The Q&A Archives: Hardy groundcover/plant for area that is a wet rain garden in winter and a dry stream bed in summer

Question: I have a large area called a rain garden near my lawn. My rain garden is designed to filter drainage water during the winter and has temporary bog like conditions, but looks like a pretty dry creek bed in the summer. The slope of my rain garden next to the lawn is eroding. I need a plant or ground cover that will take periods (4-8 hours at a time) of water and then dry conditions. It is a partly sunny area. I would also like to prevent the erosion that is occuring. I already have sweet flag and a native reed type plant in the rain garden, but am looking for something to cover a 3' by 25' area, which looks nice, is trouble free and can withstand my two small boys!

Answer: There are a number of perennials you can use:
Blackeyed Susan Rudbeckia hirta ?Indian Summer?
Blue Lobelia (Laguna Compact Blue)
River Oats (Chasmanthium latifolium)
Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis) (needs water in severe dry conditions)
Goldenrod (S. nemoralis, S. odora, S. speciosa, S. rugosa)
Ironweed (Vernonia noveboracensis) (needs water in severe dry conditions)
Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium fistulosum) (needs water in severe dry conditions)
St. Johns Wort (Hypericum fasciculatum)
Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)
Royal Fern (Osmunda regalis) (needs water in severe dry conditions)
Cinnamon Fern (Osmunda cinnamomea) (needs water in severe dry conditions)
Canna Lilies (Canna x generalis)
Soft rush (Juncus effuses)
Corkscrew Rush (Juncus effusus)
Little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium)
Indiangrass (Sorghastrum nutans)
Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum)

All of these plants will provide the erosion control necessary for your rain garden and will tolerate the conditions you describe.

Best wishes with your landscape!

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