Bioretention systems and selection of effective filter media are very important in implementation of sponge cities. The current study was carried out to find proper composition of filter media using locally available materials, which acclimate to the special/local climate, environmental and geographical conditions in Yangtze River delta region. Results revealed that sand with discontinuous gradation and containing a certain amount of clay led to unsatisfactory hydraulic performance (hydraulic conductivity ranged from 423 mm/h to 1,054 mm/h, and 1,500 mm/h to 29 mm/h). In contrast, a mixture of locally available sand, which consisted of continuous gradation of coarse sand (40–70%, by mass), fine sand (0–40%, by mass), very fine sand (10–60%, by mass) and nutrient soil (0–3%, by mass), had a hydraulic conductivity ranging from 200 to 400 mm/h and relatively stable structure. During the 70 days' flooding test, the hydraulic conductivity changed in the first 20 days due to the migration of particles (mainly <0.6 mm) and then became stable; the stable value was close to the initial. Moreover, easy access and simple production processes made it easier to promote. Findings could be used as a guideline for implementation of bioretention systems and selection of locally available and effective filter material.