Rain Gardens’ Impact on Landscaping

As the population expands, more and more impermeable surfaces pop up around the world. Water treatment plants in many major cities have a hard time keeping up with all of this excess runoff. Rain gardens are a great way to help manage this excess runoff and, yet, many people have never heard of a rain garden. Rain gardens are depressions within the soil around impermeable surfaces that have plants growing in these areas to catch the excess rain water runoff from these impermeable surfaces. Excess runoff water is polluted and needs to be treated before the water can be reused for drinking and showering. These impermeable surfaces can be parking lots, roofs, walkways, driveways or compacted lawn areas.

How have rain gardens made a positive impact on the Landscaping world?

Rain Gardens were first developed in 1990 by Dick Brinker. He decided to try this new system, instead of using a traditional “Best Management Practice” (BMP) pond, in an upcoming subdivision that was being developed. This first rain garden system saved the newly developed subdivision $300,000 in installation costs as compared to what the cost would have been from putting in typical drainage systems. It is because of this great success that rain gardens became increasingly popular and are now starting to be used everywhere. Many years later, studies were done at this same subdivision and showed that the rain gardens captured 75-80% of water runoff.

Benefits of Rain Gardens

Rain gardens are very easy to design. Most rain gardens are put in as an island in a parking lot or near an out spout coming off a roof. These areas are perfect spots for rain gardens because this is where the most runoff water occurs. For a rain garden to be effective it needs to be at least 60% of the size of the roof in which it is collecting runoff from. Plants such as the perennial, Blue Star, and the shrub, American Beautyberry, are examples of plants used within a rain garden. These plants are tolerable to both a wet environment and also to a dry environment for long periods of time, which is necessary for plants used in a rain garden.


Environmental Benefits

Rain gardens are great to have in the environment no matter what setting they are in. The plants used within a rain garden can also be great for pollinators. Rain gardens are also good for sucking up the excess runoff water from paved areas and roofs. This helps the water treatment plants because they no longer have to treat this water since it can be used as is for watering plants. The chemicals water treatment plants use to recycle the water costs a lot of money.  Rain gardens make it easier for these treatment plants by allowing them to treat less water than before. Rain gardens make is possible for water treatment plants to focus on treating just the water that needs to be reused as drinking water.

Future of Rain Gardens in Landscaping

The future of rain gardens is in the hands of the landscaping industry. At first rain gardens were used as a way to conserve water and now they are a desired feature for landscapers. As rain gardens become more and more popular it seems that they start popping up even in places where you would not normally have seen them. Business organizations are requesting them to be put in around their office buildings to try and become more environmentally sound and as they become more popular, the good word of rain gardens is spread. Not only is it a great landscaping piece, but it also helps save runoff water from paved areas. The importance of rain gardens is only going to rise as people continue to see the aesthetic value of them and also get to see the great impact they are having on the environment.

“We have the ability to provide clean water for every man, woman and child on the Earth. What has been lacking is the collective will to accomplish this. What are we waiting for? This is the commitment we need to make to the world, now.” » Jean-Michel Cousteau


Hello, my name is Alex Young and I grew up in the small town of Hettick, Illinois. I am a senior at Western Illinois University and I will graduate this December with a major in agriculture science and a minor in horticulture. I stumbled upon a landscaping job one summer and instantly fell in love with it. Last summer, I was a landscape intern for the Milwaukee Brewers and I am returning again this summer. As I get close to the end of my days at Western, I am excited to see where the landscaping world will take me.


3 thoughts on “Rain Gardens’ Impact on Landscaping

  1. weller68

    I found this to be a very interesting read since i have never heard of this system before. i also liked that you listen plants commonly used in this system.


  2. dmalynn

    I am excited to hear about the optimistic outlook on the development of rain gardens. It is reassuring to see that a landscaper, who holds the fate of such innovative and conscientious movements in the future, is adamantly supportive of such projects.


  3. brettleahr

    I can relate to this article because I worked at a water treatment plant for two consecutive summers and the summer of 2015 we had an excessive amount of water that we couldn’t do anything with. This is a great way to redirect water for other agricultural demand such as gardens. I enjoyed reading this article.


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