A rain garden in a front yard that helps reduce water pollution to creeks in Raleigh.

Rain Gardens

What you need to know

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How it Works Best Location Plants to Use Benefits

How it Works

A rain garden, or bioretention area, is a planted area that collects and cleans rainwater coming from impervious surfaces, like roads, sidewalks, roofs, driveways and patios. The plants and soil in the garden slow down the water and filter out pollution before it reaches a storm drain or creek. 

Rain gardens stay dry when it isn't raining. You'll typically see a bowl-shaped garden in someone's yard. 

These gardens are not used to grow produce. 

Bioretention Area

A bioretention area is a more engineered feature. You’ll see these on road and commercial projects. These features can be used to meet regulatory requirements.

Interested in installing a rain garden? Apply for Raleigh Rainwater Rewards. This voluntary program provides funding for projects that help preserve Walnut Creek and Crabtree Creek in Raleigh. 


This rain garden collects 1,100 gallons of stormwater runoff from the property's roof. This helps protect a stream called Pigeon House Branch from water pollution. 

This is a backyard rain garden that collects stormwater runoff from the property's roof and sidewalk when it rains. The plants and soil in the garden help protect Walnut Creek from water pollution.

One of two rain gardens on a property in central Raleigh that collect a total of 1,900 gallons of stormwater when it rains.The rain gardens help protect Crabtree Creek from water pollution. 

Best Location

  • Areas that collect a lot of rainwater 
  • Where water naturally flows to a stream or the stormwater system
  • In soils that quickly absorb water
  • Placed at least 10 feet away from a building

What to avoid: 

  • Putting the garden near underground utilities
  • Using the garden to solve flooding issues

How rain gardens and bioretention areas are built varies by location and need.

Infiltration Test

Raleigh Stormwater demonstrates how to conduct an Infiltration Test for a rain garden for Raleigh Rainwater Rewards applicants.

How to Conduct an Infiltration Test for a Rain Garden

Plants to Use

There are several North Carolina native plants that work well in rain gardens.

Learn more about their characteristics and benefits.


  • Beautiful landscaping 
  • Reduces time maintaining your lawn
  • Protects the environment
  • A good community space or outdoor amenity