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Rain Gardens

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rain garden

What is it?
How does it work?
See an example
Can I make one?
Which plants should I use?
How big does the garden need to be?
Is it expensive?
Do rain gardens provide a breeding ground for mosquitoes?
How can I get started?
Related Links

What is it?

Rain gardens are shallow, landscaped depressions that capture rain water that runs off roofs and/or pavement.

How does it work?

When it rains, stormwater from your roof or pavement is directed to the rain garden. The garden allows the water to slowly filter and soak into the ground. This reduces the amount of runoff that flows into streets, which normally picks up pollutants along the way before it washes into storm drains.


  • The rain water they collect slowly soaks into the ground. An average sized rain garden in Sacramento can potentially retain thousands of gallons of water every year.
  • They can be landscaped with plants that produce beautiful flowers and shrubs.
  • They provide habitat for birds and butterflies. Select plants that attract beneficial insects and birds.

See an example of a rain garden

The new Animal Care Facility located at 3839 Bradshaw Road includes a rain garden for public view. It is located at the front entry to the facility and has an identifying sign that describes what it is and how it works.

Can I make one?

Yes—anyone can make a rain garden. Your family, neighbors, and friends can help you with the project. You can also hire a professional landscaping company to help you with the labor.

Which plants should I use?

We strongly recommend using native drought-tolerant plants (choose ones that can also tolerate wetness) because they require less water, have a higher tolerance for pest damage, and are easier to maintain. All these factors save you time and money in the long run. See How can I get started for information on suitable plants.

How big does the garden need to be?

Every size helps in reducing stormwater runoff. For recommendations, see How can I get started for information on sizing.

Is it expensive?

Rain gardens don't have to be expensive. You can save money by doing the labor yourself. The most expensive item will be the purchase of the plants. You can minimize this cost by using native plants from seed or using plants that already exist in your yard.

Do rain gardens provide a breeding ground for mosquitoes?

No. Mosquitoes typically need 7 to 12 days to complete their breeding cycle during the winter; 6 to 7 days during the warmer months. Standing water in the rain garden only lasts for a few hours after most storms.

How can I get started?

Here are some resources that will help you design and build a rain garden:

Do you have a question or comment? Contact us

Additional Information

Regional Water Authority
Sacramento County UC Master Gardeners —
UC Integrated Pest Management
State Water Resources Control Board-Low Impact Development —

Landscaping Assistance

Listing of Green Gardeners —

Groundwater Elevations
Soil and Hauling Companies
Soil Companies
Plant Resources
River-Friendly Guidelines
Irrigation Assistance
California Department of Water Resources, Office of Water Use Efficiency —
Jess Stryker's Irrigation Tutorials Online —
Lori Palmquist's Water Conservation Webpage —

Other Programs

Note: The information provided on this website is intended for homeowners only and not for multifamily/commercial developments. Rain gardens do not qualify for stormwater quality treatment requirements.

Acknowledgements: The Sacramento County Stormwater Quality Program would like to thank the following people for their input:

  • Sacramento County UC Master Gardeners
  • Lucie Adams
  • Eric Berntsen and Laurel Warddrip of the California State Water Resources Control Board

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