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Tuesday - March 30, 2010

From: Geneva, OH
Region: Midwest
Topic: Rain Gardens
Title: Plants for a wet area in Ohio
Answered by: Anne Bossart


I have a lot of water in my front yard are there any kind of plants that I can plant to drink up some of the water? I live in North East Ohio


The short answer to your question is, yes of course there are.  However, it is impossible to make very specific suggestions without more specific information about your front yard.

If the soggy area is your lawn and the water sits there in the spring in the low areas until the soil thaws and the water can infiltrate, that is completely different than if you have areas that are wet all year through.  In that case, where the water sits will have a big impact on what you do about it and how you incorporate it into your overall garden plan.  

If you do an Internet Search on the terms "rain garden" and "bioswale" and "Ohio", you will find a wealth of information on how to deal with the water and make an eco-friendly garden at the same time. The Central Ohio Rain Garden Initiative website will be helpful even though you are in the north. You will also find an extensive "how to manual" puiblished by the University of Wisconsin by clicking here.

In general, rain gardens are created to reduce stormwater runoff and to encourage it to infiltrate.  When there is no rain, there is no water so the plants used in this type of garden have to be able to withstand both wet and dry conditions.  If your site is always wet, you can select plants that have high moisture needs.

Ultimately, the plants you choose will be determined by what is for sale in the nurseries in your area but you can begin the selection process by visiting our Native Plant database

On that page you will see "Combination Search" and "Recommended Species".  If you select Ohio and the type of plant you are looking for (tree, shrub, perennial and so on) as well as light and moisture conditions, the computer will generate a list of plants native to Ohio that fit those criteria.  The Recommended Species will do the same thing, but will search a smaller list of plants that are known to do well in garden situations and are easier to find in nurseries.  If you have a rain garden situation you will have to select both wet and dry and then look at each plant to see if it can adapt to both extremes.  Each plant name on the list is linked to an information page about the plant. That is why you will find some of the Rain Garden websites helpful; many of them have plant lists.

Here are a few plants we have selected from the list which should work for you.

Perennials and Grasses

Andropogon gerardii (big bluestem)

Eupatorium purpureum (sweetscented joepyeweed)

Monarda fistulosa (wild bergamot)

Oligoneuron rigidum (stiff goldenrod)  (Images)

Panicum virgatum (switchgrass)

Rudbeckia hirta (blackeyed Susan)


Ilex verticillata (common winterberry)

Lindera benzoin (northern spicebush)

Physocarpus opulifolius (common ninebark)

Rosa palustris (swamp rose)


From the Image Gallery

Purple joepyeweed
Eutrochium purpureum

Wild bergamot
Monarda fistulosa

Panicum virgatum

Black-eyed susan
Rudbeckia hirta

Common winterberry
Ilex verticillata

Northern spicebush
Lindera benzoin

Common ninebark
Physocarpus opulifolius

Swamp rose
Rosa palustris

More Rain Gardens Questions

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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.
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Rain garden plants for Ketonah, NY
March 30, 2010 - Rain garden plant selections for lower NY state
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What plants can absorb the excess water in my back yard?
February 20, 2009 - I am looking for any plants and trees that can absorb the excess water in my back yard. There is a large area that is swampy and always wet. Could you please provide me some suggestions?
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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...
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