How you can help keep Lake Champlain clean:

Plant a Rain Garden

A rain garden is a specially designed landscaped area that provides natural places for rainwater to collect and soak into the ground.

A rain garden allows the rain water to pool for a short period of time in the garden. As rain from rooftop areas or paved areas soaks into the ground, the water is cleaned by the plants and the soil microbes in the soil. This water can recharge the groundwater supply and release slowly without dirt or other pollutants.

All it takes is a little planning, a shovel, some plants, and a few stones. It is easy and can be installed in a few short hours.

Rain Garden Plants


These plants are salt-tolerant, so you can plant them need walkways, driveways or other places to get salted during the winter.

Black Eyed Susan

Rudbeckia hirta
Height: 1′
Exposure: Full Sun/Partial Shade
Bloom: Summer/Fall

Orange-yellow flowers, short lived, deer resistant

Blue Flag Iris

Iris versicolor
Height: 2–3′
Exposure: Full Sun/Partial Shade
Bloom: Spring/Summer

Blue-violet flowers

Cardinal Flower

Lobelia cardinalis
Height: 2–4′
Exposure: Full Sun/Partial Shade
Bloom: Summer

Vibrant Red spiky flowers, tricky, short lived


Aquilegia canadensis
Height: 1-2′
Exposure: Full Sun/Partial Shade
Bloom: Spring/Fall

Showy red and yellow,
beautiful foliage


Hemerocallis ssp.
Height: 2.5–3.5′
Exposure: Full Sun/Partial Shade
Bloom: Summer

Purple, yellow, orange flowers

New England Aster

Aster novae-angliae
Height: 2–6′
Exposure: Full Sun/Partial Shade
Bloom: Summer/Fall

Pink-purple flowers


These plants are not salt-tolerant, so you want to avoid placing them in areas away from where you salt in the winter.

Bee Balm

Monarda didyma
Height: 3′
Exposure: Full Sun/Partial Shade
Bloom: Summer

Red, pink, salmon colored flowers, aggressive

Big Bluestem

Andropogon gerardii
Height: 3–7′
Exposure: Full Sun
Bloom: Fall

Purple, good for erosion prevention due to large root system


Sanguinaria canadensis
Height: 6–10″
Exposure: Partial Shade/Shade
Bloom: Spring

White flower, toxic


Eupatorium perfoliatum
Height: 4–6′
Exposure: Full Sun/Partial Shade
Bloom: Summer

Flat-topped clusters of small, fluffy, white flowers


Echinacea purpurea spp.
Height: 1–2′
Exposure: Full Sun/Partial Shade
Bloom: Summer

Varieties include purple and white flowers


Asclepias tuberosa
Height: 1–2.5′
Exposure: Full Sun
Bloom: Summer

Orange flower

Red Osier Dogwood

Cornus sericea
Height: 6–12′
Exposure: Full Sun
Bloom: Spring/Summer

White flowers, red stems in winter, provides food and cover

Helpful Tips for Building a Rain Garden

  1. Choose the placement, shape, and impervious surface that will drain into the garden before you start digging. A rain garden will help reduce stormwater in an area up to 5 times its size.
  2. Make sure the garden depth is even throughout the bed. The garden should have gradually sloped sides.
  3. Uphill and downhill edges of the rain garden should be the same height. To do this, create a berm on the downhill side with soil or the sod dug out of the garden. Measure the height all across the down and uphill edges to ensure even height. This can be done with a string line level and measuring tape. Stake string at the high point of the garden and measure across to different areas of the berm.
  4. Use soil with high sand and low clay content. This increases the water retention capacity and increases drainage time. Soil can be amended. Compost should be added to help give plants a boost and enhance water retention.
  5. Try not to walk in the garden as much as possible. This will keep the soils airy and not compact. After planting, make sure to water and mulch the garden thoroughly. Line the entrance of the garden with pebbles and stones to protect it from erosion.

The plants need to be hearty and able to handle short periods of inundation after rain. Use of native and taller plants are preferable because of the pooling of the rain water.

Most of the time, soil will be well drained and dry. Look for plants that prefer moist or well drained soils.

Learn more about installing a rain garden.

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