Phipps recommends:
Cornelian Cherry Dogwood

Plant A Rain Garden

The beauty and functionality of a garden often goes beyond colorful blooms and beneficial pollinators. A garden designed to function as a rain garden can improve our environment by capturing stormwater and cleaning groundwater, and still maintaining its natural beauty.

What is a Rain Garden?

Photo by: Paul g Wiegman

Rain gardens are becoming increasingly more valuable as our cities and towns continue to grow, and our forests and meadows are replaced with impermeable paved surfaces such as roads, parking lots and roofs. Impermeable surfaces prevent the natural infiltration of stormwater into the ground and direct water that has become heavily polluted with salt, minerals and heavy oils, into our sewer system and waterways. A rain garden planted near an impermeable surface can be designed to accept stormwater as it flows from a roof or paved area, thereby reducing heavy flows of stormwater into the sewer system. As it flows through layers of soil in a rain garden, water is partially cleaned or taken up by plant roots, before returning to our rivers and waterways.

Photo by: Paul g Wiegman

Why Does It Matter?

Pittsburgh is one of many cities coping with a combined sewer system which carries both stormwater and wastewater in the same set of pipes. During a rain and snow event, the pipe system becomes overloaded with storm and sewage water. The overload, otherwise known as combined sewer overflow, is discharged into Pittsburgh's rivers, making the waterways unsuitable for recreational contact.

What Can You Do?

Join Phipps in minimizing our contribution to the stormwater problem in our region by planting a rain garden. As the Green Heart of Pittsburgh, Phipps is committed to promoting sustainable gardening practices that minimize water and energy inputs often associated with traditional gardening practices. In doing so, Phipps has teamed up with numerous organizations to promote the benefits and installation of rain gardens through the Three Rivers Rain Garden Alliance. Please visit for more information on how you can improve our environment one drop at a time.

Consider further measures of managing stormwater on your site by also installing a rain barrel (or two!). A rain barrel collects water that flows from the roof of your house or garage. Water from the rain barrel can be directed to a permeable surface or directly into your garden for infiltration. Water can also be stored in the barrel for use in the garden during dry periods, allowing you to save money, energy and the environment.

Additional Information Can Be Found At:

Three Rivers Rain Garden Alliance
Nine Mile Run Watershed Association
Westmoreland Conservation District (Stormwater Manual)
Pennsylvania Resources Council
3 Rivers Wet Weather