Burnsville, MN rain garden.
More examples below.

Advice on building a rain garden:

Advice on creating a native plant garden:

Reduce runoff with a rain garden

Do you have a wet spot in your yard that you've been trying to contend with? Do you have problems with water runoff? Instead of trying to drain the water off of your property, take advantage of it by creating a rain garden.

Why build a rain garden?
Rain gardens not only provide visual interest to yard but also help your local streams. They are small vegetated depressions that promote infiltration of stormwater runoff from your roof, driveway and lawn. Some are even designed to capture runoff from the street.

Rain gardens help things like fertilizer, loose soil and grass clipping stay in your yard and out of the local streams and Lake Superior, where they can add unacceptably high levels of nutrients to the water, increase the stream turbidity or deplete oxygen as the stuff rots. (Read more about how erosion and lawn fertilizers impact the streams.)

Where do I start?
Rain gardens are designed with a depression to hold water after rain storms and a shallow swale to route storm water from roofs and driveways to the garden. Plants are selected to be tolerant of large water volumes, and to aid in infiltration and pollutant capture. Use the links in the blue box above for design information for your rain garden. A list of native plants that will thrive in a wet garden can be found below.

Learn about plants in the Barker's Island Rain Garden.

What did a Lakeside neighborhood in Duluth do to reduce stormwater problems? Find out here.

FREE Raingarden App available for homeowners and contractors designed to help folks properly install a rain garden. 

From the CT NEMO Program

rain garden app

Video produced by: Minnesota Sea Grant

This video and other stormwater management stories can be found on this website.

Before and after pictures of rain gardens.

Photos courtesy of Burnsville Rainwater Garden Retrofit Project,
City of Burnsville, Leslie Yetka

Native plants for the wet garden

Stormwater Plants booklet

The book, "Plants for Stormwater Design: Species Selection for the Upper Midwest", describes 131 plant species regarding their use in stormwater-management practices. Available online at the MPCA website.

The following list of plants is reasonably specific to North East Minnesota. Some species are at the extremes of their temperature comfort zone, however, best gardening management practices such as mulching, amending soils to improve its drainage and selection of a protected planting site will work to extend a plant's comfort zone. During periods of drought, particular attention to maintaining soil moisture must be a priority of wet garden maintenance.

Some experimentation with a variety of plant materials will probably be required to discover the correct blend of soil wetness, soil type and available sun light for success with many of the suggested species of plant in a specific garden's environment.

The suggested plants provide a variety of heights, foliage textures and flower colors to create a visually interesting garden. Specialist plant nurseries deal in native plants. The ornamental plant industry has worked to develop many good and improved varieties based on the native plant stocks listed. Native plant varietals often add landscape interest through changes in flower and foliage shape and color. The use of varietals should be investigated when planning a wetland's garden.

Many of the listed plants can be collected as seed in the wild and germinated at home then subsequently transplanted into the wetland garden. To follow a plant culture program requires special knowledge and techniques for successful germination of many of the listed plant species. Books, web searches, plant nurseries and local extension agents can help access the necessary information for developing a plant culture program.

Ferns & Fern Allies

  • Sensitive Fern (Onoclea sensibilis) -shade tolerance and wet soil.
  • Cinnamon Fern (Osmunda cinnamomea) - prefers shade to partially shady location and wet acid soils.
  • Royal Fern (Osmunda regalis) - likes sun and wet acid soils.
  • Interrupted Fern (Osmunda claytonia) - prefers drier and seasonally wet areas compared to the other Osmunda species.
  • Scouring Rush (Equisetum sp) - depending on species, partial shade to sunny locations.


  • Milkweed Family
    • Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnate) - prefers sunny conditions.
  • Aster Family
    • Spotted Joe - Pye - Weed (Eupatorium maculatum) - prefers sun but accepts periods of light shading. Will grow in most conditions but prefers moist, well drained soil.
    • Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum) - often found with Joe-Pye-Weed.
    • Common Flat-Topped Goldenrod (Solidago graminifolia) - prefers a sandy better drained soil and sun or some shade.
    • Common Sneezeweed (Helenium autumnale) - prefers sunny conditions with plentiful moisture in a well drained soil. Not common in the wilds of NE Minnesota, however a number of attractive ornamental varieties are available from plant nurseries and viable in the area.
  • Bellflower Family
    • Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis) - prefers sun; can withstand shallow water.
    • Great Blue Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica) - Partial shade to sunny conditions preferred with moist soils that are well drained.
  • Honeysuckle Family
    • Red Berried Elder (Sambucus racemosa) - shrub to 9'; partial shade to sun preferred. Moist well drained soil.
  • St. John's-wort Family
    • Northern St John's-wort (Hypericum boreale) - part shade to sunny conditions preferred. Moist soils.
  • Dogwood Family
    • Red-Osier Dogwood (Cornus stolinifera) - shrub to 6' or more; shady to sunny conditions and a variety of soil moistures.
  • Gentian Family
    • Bottle Gentian (Gentian andrewsii) - partial shade to sunny conditions in moist neutral to acid soils.
  • Gooseberry Family
    • Eastern Black Current (Ribes americanum) - shrub to 3'; partial shade to preferred sunny conditions. Can be in a moist soil if well drained.
  • Mint Family
    • Obedience Plant (Physostegia virginiana) - prefers sunny locations and moist well drained soils.
  • Primrose Family
    • Fringed Loosestrife (Lysimachia ciliate) - prefers shade and moist, well drained soil.
  • Buttercup Family
    • Canada Anemone (Anemone Canadensis) - prefers sunny to partial shade conditions and moist, humus-rich soil.
    • Common Marsh-Marigold (Caltha palustris) - prefers very wet areas with partial shade to sunny conditions.
    • Virgin's Bower (Clematis virginiana) - partial shade to sunny conditions (roots need shade). Well drained moist soils.
    • Northern Swamp Buttercup (Ranunculus hispidus) - shaded to sunny conditions in wet well drained soil.
    • Purple Meadow-Rue (Thalictrum dasycarpum) - partial shade to sunny conditions and moist soils.
  • Saxifrage Family
    • Northern Bishop's Cap (Mitella nuda) - shade to partially shady conditions and humus-rich, moist soils.
  • Rose Family
    • Meadowsweet (Spirea alba) - Sunny conditions and seems to prefer sandy, humus-rich, moist soils.
  • Figwort Family
    • White Turtlehead (Chelone glabra) - prefers partial shade conditions and moist soil.
    • Culvers Root (Veronicastrum virginicum) - can withstand drier conditions, likes sun.
  • Vervain Family
    • Common Vervain (Verbena hastate) - sunny conditions and moist well drained soil.


  • Arum Family
    • Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum) - partial shade loving. Moist, humus-rich, well drained soil.
  • Sedge Family
    • A variety of members of the sedge family are available from plant nurseries specializing in native plants. Of particular visual interest are members of the genus Cyperus - the flatsedges and Eleocharis - the spike-rushes and Scirpus - the bulrushes (especially wool grass - S. cyperinus and woodland bulrush - S. expansus).
  • Iris Family
    • Yellow Flag (Iris pseudacorus) - Likes partial Sun and very wet conditions. Non - native
    • Northern Blue Flag (Iris versicolor) - Partial shade to sunny conditions. Wet soil but will withstand shallow water.
  • Lily Family
    • Turk's - cap lily (Lilium superbum) -sunny conditions and well drained, moist soils.
    • False Solomon's Seal (Smilacina trifolia) - partial shade to sunny conditions with humus-rich, moist soil.
  • Grass Family
    • Bluejoint grass (Calamagrostis Canadensis) - sunny; forms clumps. Doesn't mind wet roots.
    • Virginia Wildrye grass (Elymus virginicus) - shade to partial shade. Moist, rich, well drained soils.
    • Foxtail Barley (Hordeum jubatum) - exceptional visually attractive; sunny conditions. Exists in a variety of soil conditions.
    • Prairie Cordgrass (Spartina pectinata) - Sunny conditions and moist soils.