What Happens when a Rain Garden isn’t Weeded


I love this rain garden in my neighborhood, on land owned by my co-op, even as it’s changed over the years.

There once were many more types of plants here, though without a plant list I can’t name them.

Here’s the only sign at the garden, an old, weathered one with information from a local RainScapes program.

The garden hasn’t been weeded probably ever, so the result is a garden of tall species that have successfully beat out shorter ones for dominance. I know some locals find it unsightly but it looks lovely to me, thanks to its location. I wouldn’t want it in MY tiny garden, of course, but in this spot – along the back of a bank of garages, in full sun and full view of passersby – I say “Hey, enjoy the tall meadow.” They may come to appreciate a more naturalistic, wildlife-friendly landscape over time, even here in the suburbs.

Makes me wonder how many other rain gardens, lacking regular maintenance, have become dominated by tall species and whether money spent on short plants could have been saved altogether.

This close-up of the rain garden sign demonstrates how challenging plant selection is for rain gardens – what a tall order of plant qualities! – and has me concluding that rain gardens are jobs for professionals. Make that professional designers with specific rain garden experience who take into account the maintenance plan for the garden – if any.


  1. Any garden left unweeded around here turns into a forest of Canada thistle. Ugh! If not for that and a few other noxious weeds, I would love a wild backyard like that rain garden.

  2. I’ll put in a plug for the Chesapeake Bay Landscape Professionals certification; CBLPro has as one of its primary tenets that all landscapes should be provided, from the outset, with maintenance schedules. https://cblpro.org/ In the Bay area, where there is a growing interest in rain gardens and other stormwater management techniques, local communities can get points from properly executed and maintained rain gardens (toward their required improvements under the Chesapeake Bay Act).

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