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Flowers grown in a rain garden can reduce water runoff pollution.

Rain Garden

A rain garden collects and absorbs rain through the use of plants and flowers for natural absorption. Check out Western New York Stormwater Coalition’s instructions on how to build your own rain garden at home.

Choosing Where to Plant

  • Proximity to downspout: Make sure that the water is directed at least 10 feet from the house to protect the foundation.

  • Topography: Place your rain garden in a flatter part of the yard. Placing a rain garden on a slope can cause erosion and may not allow the water enough time to soak into the ground.

  • Do not place a rain garden over a septic system leach field. Infiltrating additional water could potentially lead to problems with the system.

  • Avoid areas with existing trees. Excavation involved in building the garden can damage tree roots.

  • Make sure the water from your downspout stays on your property.

  • Make sure the rain garden is large enough to absorb the water from the disconnected downspout. Most rain gardens are 100 square feet or less (a 10 X 10 foot area). To calculate how big your rain garden should be for your home.

Rain Garden Species

  • Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis)

  • Purple Coneflower (Echinacea angustifolia)

  • Turtlehead (Chelone glabra)

  • Beebalm (Monarda fistulosa)

  • Species that can tolerate periodic flooding.

  • Shrubs and herbaceous perennials.

  • Select plants for the conditions in your yard i.e. type of soils, amount of sun/shade, sun exposure.

  • Native

  • Noninvasive

  • Use plugs (seedlings), bare root seedlings, divided plants, nursery stock.

  • Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis)

  • Shrubs: Red Chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia), Witch Hazel (Hamamelis verginica), Summer Sweet (Clethra alnifolia), Winterberry (Ilex verticillata), Serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea), Red-Osier Dogwood (Cornus sericea), Silky Dogwood (Cornus amomum), Arrowood (Viburnum dentatum)…

There are many more plants that will work in rain gardens in all kinds of conditions.


Rain barrels help to collect water, prevent flooding, and reduce stormwater runoff.

Rain Barrel

Rain barrels are connected directly to a downspout on your house and collect the rainwater running off the roof, storing this runoff for later use in your garden or landscaping. A spigot near the bottom of the rain barrel allows for connection to a garden hose. Rain barrels and cisterns have been around for centuries and are becoming increasingly popular as an easy, low cost method of reducing stormwater runoff and protecting water quality. A rain barrel may include an overflow to direct the water to an area which can safely receive the runoff. Another rain barrel design includes a diverter which keeps overflows within the downspout. Downspouts associated with diverter style rain barrels should still be disconnected from the storm sewer system, if applicable and possible, to maximize the water quality benefits within your yard. Utilizing a rain barrel and directing the overflow to a rain garden creates an ideal residential stormwater management system.

Purchase a Rain Barrel

In Monroe County, barrels are donated from the Genesee Brewery and are repurposed to be used as rain barrels. The program is a partnership between the Water Education Collaborative, the Genesee Brewery, the Rochester Museum & Science Center, Monroe County, and local towns and villages.

If a workshop is not currently being offered you can also call the Rochester Museum & Science Center at 585-697-1942 to set up an appointment to get one.

Interested in having a group or your local municipality host a rain barrel workshop? Contact us!

DIY Rain Barrel

Interested in building your own rain barrel? Our local H2O Hero program utilizes two different designs for rain barrels. Each has their own advantages and disadvantages.

  1. Open Top Rain Barrel with Lid

  2. EarthMinded Rain Barrel

Decorating Tips

Most of the rain barrels provided through our program are “rain barrel blue” in color. Some people like to spray paint the barrels to better match their homes, and some like to use their artistic talents to create a design or picture.

Prior to painting your rain barrel it is recommended that you roughen up the surface with some sand paper which will allow the paint to stick better. Make sure you thoroughly clean and dry the outside of the barrel prior to painting. Use only paint that states on the label that it can be used for plastics. Krylon spray paint has been found to work well for this painting.