This paper presents results from a container experiment and a real-scale study in road environments for evaluating the performance of soil mixtures and herbaceous perennials for use in rain gardens. The container experiment included 12 soil mixtures and 4 perennial species. The plants were exposed to three flooding events and one drought period, and their overall vitality was recorded after the floodings. The containers were stored outdoors the following winter and plant survival was observed in spring. Amsonia orientalis did not survive the winter after being exposed to flooding in the growing season and was replaced by Hosta ‘Francee’ in the real-scale study, which was established in Drammen (Norway) in a soil mixture based on optimisation of the best mixtures in the container experiment. Luzula sylvatica performed well in the container study and survived the winter; however, in the field study, individuals of this species that were located close to the road died due to de-icing salt. Eurybia divaricata showed some mortality in both studies, and total mortality occurred in individuals that were close to the road, due to de-icing salt. Hemerocallis cvv. performed well in both experiments and appeared to be useful in all rain garden positions in the cold climate road environment. H. ‘Francee’ developed well in the road environment, except when exposed to splashes of road water. The study highlights considerable differences between species’ adaption to roadside rain gardens in cold climates, and the need for further field investigations.