Carnegie's Virtual Rain Garden Classroom


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How a rain garden works animation.


Land Stewardship + Workforce Development

completed maintenance in the East Main Parking Lot Rain Gardens.

Click Here to learn about Stormwater Management and Bioretention.



Rain Garden near Pitcher Park Memorial Skatepark, Carnegie Park

Recommendations by Robert Podurgiel, Carnegie Shade Tree Commission

Zone 1 - Wet Zone - Preliminary Plant Selection

SWITCH GRASSES will form the main structural framework of the garden to absorb stormwater. Pollinator plants will be tucked around the switch grasses to add color and to serve as host, nectar and pollen sources for butterflies and other pollinators like moths. Some understory trees on the edges like Dogwood, Redbud, and Pa Pa will add color and also attract pollinators. They will also provide nesting sites, and berries in the fall for song birds.


  • Button Bush - Features long-lasting white blooms from June to September. A steady nectar and pollen producer for a variety of pollinators, including hummingbirds.
  • Arrowhead Viburnum (deer resistant) - white flowers bloom in the spring, attracting butterflies and bees. In the fall, leaves turn lavender, red and burgundy and blue berriers form attracting song birds. Its name comes from the fact that Native Americans made arrows from this light but durable wood.


  • Ferns - More for structure and water retention than pollination.
  • Swamp Milkweed (deer resistant) - also called Rose Milkweed. An important host plant for Monarch and Queen butterflies, its small pink flowers bloom all summer and is a good nectar plant for butterflies and bees.
    Blue Flag Iris (deer resistant) - A good nectar producer with blue violet blooms in early spring that attract pollinators and hummingbirds.
  • Marsh Marigold - Bright yellow flowers bloom in early spring. It removes pollutants and excess nutrients from water while offering pollen and nectar for butterflies, moths and even hummingbirds.

Zone 2 - Middle Drains More Quickly - Preliminary Plant Selection


  • Paw Paw (deer resistant) - Host plant for Zebra Swallowtail butterfly. Maroom flowers bloom in the spring and produces red fruits and brown seeds eaten by wildlife. The leaves turn yellow in the fall. Two trees are needed to propagate.
  • Dogwood - Butterfly host plant. White or red blossoms bloom in the spring depending on species. The spring blossoms attract butterflies and other pollinators. In the fall, the tree produces bright red berries that feed 35 species of birds.
  • Eastern Redbud - One of the first trees to bloom in the spring even before the leaves come out. This tree showcases beautiful flowers that attract butterflies.
  • Wild Dwarf Cherry - Spring blossoms produce food for pollinators. This plant is a host for the hummingbird moth. Two trees are needed to propagate for cherries that birds love.


  • Wild Blue Indigo - Features beautiful blue flowers from April to August and is a host plant for many butterfly species (Orange Sulfur, Clouded Sulfur, Frosted Elfin, Eastern Tailed Blue, and Wild Indigo Dusty Wing).
  • White Turtlehead - Host for Baltimore Checkerspot Butterfly. White, pinkish flowers bloom from August to October which attract hummingbirds and other pollinators.
  • Oswego Tea - Bright red tubular flowers bloom from late May to late June. Nectar-rich flowers attract hummingbirds and other pollinators.
  • Butterfly Weed - Bright orange blossoms bloom from July to September. A host plant for Monarchs and nectar plant for other butterflies.
  • Snowy Milkweed - Host plant for Monarchs. Bright purple flowers bloom in mid-summer and attract plenty of other pollinators as well drawn by the nectar-filled flowers.
  • Purple Milkweed - It may not bloom the first year but is worth the wait. Gorgeous purple flowers attract many species of butterflies and the plant is a favored host of the Monarch.
  • New England Asters - Host for the Pearl/Northern Crest Butterfly. This plant features blue/purple flowers in the fall that are full of nectar that attracts Monarchs on their flight back to Mexico. The seeds attract birds in the fall and winter.


Zone 3 - Outer Drier - Preliminary Plant Selection

SEDGE and SWITCH GRASSES All of these natives meet the criteria of providing habitat and seeds for wildlife while absorbing excess stormwater through their extensive and dense root systems that can penetrate 20 feet into the ground. In the fall most of the grasses turn a beautiful red or golden hue. They can be cut down in the spring to stimulate new growth. Final selection will depend on price and availability of individual species: Fox Sedge, Virginia Wild Rye, Fowl Blue Grass, Bottle Bush Grass, Tickle Grass (Rough Bent Grass).


  • Witch Hazel - Sports yellow, fragrant flowers. Blooms stay on the plant through the winter becoming an important food source for pollinators as they come out of hibernation in the early spring.
  • Shrubby St John's Wort (deer resistant) - Beautiful yellow blooms from June to August. This copious pollen producer attracts birds, butterflies and other pollinators. The fruits of the tree are loved by birds. .
  • Spice Bush - Swallowtail butterfly host plant. Sports yellow flowers in the early spring and produces red berries in the fall that attract birds and other wildlife. Two plants are needed for berries.


  • Purple Top Vervain (deer resistant) - Ideal filler plant that could be planted on slope or grouped with Coneflowers and Black or Brown Eyed Susans. Greater nectar source for a wide variety of butterflies. Blooms from early September to frost. Cardinals and Goldfinches eat the seeds. Butterflies include: Swallowtail, Comma, Longwings, Fritillaries, Hair Streaks, Painted Ladies, Queens, Red Admirals, Sulphur, and Checkerspots.
  • Blue Mistflower - Blooms late in summer and early fall. Good for erosion control and ground cover. This reliable nectar producer will grow well in wet soil. These flowers contrast nicely with yellow autumn flowers. Seeds attract finches in the fall.
  • Oswego Tea - Bright red tubular flowers bloom from late May to late June. Nectar-rich flowers attract hummingbirds and other pollinators.
  • Wild Lupine - Butterfly host plant that produces more pollen than nectar. Bluish purple flowers bloom in spring and early summer.
  • Malva - This host for Painted Lady butterfly features red flowers throughout the summer and is a good pollen producer.






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