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NEMO Nevada (Nonpoint Education for Municipal Officials)

Plants for Bioretention Areas in Northern Nevada

When designing Low Impact Development (LID) practices, proper plant selection is essential to ensure plants are suited to soils, climates and microsites. In addition to improving the appearance of properties and LID features, plants also aid in stabilizing soil, minimizing erosion, and providing windbreaks, shade and both food and cover for wildlife.

Most LID practices or features are designed to detain, retain and/or infiltrate stormwater runoff. Detention or retention times will depend on the size of the LID feature, the size of the stormwater collection area feeding into the feature, and the infiltration rate of the soil. These three factors determine the level and duration of moisture in the LID feature, and are important factors to consider when selecting plants. You must also consider the location of the plant in the feature, as some plants tolerate periodic flooding while others require good drainage.

Sketch showing the upland, bottom and slope areas for bioretention Upland: Plant drought- and wind-tolerant species that require good drainage. Bottom: Plant species that tolerate periodic flooding, shade and poor drainage. Slope: Plant species with moderate drainage requirements and shade tolerances.

This database allows you to search a list of trees, shrubs, grasses and flowering plants that are well-suited to northern Nevada and may be useful in various LID features. We've provided an assessment of the suitability of various plants relative to the location in the feature. We've also provided a pdf of the entire plant list.

Tips for using the plant database:
  • Soil type: Assess soil texture and salinity before selecting your plants. Few plants grow well in all soil types.
  • Where: Plants that can survive in saturated soils are good for lower portions of a bioretention feature. Plants requiring well-drained soils are better choices for upper slopes or upland areas.
  • Arid climate: Both native and introduced plants in this database are adapted to Nevada's dry climate.
  • Future growth: Consider the mature size of the plant materials you choose. Is the area large enough to accommodate the plant? Will a shrub become shaded by a tree?
  • Irrigation: Very few plants will grow in Nevada without additional water, so include irrigation in your design.
  • Salty soil: Have your soil tested for salinity; if it's high in salt, choose salt-tolerant plants.
  • Wind: Is the site windy? Is the LID feature serving as a wind break? If so, select wind-tolerant plants only.
  • Invasive: Avoid plants that can become invasive or weedy.
  • Availability: Before finalizing your plan, check in stores or online for the availability of seed, container or bareroot stock of the plants you've selected.
  • Feature type: Large-scale features are those used in commercial developments or subdivisions, such as vegetated swales and bioretention features. Small-scale features are found in residential settings and include rain gardens and lawn buffers.