, Illinois bioswale on 11/30/2009 - I am an architect who designed the reconstruction of a historic structure in Pana, Illinois and have an area that is ap...
view the full question and answer

Landscaping recommendations for site in Dubuque, IA
March 27, 2010 - I need a seed recommendation. Here are the variables: Location: Dubuque, IA (east Central Iowa) Soil type: Sandy to sandy and gravelly. Part is a riverbank facing east. Steep bank then flat to ...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center