Plants for wet soil

Plants That Like To Be In Water: Types Of Plants That Tolerate Wet Areas

Most plants don’t do well in soggy soil, and excessive moisture results in rot and other deadly diseases. Although very few plants grow in wet areas, you can learn which plants like wet feet. Some moisture loving plants thrive in standing water and others tolerate soggy, poorly drained areas of your garden. Read on to learn more about these plants.

Plants That Tolerate Wet Areas

Here are just some plants that can take moist conditions.

Water tolerant perennials and bulbs include:

  • Lily of the valley
  • Bugbane
  • Crinum
  • Sweet woodruff
  • Daylily
  • Rose mallow
  • Blue vervain
  • Monkey flower
  • Iris

Certain grasses add beauty and texture to damp areas. For example, the following grasses perform well in moist soil:

  • Northern sea oats
  • Indian grass
  • Little bluestem
  • Cordgrass

If you’re looking for a vine or a ground cover for a damp area, keep in mind that most vines and ground covers require some drainage and don’t perform well in areas that are flooded or consistently wet. That being said, these plants are worth a try:

  • Ajuga
  • Trumpet creeper
  • Carolina jessamine
  • Liriope

Plants That Like to Be in Water

There are a number of plants that can withstand long periods with wet feet. These make good additions to garden ponds, bogs, rain gardens or just those difficult areas of the landscape that stay too wet for planting anything else.

Perennial plants that tolerate standing water and flooded areas include:

  • Water hyssop
  • Pickerelweed
  • Cattail
  • Iris
  • Canna
  • Elephant’s ear
  • Swamp sunflower
  • Scarlet swamp hibiscus

Many ferns tolerate wet areas and thrive at the edge of ponds, including:

  • Cinnamon fern
  • Royal fern
  • Sensitive fern
  • Painted fern
  • Marsh fern
  • Holly fern

However, don’t assume that all ferns like wet feet. Some types, such as Christmas fern and wood fern, prefer dry, shady areas.

In addition to the ornamental grasses that tolerate moist conditions previously listed, muhly grass enjoys damp soil and pond edges. Most types of sedge do well in wet, sandy soil. Sedge is available in a variety of sizes, forms and colors.

Keep in mind that soil moisture is only one thing to consider when choosing plants for wet areas. Other important factors include light, soil type and temperature hardiness. A local greenhouse or nursery can provide information about specific water tolerant plants for your area.

Can Plants Drain a Wet Spot?

Q. We have a high water table, and I am looking for a natural way to make the lawn drier so the kids can play on it. I did some research and weeping willows and junipers seem to be high water absorbing plants. Do you have any other suggestions?

    —Ravi in Blue Bell, PA

I have several low areas in my yard that collect water after a rain. What tree would you recommend to help soak up the moisture? Thank you,

    —Phillip in Western Tennessee

My parish (Holy Savior in Westmont, NJ) would like to plant a tree on the grounds, and we were hoping you might be able to give us some guidance. The area we have in mind is in a lawn that always seems to be soggy. Thanks!

    —Bill in Westmont, NJ

A. Some mature trees can take up a lot of water—50 to 100 gallons a day. But they often return a fair amount of that water back to the ground as a kind of ‘sweat’ later on. After a recent deluge, for instance, I noticed water hitting me as I walked under several different types of trees, and it wasn’t old raindrops; it was coming from the leaves.

So: Are some trees giant sump pumps? Or are they just trying to move enough water away from their roots to be able to breathe again for a bit? Either way, there are real physical limits as to how much water any tree can absorb. When people talk about planting things like willows, eastern red cedar, bald cypress and river birch in wet spots, they’re mostly naming the handful of trees that won’t die when their roots stay wet for extended periods of time.

That said, those are the big four; all grow in a wide range of climates and can survive dry spells, which is important; a lot of spots that “always stay wet” are actually pretty dry in the summer. So if you want a big spectacular tree in the landscape, like for that church lawn, a moisture lover will likely thrive there. And Mindy Maslin, Project Manager for the Pa. Horticultural Society’s “Tree Tenders” program, says that based on her experience, the right tree in the right place might well make the surrounding area a little drier.

But the only sure cure for a wet lawn is to dig it up and install the drain tiles that should have been put in place the first time.

Q. I would like to amend my back yard so that the water drains more slowly to the Brandywine watershed and creates more habitat for wildlife. But I don’t know what to plant. It becomes a creek periodically, but gets very dry in summer. I’ve thought of just “letting it grow” into a meadow but am concerned about weeds. Any suggestions?

    —Gerallyn in West Chester, PA.

The neighbors’ yards all merge towards ours at a downward slope and our back yard becomes a swamp during hard rains. I would like to put in a small pond, but I’m concerned that the liner might be lifted up or the plants washed away when the rains come. Is there some way to have a place for the water when it comes and yet not have the yard look like a swamp the rest of the year?

    —Lalasa in Roslyn, PA

My yard is lower than the lots on both sides of me and the last 30 feet towards the nearby stream is always wet. My wife does not want a pond, and the only alternative I have to dry this area out is to install 900 ft. of underground drainage tile; and then it would just all dump into the creek! Are there any trees or plants that could help this wet area? Thanks!

    —Francis in Clark County, Ohio

In one corner of our yard, rainwater stays around for a day or so, then it’s muddy for a few days after that. A neighbor suggested I plant a willow tree there to soak up the water. It’s about 25 yards away from my house and a stream that runs behind my property.

    —Michael in Newtown, PA

Twenty-five yards is 75 feet (and people say I’m slow!). That’s probably too close to the house for a willow. They love to work their roots into pipes and septic systems and should be at least 100 feet from such temptations. Some sources say 200 feet! (“Do I hear 300?”) A much better option for you and your fellow questioners is a “Rain Garden”.

One of the hot new trends in green landscaping, rain gardens aren’t ponds and don’t depend on big trees to suck up moisture. As Mary Ellen Noonan, a degreed agronomist working as Environmental Educator for the Bucks County PA Conservation District explains, they are a type of garden design that uses a systematic set of plantings to lessen the pollution and erosion impact of heavy rain on our fragile waterways. From a homeowner’s perspective, they slow down the deluge in a way that preserves the rest of your landscape and creates a horticultural focal point.

Although Mary Ellen touts her rain gardens in Pennsylvania, the trend began in Maryland, quickly became popular in Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota, and works just about anywhere. Her ideal rain garden is not located where the puddle problems are now, but in a nearby spot with better drainage, where the water from your downspouts and/or neighboring runoff can be directed.

But Patricia Pennell, Program Director for Rain Gardens of Western Michigan, likes to install the garden right in the problem spot. You just have to excavate a lot of the existing soil during a dry stretch, she explains. (If you think a rain garden is something you’d like to explore, visit their web site; it contains an amazing amount of detailed information.)

Either way, the plan is for future excess water to be captured in the plant-filled, saucer or bowl shaped depression you will create, and then drain slowly into the sub soil.

And the plants? You have many options. Here are a few examples that both of our experts highly recommend:

  1. Real moisture lovers like turtle head and blue flag iris in the wet middle.
  2. For the intermediate area, in-betweeners like cardinal flower and Joe-pye weed.
  3. Then tough plants like Echinacea and Black-Eyed Susan on the often-dry edges.

It’s landscaping that helps solve your water problem, keeps our streams cleaner and looks darn good.

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Using Trees to Control Groundwater Recharge: How Many are Enough?

Note number: LC0062
Published: November 1999

This note assumes a basic knowledge of dryland salinity and is relevant statewide.

Although native vegetation may consist of clumps of trees, understorey plants and/or grasses and herbs, this note refers only to the use of trees in salinity control.

The best way to control dryland salinity in Victoria is to prevent groundwater recharge by using rain where it falls instead of allowing it to move down through the soil beyond plant roots into the ground water system. the aim of recharge control is therefore to use as much of the annual rainfall as possible.

Trees are important in preventing groundwater recharge and are complementary to other methods, such as establishing perennial pasture, improving crop productivity and natural regeneration. Trees are recommended for land where either perennial pastures cannot b reliably established, will not persist or will be unable to provide adequate protection from groundwater recharge.

How much water could trees use?

Figure 1: Water use by trees

The reduction of groundwater recharge by vegetation depends on its ability to use or evaporate water from the soil. the deep root systems and large, evergreen crowns of many native trees means they can use more water than other types of vegetation (e.g pastures, crops, shrubs). Nevertheless, trees do not have an unlimited capacity to use water.

Evaporation of water from trees or any vegetation, depends upon three things (See Figure 1):

  • Water – a tree can only use as much water as it has access to in the soil (soil moisture). Soil moisture varies throughout the year and is lowest during late summer and early autumn. The maximum water use by a stand of trees growing in recharge areas will be the annual rainfall. Surface run-off and recharge that occurs between root systems, however, reduces the potential water use.
  • Sunlight – the energy for evaporation comes mainly from the sun. In most parts of Victoria it has the potential to evaporate up to 1500 millimetres of water a year.
  • Leaf area – most evaporation takes place through the leaves. As a tree grows its leaf area increases and so does its water use.

How much water do trees use?

The following information has come from recent research.

Table 1 Results of some Victorian investigations into water use by eucalypts growing on recharge

Table 1 shows the variation in water use over a year by eucalypts on recharge zones. The lower figures are during rainy days in winter and the higher figures are in early summer before the soil moisture is depleted. Daily water use by a tree therefore can vary considerably throughout the year. The averages over the year are given in brackets.

Table 1 also shows that age (due to growing leaf area and root system) also has a significant effect on the ability of trees to use water.

Table 2 shows the importance of stand density and water use. In a paddock the amount of water any one tree uses has little significance in recharge control. What is most important is the water use by the whole stand.

Table 2 Stand density and water use

Location Tree age (years) Average tree water use -from Table 1(litres per day) Stand density(trees per hectare) Stand water use(mm)
Burkes Flat 6 30 200 200
Warrenbayne 20 10 20 35
Warrenbayne over 100 140 20 105

Even though a 6 year old tree at Burkes Flat may use less than one quarter of the water compared to a 100 year old tree at Warrenbayne, the overall stand use is twice as much because the number of trees per hectare is ten times greater.

Opportunities for trees to control groundwater recharge

Since a tree’s capacity to use water is limited, careful planning is required to ensure that trees are effective in controlling recharge. Planning must achieve a balance between:

  • the amount of water to be evaporated;
  • the density of trees in the plantation;
  • what is an acceptable delay before the control of recharge is achieved.

To calculate the approximate number of litres per day each tree would have to average over the year, use this equation:

No. of Litres = water use required (mm a year) x 25
per day number of trees a hectare

This equation enables you to calculate whether or not you are ‘asking too much’ of your trees to achieve your required level of recharge control.

If the most water we can expect a mature tree to evaporate averages 140 litres per day (Table 1), it follows that to use a given amount of water a minimum number of trees per hectare are required. For example at least 100 trees per hectare are needed to use 500 nun of rain per year.

To reduce the amount of time to achieve a certain level of water use, more trees per hectare should be planted.

For example, imagine two farmers in the same district with an annual rainfall of 500 millimetres. Both have fenced out their high recharge on their farms want to plant them to trees for salinity control.

Farmer A’s recharge is planted with 800 trees a hectare (3.5 x 3.5 metre spacing). It would take 5-6 years for these trees to use the required 500 millimetres of water a year.Each tree needs to use an average of 16 litres a day (obtained from equation above).

Farmer B’s recharge is planted with 200 trees a hectare (7 x 7 metre spacing). Farmer B is asking each tree to evaporate a lot more water per day than farmer A. It may take 20 years for farmer B’s trees to grow to a size where they can average the 62 litres a day (from equation) and achieve the 500 millimetres of water use a year.

If this farmer had chosen to plant the paddock at 100 trees a hectare (10 x 10 metres), then it may take 50-100 years for recharge control. Each tree is required to average 124 litres per day.

The average water use required by each tree at densities below 100 trees per hectare is so high that trees could only provide adequate recharge control by adding to water use by pasture. At low densities, even this contribution by the trees would only be achieved slowly.

How many trees are enough?

Dense plantations (at least 500 trees a hectare) are clearly the best means of achieving rapid and effective control of groundwater recharge. However, recharge control will not always be compatible with other land management objectives, such as maintaining grazing or growing trees commercially. Therefore the answer to the question of ‘how many trees are enough to control recharge?’ must be given for each general type of rural tree growing.

Protection and landscape plantings

Most tree growing in rural areas is for either protection (control of land degradation, stock shelter) or landscape (visual beauty, wildlife habitat) purposes. Dense plantations will generally be needed to meet these objectives. However establishment costs of these plantations can be expensive, since no direct commercial returns are expected.

Assuming a stand density of at least 400 trees a hectare (5 x 5 metre spacing) is necessary for protection and landscape plantings, it may take around 10 years for the trees to control groundwater recharge (depending upon rainfall and rate of recharge). Higher densities, can be relatively easily and cheaply achieved through direct seeding or fencing areas off to allow natural regeneration.These techniques can significantly reduce the delay before achieving recharge protection.

Trees in pasture

There are two forms of tree growing in pasture that may play a role in the management of groundwater recharge areas:

  • agroforestry – where both the trees and pasture are managed to provide a commercial return, and;
  • low density protection plantings – where trees are planted at a wide spacing to allow grazing to continue but close enough so that some, and perhaps eventually, complete recharge control is achieved.

Appropriate densities for tree growing over pasture are 20-200 trees a hectare. At the lower range, recharge control will only be very slowly achieved (50+ years) and will rely on the trees not significantly affecting the evaporation from the pastures below. At densities lower than 20 a hectare (23 x 23 metre spacing) the average daily water use to achieve a given level of annual evaporation is simply asking too much of the trees.

Competition between trees and pasture in the upper range of stand densities (say 200 trees a hectare) would not allow much grazing when the trees are fully grown. Gradually thinning as the trees develop would be necessary if grazing is to be sustained.

Final agroforestry crop tree densities are typically in the range 75-150 trees a hectare. Thinning to these densities should have no long-term detrimental effect on the level of recharge protection if it is properly managed. Pruning is common in agroforestry stands particularly with Pinus radiata to produce high quality timber in the butt log. Pruning will reduce tree water use and recharge control will take longer.

Commercial tree growing

Commercial woodlots are planted at such high densities (e.g. 1000+ trees a hectare; spacing less than 3 m) that there is unlikely to be any conflict with recharge control.Protection from recharge will be lost for up to 5 years after the stand is harvested.


Successful tree growing requires planning. Decisions need to be made about:

  • objectives – what do you want from the trees and the land they occupy, in addition to reducing goundwater recharge?
  • water – how much water has to be used and how long will it take?
  • density – given the aims of tree growing and the amount of water to be used, how many trees should be established and what, if any,thinning will take place?
  • establishment technique – what is the most appropriate establishment technique, given the number and future use of the trees?

These questions provide a basis for realistic expectations of tree growing for groundwater recharge control.

Further reading

Clifton, C.A. (1992). Tree growth and crown development in plantations established to control groundwater recharge. Technical Report No. 4. Department of Conservation and Environment, Centre for Land Protection Research.

Clifton, C.A. (1992). Tree densities for recharge control -proceedings of a workshop. Research Note No. 1. Department of Conservation and Environment, Centre for Land Protection Research.

Department of Conservation, Forests and Lands (1989). Water use by trees. Research and Development Note No. 15. Department of Conservation, Forests and Lands, Lands and Forests Division.


This Information Note was developed by Craig Clifton, Bendigo and David Perry, Melbourne

6 Astonishing Plants that Thrive in Wet Areas

We all have come across it – that one spot in the yard that is always wet, muddy and swampy, regardless of how we try to amend it. Most often, we just give up planting anything there and write it off as “the swamp.” But what if there were plants adapted to growing there that would thrive and still look beautiful?The good news: there are! Many of these plants are ready to take on the wet areas of your yard, and can survive both in nearly flooded conditions for short term, moderately wet seasons or drier times.

River Birch – Betula nigra
As the name suggests, river birch is adapted to those wet areas of land. Standing approximately 50 feet tall at full maturity, the pale white bark and bright green foliage provide seasonal interest all year. Use it if you need a tree in an area that is fairly swampy after a weather event, and watch as it thrives.
Loblolly pine – Pinus taeda
It’s surprising to find an evergreen tree that can withstand wet soil. But loblolly pine will thrive even in a swampy area. With a mature height of over 70 feet, loblolly pine will provide you with that year-round evergreen characteristic in an area that otherwise wouldn’t have something like that.
Buttonbush – Cephalanthus occidentalis
Best used in wet locations, buttonbush is a shrub that will delight. With a four foot spread in all directions, buttonbush has flowers and fruits that give it it’s namesake – they are round and look identical to buttons! Pollinators adore the flowers, and birds enjoy the fruits, so why not plant something that serves multiple purposes in your wet area?
Royal Fern – Osmunda regalis
Often found growing along river banks (and even in water, in places), royal fern will thrive in wet environments. A clump former, royal fern’s large arching leaves will provide habitat cover while growing in your wet spots in your landscape. Unique flowering structures provide some whimsy and fun to your landscape. Consider planting it en masse for best results.
Sedges – Carex spp.
At first glance, sedges look like grasses. But on closer inspection, the triangular leaves of sedges are easy to identify and separate from grasses. Use in your wet areas, as sedges don’t mind having their feet wet, and enjoy the grass-like appearance. Try a cultivar like ‘Ice Dance’ for a bold, variegated statement.
Swamp milkweed – Asclepias incarnata
As the name suggests, swamp milkweed is a perfect flowering perennial for those wet areas of your landscape. The cultivar ‘Cinderella’ has pink flowers in the summer that smell like vanilla cinnamon and other spices. Used as a host plant for monarch butterflies and as a food source for other pollinators, using swamp milkweed will be sure to provide your wet location with plenty of activity!
Wet spots can be a challenge to landscape around, as many plants can’t tolerate the conditions. But with these plants, there are options to maximize your landscape and provide some beauty in those challenge spots.

Do you have an area of your front or backyard that always seems to hold moisture? Don’t worry, that doesn’t mean you can’t find suitable landscaping plants to beautify that area. Just look for different types of native plants that thrive in wet soil conditions.

While you may not be able to find these plants at your local gardening center or hardware store, a landscape designer or grower who has in-depth knowledge about native plants for your locale can help. Check out the below examples of landscaping plants that are quite fond of wet conditions.

Pussy willow (Salix discolor)

These fast-growing native shrubs will do well in moist, but well-drained soil. Pussy willows make a welcome addition to landscapes with poor yard drainage. While they do best in full sun, they will also tolerate shade. In early spring you can watch the furry catkins open before the leaves appear, a sure sign that warmer days are soon on the way.

Black chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa)

This hardy deciduous shrub is adorned with fruits and flowers during the growing season, then goes on to provide spectacular color with the arrival of fall. A member of the rose family, Aronia melanocarpa tolerates partial shade (up to 50 percent) but thrives in full sun. Hardy to zone 3 (the Chicago area is zone 5), it is also an excellent choice for those tough, low-lying wet areas where only moss and mosquitoes flourish. And yet it can acclimate itself to dry, sandy locations as well.

Arrowwood viburnum (Viburnum dentatum)

As part of the honeysuckle family, the arrowwood viburnum is a popular choice for landscaping in wet areas due to the fact that it bears gorgeous reddish fall foliage and bluish berries. For further seasonal interest, the arrowwood viburnum blooms with clusters of white flowers during the spring. This shrub tolerates a range of soils, including wet and acidic soils. While they prefer full sun, they will also grow in shady areas (partial shade or full shade).

Marsh marigold (Caltha palustris)

These yellow spring bloomers may be better known as water garden plants, but they also grow in shallow standing water. Marsh marigolds love partial sun and wet conditions. The native marsh marigold is a member of the buttercup family that occurs primarily in central and northern Illinois.

Meadowsweet shrub (Spiraea alba)

Plant the meadowsweet shrub in full sun, wet to moist conditions, and soil containing an abundance of organic material. Standing water is tolerated if it is temporary. This shrub is 2-6′ tall with sparing green branches that turn brown and woody with age. Meadowsweet’s blooms can be pink, orange, or yellow. The blooming period occurs from mid to late summer and lasts a month or two.

Pagoda Dogwood (Cornus alternifolia)

If you are looking for a landscaping plant that provides interest throughout the four seasons, the pagoda dogwood should be your top choice. The beautiful horizontal branching pattern of this shrub has a tiered appearance, which is often adorned with snow during the winter. Clusters of white buds appear during the spring, and the green foliage turns a rich burgundy-red in fall. Pagoda dogwood makes the perfect small tree or large shrub in a shade garden or as a hedge. Given that this shrub is well suited for wet areas, it will flourish in moist, slightly acidic soil.

River Birch (Betula nigra)

River birch is a fast-growing native tree that prefers moist or wet soil. This plant is a welcome addition to many home landscapes because of its attractive light pink to reddish-brown bark. Dark green foliage turns buttery yellow during the fall. Plants benefit with a 3 to 4 inch layer of mulch and supplemental water during dry periods. River birches are drought-sensitive.

Dappled Willow (Salix integra)

This deciduous shrub has leaves that emerge pink in the spring, maturing to white and green, and then turning yellow in the fall. While branches on young plants grow outward in all directions, they arch and weep as the plant matures. This is an excellent plant selection for along a stream, pond, or other waterway. The dappled willow will thrive in moist soils, but will also tolerate drier conditions once established better than many other types of willows. There is no need to over water, simply maintain a regular water schedule by supplementing rainfall.

Your landscape designer can help assess your yard and soil conditions to determine which plants are most suitable. The guidance of a professional can save you time and money by helping you make the right plant choices from the outset.

Contact Landscape Creations at (630) 932-8966 for a landscaping quote. You can also check out our suggestions for improving yard drainage for those extra challenging wet areas or where planting may not be an option.

An empty area full of miserable, saturated bare soil can be transformed into a lush, leafy paradise. Here are our top 10 plants for wet soil.

Plants for wet soil: Cornus ‘Midwinter Fire’ Photo:

Cornus ‘Midwinter Fire’:

This is one of the best shrubs for providing vibrant colour to the garden in winter. The secret to getting the best display of colourful stems is to prune the plants back to 15cm above ground level at the end of winter each year. One of the most eye-catching varieties of Cornus is ‘Midwinter Fire’ with its mix of orange, red and yellow colouring on the same stem.

Plants for wet soil: Caltha palustris Photo:

Caltha palustris:

Also called the marsh marigold, this plant can cope with very wet conditions. It is in flower in March and April, producing buttercup-yellow flowers that compete with daffodils for the boldest display of spring colour. Caltha palustris has large, waxy, heart-shaped leaves. Native to the UK, it is often planted around the margins of a pond.

Plants for wet soil: Astilbe Photo:


A pretty perennial that has flowers that are reminiscent of a feather duster! A good choice for the very wettest sites in your garden, where it will produce its proud flower spikes in pink, white or dark red at the end of spring, into the summer. Astilbe also bears very elegant and attractive, finely-cut leaves and many have rich red stems.

Plants for wet soil: Gunnera manicata Photo:

Gunnera manicata:

Known as giant rhubarb, this plant can be a monster but it can create a truly magnificent scene in the garden. Gunnera manicata needs a fairly sunny spot in order to grow to a large size. Leaves can reach over one metre in width. Hardy down to around -5C, it is best to mulch the crown in winter in the UK to help the plant come through the winter unscathed.

Plants for wet soil: Candelabra primulas Photo:

Candelabra primula:

With varieties in a multitude of bright colours, these are some of the most exciting primulas you can grow in the garden. They flower in late spring and are a tremendous way to bring intense colour to the areas around the margins of a pond. Candelabra primulas self-seed freely, so an abundant display can be made for little cost.

Plants for wet soil: Sanguisorba officinalis Photo:

Sanguisorba officinalis:

Great burnet (Sanguisorba officinalis) is a herbaceous perennial that produces swathes of wine-red flowerheads all summer and mingles well with damp-loving grasses such as Festuca and Molinia. It is the perfect choice for adding a shot of intense colour to a ‘prairie style’ patch of planting in the garden.

Plants for wet soil: Athyrium niponicum var pictum Photo:

Athyrium niponicum var pictum:

Also called the Japanese painted fern, this gorgeous plant is surely one of the most beautiful of all ferns, with its beautiful frosted grey-green fronds on reddish-purple stalks. Best grown in shade in a sheltered spot. A deciduous fern, Athyrium niponicum var pictum will die down in winter. Grow in a sheltered position.

Plants for wet soil: Trollius europaeus Photo:

Trollius europaeus:

Seldom grown, these damp-loving plants deserve to be more popular. As long as they are given the damp spot they desire and are kept away from hot, sunny parts of the garden Trollius europaeus will produce beautiful flowers in yellow and orange to add a feeling of summer to the garden in spring.

Plants for wet soil: Lobelia cardinalis Photo:

Lobelia cardinalis:

A high-impact perennial plant that works well as part of an ‘exotic’ display in the garden. ‘Queen Victoria’ is the most common variety, producing bright red flowers in late summer and into autumn, to complement the large, dark purple foliage. Mulch the crown of Lobelia cardinalis after it dies down in winter to protect it from winter wet.

Plants for wet soil: Rudbeckia fulgida Photo:

Rudbeckia fulgida:

These perennial rudbeckias provide valuable colour to the garden in late summer. Sometimes confused with Echinacea, they have very different needs. While Echinacea can tolerate drought once established, Rudbeckias such as ‘Goldsturm’ thrive in a soil that is constantly moist and will stand strong after summer storms, continuing to show off their cheerful flowers.

For our top 10 plants for clay soil .

These are some plants for wet areas and moisture-loving plants that will get your landscape noticed.

Gardening is usually associated with warm summer days and the feeling of sun on your shoulders, but if you’re living in a wet climate, your visions may be of rainy days, soggy soil and a dull, colorless landscape.

The good news is that some plants enjoy the freshness of frequent rain and the moisture that’s found in hearty, wet soils. From flowers and shrubs to ground covers and ornamental grasses, these ten choices will brighten up your yard or patio this season.

Trumpet Vine

Hardy in zones 4-9, this woody perennial creeper serves as ground cover that is both colorful and sturdy against foot traffic. It’s trumpet-shaped tubular flowers bloom from summer through fall, attracting hummingbirds with hues of orange, yellow and red.

Plant this moisture-loving beauty near rock features and fences and watch it grow up to 40 feet in a single season. No fertilizer is necessary, but a good pruning in the early spring or fall with heavy-duty pruners will keep the spread under control.

Day Lilly

Day Lilies are ubiquitous precisely because they grow in nearly any condition. Hardy in zones 3-8, they’re highly adaptable and come in a dizzying array of colors and heights. When not in bloom, even their lush green foliage is full and attractive. Choose from varieties that are lightly scented or highly-perfumed.

Lilies need almost no care, but with a little attention, they will thrive and multiply. Apply a basic 10-10-10 fertilizer each spring, cover the soil with a layer of mulch and relax the rest of the summer. Divide the bulbs when blooming is done.

Indian Grass

Indian grass makes a stunning ornamental border near ponds and can quickly naturalize large open areas. It’s heat and drought-tolerant, but thrives in deep, moist soil. Hardy in zones 3-10, Indian Grass grows to heights of up to 6 feet with green foliage tipped in shades of orange and brown. Plant directly from seed or divide established clumps to propagate. Indian Grass is an excellent choice for controlling erosion.

Japanese Painted Fern

Japanese Painted Ferns are a gardener’s delight. Their blue and red stems topped with splashy silvery fronds make a stunning backdrop against which to plant smaller flowers. They’re ultra-hardy and safe to plant as far north as Zone 3. With just a little compost in the spring, they’ll grow to about 18 inches and as long as they get enough moisture, they’ll give your yard nearly effortless perennial appeal.


It’s no surprise to see cattails in the wild living by the water they love. These statuesque perennials grow to 10 feet tall and are the ecological bedrock for nature’s aquatic gardens. Plant them near water features for a natural effect or grow them in sturdy pots. They’re at home both in an outdoor garden and in tall decorative vases. A word of caution with cattails — they grow voraciously and take over a small pond in years if left unchecked. An annual culling keeps them under control.

Lily of the Valley

Hardy in zones 2-9, Lily of the Valley is short in stature, but long in decorative allure. When planted in the late fall, you’ll be rewarded with a blanket of 4-5 inch plants with small, sweet-smelling white flowers the spring. Try them in ornamental containers on your patio or plant them as natural borders near fences and outbuildings.

Sweet Woodruff

Sweet woodruff was once a prized herb, but today is used horticulturally as a low ground cover. It’s delicate and when planted in large quantity, looks like a lacy bed of green foliage with small white flowers dancing on top. Hardy in zones 4-10, Sweet Woodruff can be started indoors ten weeks before spring or plant it from seed and cover with a light layer of peat moss. It makes an enchanting border in dappled sunlight.

Silky Dogwood

This quick growing shrub produces fruit that is a favorite of wildlife. It’s perfect for shady areas near forest borders and blends well with both natural and cultivated plants. Hardy in zones 4-8, it produces small yellow flowers in the late spring that yield to blue fruit, but continues to add color with its red bark and green leaves that turn to crimson in the fall. Set these near the edge of your yard and peek through binoculars at the fauna it attracts.

Siberian Iris

Winter hardy in zone 3-9, the Siberian Iris comes in dwarf, intermediate and tall varieties that offer a choice of height from a few inches to over two feet. Purple is the most common color, but cultivars with white and magenta blooms let you get creative. Plant bulbs in full sun or part shade and feed them in the spring with a nitrogen-rich fertilizer. Siberian Irises make stunning cut flowers and when blooms are spent, the reed-like green foliage continues to be visually engaging.

Hardy Hibiscus

The Hardy Hibiscus is an eye catcher at up to six feet tall with pink or white blooms the size of dinner plates! Hardy in zone 4-11, plants should be set two feet apart in the spring after the danger of frost has passed. Hibiscus can tolerate sun, but prefers partial shade and if they dry out, they’ll drop their foliage. Place them in a garden or pots, but keep them moist. Test soil with a moisture tester if you’re not sure when to water.

Tools for Wet Weather Gardening

Sunny-day gardeners need sunscreen and wide-brimmed hats, but you’ll need to be ready for wet weather. Get started with these essential tools:

• Waterproof digging gloves

• Moisture tester

• Garden kneeler

• Garden clogs

• Rust-resistant hand tools

• Waterproof knee pads

Wet conditions don’t mean you have to compromise on a beautiful, colorful garden. Start with these ten hand-picked selections and let your imagination take it from there.

Learn more about how these ten low-maintenance, moisture-loving plants can beautify your landscape this season.


Popular Garden Ideas

Popular Garden Ideas

10 plants for moist soil

The UK weather is hard to predict and almost certainly involves a fair amount of rain, with some areas of the country receiving more than others.


Gardens can have many different microclimates within them, too, which may mean that you have dry areas (under a tree, for example) and damp areas within a relatively small area.

As ever, it’s best to play to the strengths of your garden, by choosing plants that thrive in the conditions it offers – which may mean you plant different plants in different parts of the garden. If you have an area that is very damp and drains poorly, you could consider creating a bog garden.

More advice on your soil type:

  • Get the best from wet soil
  • 10 plants to grow in bog gardens
  • Recommendations for damp shade

Happily, many plants thrive in moist, well drained soil. Here are some plants that love moist soil.

It’s best to play to the strengths of your garden, by choosing plants that thrive in the conditions it offers. Happily, many plants thrive in moist but well drained soil. 1


Hosta ‘Yellow River’

Hostas thrive in a damp spot. Hosta ‘Yellow River’ is a large variety, with veined green leaves with yellow margins, and purple flowers from July to August. It’s more tolerant of sun than other hostas, so is perfect for growing in a sunny or partially shaded border. Be sure to protect from slugs and snails.


Himalayan honeysuckle

Himalayan honeysuckle flowers

Leycesteria formosa is an attractive shrub with a long season of interest, bearing shapely leaves, trailing white and claret flowers from mid- to late summer, followed by reddish purple berries in autumn. The flowers are a magnet for bees and the berries attract many species of bird, including blackbirds. Grow in full sun or partial shade.


False goatsbeard

Pink astilbe flower plumes

Astilbes (false goatsbeard) bear masses of ferny foliage, from which elegant plumes of feathery flowers appear from late-spring. They do best in shady, woodland garden schemes where their pink or white blooms provide a splash of colour.


Siberian flag iris

Iris ‘Tropic Night’

Iris sibirica produces small, delicate flowers and narrow, bright green foliage. It forms clumps, so needs space to spread out. Grow in neutral to slightly acidic soil in sun or partial shade.


Bleeding heart

Bleeding heart flowers

Lamprocapnos spectabilis, formerly known as Dicentra spectablilis, bleeding heart, has heart-shaped flowers with white tips, which hang from arching flower stems in late spring to early summer. Although it grows in light shade it often does even better in a sunny border, provided the soil stays sufficiently moist.



Hydrangea ‘Jogosaki’ flowers

Many beautiful and versatile new hydrangeas have been introduced in recent years, and there are some beautiful varieties for all kinds of garden. Discover nine of the best hydrangeas to grow. They will thrive in shade or sun but do like moist soil.



Astrantia ‘Shaggy’ flowers

Astrantias prefer moist soils but will tolerate drier conditions as long as the plants are mulched with leaf mould. Astrantia major ‘Shaggy’ has striking, large flowers with green-tipped, pointed white bracts, held above a mound of glossy green leaves. For best results, grow in partial shade.


Candelabra primula

Primula ‘Miller’s Crimson’ in flower

Candelabra primulas form semi-evergreen rosettes of leaves, from which appear upright spikes of small flowers in early summer. Plants are best grown in groups and allowed to self-seed, so don’t deadhead after flowering. They’re a good choice for a damp, woodland garden. For best results grow in moist, acidic to neutral soil, in partial shade.



Persicaria flowers

Persicarias are mat-forming perennials, bearing an evergreen carpet of tidy green leaves, from which short spikes of flowers appear from midsummer to autumn. Perfect for using as ground cover, they are ideal for growing at the front of a border in sun or partial shade.



Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’ winter stems

Colourful-barked dogwoods are grown for winter colour, when their colourful, leafless stems shine like beacons in the bare winter garden. Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’ has deep red stems, greyish green, white-margined leaves, small, creamy-white flowers and clusters of white berries. It produces the brightest stems when planted in full sun.

Tips for dealing with moist soil

  • Add grit to improve drainage – this is especially important during the winter months, as many plants do not enjoy sitting in cold, very wet soil
  • Add well-rotted compost at least once a year – this will help to aerate the soil
  • Heavy rain can compact the soil surface, creating a ‘pan’. Break up the soil surface with a fork to prevent a pan forming
  • Don’t walk on the soil after heavy rain – this will compact it further. Stand on a plank when digging or planting
  • Excessive rainfall washes nutrients from the soil. Keep your plants healthy and flowering and fruiting well by digging in well-rotted compost or manure, or by feeding with fertiliser such as chicken pellets. Watch our video guide to feeding your plants in summer
  • Slugs and snails thrive in damp conditions. Be vigilant and pick off any that you see. Scatter slug pellets sparingly – organic ones have been found to be just as effective as chemical ones. Discover ways of keeping slugs and snails at bay
  • If your soil is very wet, consider creating raised beds – this will allow you to grow a wider range of plants

More plants for moist soil


  • Actaea
  • Angelica
  • Autumn asters
  • Carex
  • Cowslip
  • Deschampsia
  • Hakonechloa
  • Hart’s tongue fern
  • Hesperantha coccinea
  • Lobelia cardinalis
  • Lythrum salicaria
  • Monarda
  • Phyllostachys (bamboo)
  • Rodgersia
  • Rudbeckia
  • Salix (willow)
  • Sanguisorba
  • Solomon’s Seal
  • Spiraea
  • Trillium
  • Viburnum opulus
  • Zantedeschia

Top 10 Moisture-Loving Plants

My Top 10 Moisture-Loving Plants

For a lot of people a constantly damp or boggy soil is potentially a problem, but that needn’t be the case. There are many plants that will survive and indeed thrive in such conditions. I am going to list and explain why I feel these plants should be considered for your own garden if you have a wet soil.

1) Astilbe

A great plant to grow because of its unusual looking blooms and long flowering period. Deeply toothed leaves emerge in early spring and by summer, large feathery plumes stand handsomely above the foliage. They contrast nicely with large, broad-leaved plants like hostas and will grow and flower in shade but ideally require full sun to get to their full size. Astilbes won’t tolerate a dry soil so underlying moisture is just what they need.

2) Astrantia

Another plant with a long flowering season. Astrantias have an endearing quality and although often grown as a ‘cottage-garden’ plant, they are much better suited to cool, damper conditions. There will be many pincushion-like flowers on one plant and they will do well in shade and sun alike.

3) Gunnera

The gigantic G. manicata or G. tinctoria make the list simply because of their size and grandure. They can bring a tropical feeling to temperate gardens but in no way, is this a plant for a small plot. Chunky, bristly stalks can carry leaves that measure to nearly four feet across whilst curious reddish flowers lurk beneath. It’s important that before the cold of winter sets in that the large red crowns are covered over and protected from frosts. You can use straw but here we choose to use the large leaves themselves, turned upside down like a hat.

4) Helenium

Sun and a damp soil is all these daisies will need. The flowers bring a bright, fiery zing to the border from mid to late summer. They can be ‘Chelsea chopped’ if you’d like them kept shorter and more compact.

5) Lythrum

On the list because of the stunning spikes of pink flowers and its ability to naturalise on the edges of ponds and waterways. It’s nectar-rich flowers keep the pollinators happy and its foliage turns an attractive reddish colour in autumn. A beautiful plant.

6) Molinia

Of all the grasses that like a retentive soil, molinias are perhaps the most elegant. On still autumn days in low autumn light, once the arching stems have started to turn golden brown, they help bring a sense of timelessness to the garden. There are many different varieties but if you have the space, then the larger ones are the most desirable.

7) Persicaria

One of my favourite herbaceous perennials.In particular, P. amplexicaulis. All amplexicaulis knotweeds are extremely long flowering and easy to grow in a sunny or partly shaded spot. They’re quick to fill a space and create a big impression from midsummer through to late autumn. P. bistorta ‘Superba’ offers a beautiful soft pink in spring that goes very nicely with trollius.

8) Rodgersia

Very attractive foliage plants that look great beside a stream, lake or pond. With their large horse chestnut shaped leaves, it’s best to allow plenty of space around them. They grow best in shade but will do equally well in sun providing the soil is moist enough. Well worth a place in your garden if the space allows.

9) Rudbeckia

Black-eyed Susan is another daisy that is a real showstopper throughout autumn, especially en masse. With their large golden yellow petals and dark brown, almost black centres they are a bright, bold perennial for the border. Not particularly difficult to grow, and not particularly different or unusual, but still deserving of its spot in the top ten.

10) Trollius

In the wild these plants grow in wet, grassy meadows. They form strong clumps of handsome foliage and have yellow or orange globe-like flowers that really catch the eye in late spring. Trollius have a reputation for being difficult to grow but so long as they are in a cool position in soil that doesn’t dry out in summer they will be fine.

Who’ll Stop the Rain? 20 Great Plants for Soggy Soil

Many of you are asking: “Will the rain ever stop?” So I consulted Jim Cantore, Gonzo Hurricane Chaser and Prophet of Doom for the Weather Channel. The answer is, “No. It’s going to rain every day until the last vestige of Earth disappears under the water on December 21, 2012. Get your end-of-days plan ready.”

The scene above was the Grump’s croquet court just two weeks ago. Oh, how I loved quaffing sherry while hobnobbing among the wickets with my high and mighty society friends who wouldn’t be seen with the likes of you! But now it’s just another malarial swamp choked by weeds and patrolled by water moccasins. And I was on the verge of beating the tar out of Prince Charles and Warren Buffett!

Now a lot of people will undoubtedly be depressed to learn that it’s going to rain every single day for the rest of their lives. But I say it all depends on how you look at it. Is the glass half-full or is it filled to overflowing? If it’s the latter, put on a happy face and fill your world with wonderful water-loving plants to brighten your day for the remaining three or so years we all have left. Here are some trees, shrubs, flowers, and bulbs you should plant right now between bolts of lightning.

The Grump’s Favorite Trees for Wet Soil

1. Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum) *

2. Sweet bay (Magnolia virginiana)

3. Red or swamp maple (Acer rubrum)

4. Water tupelo (Nyssa aquatica) *

5. Sycamore (Plantanus occidentalis)

* Tolerates submerged roots

Fave Shrubs for Wet Soil

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Virginia sweetspire — spring bloom

1. Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidetalis) *

2. Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia)

3. Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica)

4. Wax myrtle (Myrica cerifera)

5. Winterberry (Ilex verticillata) *

* Tolerates submerged roots

Beauteous Boggy Bloomers

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Cardinal flower — hummingbird favorite

1. Cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis) *

2. Crinum lily (Crinum sp).

3. Ginger lily (Hedychium sp.)

4. Ironweed (Vernonia sp).

5. Japanese primrose (Primula japonica)

6. Joe-Pye weed (Eupatorium pupureum)

7. Pitcher plant (Sarracenia sp,)

8. Canna (Canna sp.) *

9. Texas star (Hibiscus coccineus) *

10. Yellow flag (Iris pseudacorus) *

* Will tolerate submerged roots

Water Hyacinth Warning!!

Once you know the whole world is going to drown, invasive plants don’t seem that big a deal. Nonetheless, I am honor bound by my sacred oath sworn before the Order of the Pink Flamingo to warn you about those pretty lilac-colored flowers floating on the water in the shot of my former pleasure garden. They are water hyacinths (Eichhornia crassipes), one of the worst water-loving plants you can inflict on nature. They’re OK in an aquarium or birdbath, but releasing them into the wild where they’re cold-hardy (Zone 7 and below) is like setting loose Charlie Sheen in the showgirls’ dressing room. Things get out of control. Water hyacinths multiply incredibly fast and eventually cover large bodies of water. The sweep of them above probably started from a single plant some jerk threw out about 15 minutes ago.

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