10 Plants for Wet Areas

My Garden Life
August 31, 2022
Table of Contents
Whether due to natural terrain and climate, or human effects such as stormwater runoff, some soil stays perpetually moist. If your soil is on the soggy side, you’ll first want to confirm that it’s not a situation that requires a sophisticated solution, such as installing a drainage system. Once that’s confirmed, then you can consider a more natural solution utilizing water tolerant plants.
Plants that thrive in wet conditions will help absorb excess water and the roots will hold soil in place to prevent erosion in sloped areas. There are many ornamental plants that can help solve your soil moisture problems and add beauty to your landscape at the same time.

Why Does Some Soil Stay Wet?

water running from a house downspout creating a soggy area on top of a patch of lawn
Along with the local climate, perpetually moist soil may be the result of various natural or human-caused factors, such as:
  • Pavement runoff
  • Compacted soil
  • A high water table
  • Nearby irrigation sprinkler head
  • Natural springs
  • Damaged irrigation or drainage pipe
When moisture varies across a property it can actually create some interesting gardening opportunities. Areas of wet soil are an advantage if you enjoy a diverse range of landscape plants. By choosing the right plants for wet areas, you can create a thriving plant community that appeals to a wider range of beneficial insects and birds, while managing your property’s excess moisture at the same time. Here are some moisture-loving, low-maintenance plants to consider when designing an ornamental planting for wet soil.

10 Plants That Can Tolerate Wet Soil

1. Pink Turtlehead

(Chelone obliqua)
Spikes of pink turtlehead flowers (Chelone obliqua) in a sunny garden
Native to the northeastern and southeastern US, pink turtlehead produces lovely pink flowers named for their resemblance to a turtle’s beak. Hummingbirds and butterflies like pink turtlehead nectar, while deer tend to leave the plant alone.

2. Black Chokeberry

(Aronia melanocarpa)
Close up of black berries on a black chokeberry plant (Aronia melanocarpa)
To provide some food for your backyard birds, grow black chokeberry. This cold-tolerant shrub grows up to 12 feet (3.6 meters) tall and produces juicy dark berries that help sustain wintering birds such as cardinals.

3. Bog Rosemary

(Andromeda polifolia)
close up of pink bog rosemary flowers (Andromeda polifolia)
Bog rosemary is an evergreen shrub native to northern hemisphere bogs. A bog is a spongy, peat-bottomed wetland, but you can grow bog rosemary on your property if you have an area of moist, acidic soil. If you’ve got some nearly-swampy ground that you’d like to cover, bog rosemary may be a good choice. Just don’t mix it up with your edible plants–all parts of bog rosemary are highly toxic when consumed.

4. Black-Eyed Susan

(Rudbeckia species)
close up of a black-eyed Susan plant (Rudbeckia species) in full bloom in a sunny garden
Black-Eyed Susan is a charming yellow flower. It’s native to the eastern US and found in all 48 continental US states as well as every Canadian province–clearly a species that’s comfortable in a variety of settings. Soil for this plant should be well-drained but moist. Black-Eyed Susan is perfect in a semi-wild meadow plot in a wet-soil area.

5. Joe Pye Weed

(Eupatorium species)
the lavender flowers of Joe Pye weed (Eupatorium species) in full bloom in a sunny summer flower garden
Weeds are defined as valueless and unwanted. Joe Pye weed, therefore, is not a true weed but rather a lovely wildflower with lots of appeal for pollinators. Butterfly enthusiasts in USDA zones 3-9 should consider planting Joe Pye weed.

6. Ligularia

(Ligularia dentata)
big, bronzy foliage of a ligularia plant (Ligularia dentata) with tall stems of yellow, daisy-like flowers in a perennial border garden
Large, daisy-like flowers burst forth from ligularia in the summertime. Damp soil and moderate sunshine provide perfect growing conditions for this bold and colorful plant that returns year after year.

7. Obedient Plant

(Physostegia virginiana)
Close up of obedient plant (Physostegia virginiana) white flower stalks in a summer flower garden
Push an obedient plant flower to the side, and it’s known to simply remain in that position. Hence the name. Obedient plant makes lovely white or pink flowers that look a bit like snapdragons. The plant can spread invasively if left unchecked, so it’s best suited for large, naturalized areas or well-managed plots. Obedient plants also grow well in pots.

8. Cardinal Flower

(Lobelia x speciosa)
Spikes of red cardinal flowers (Lobelia x speciosa) in a lush perennial flower garden
Cardinal flower is native to the American Midwest. It grows wild in wetlands but is cultivated easily in any damp soil. Long, red, tubular cardinal flowers are difficult for insects to pollinate. So, cardinal flower relies on hummingbirds for pollen transfer.

9. Cinnamon Fern

(Osmunda cinnamomea)
close up of cinnamon fern (Osmunda cinnamomea) growing along a rustic wooden fence
For a wet and shady spot where flowering plants struggle, creative landscapers can choose a non-traditional ornamental plant such as a fern. For an easily-managed fern species, try the cinnamon fern.
Cinnamon fern fronds can grow to five feet (1.5 meters) in length. Earlier in its life cycle, the fern appears as a coiled tip known as a fiddlehead. Many fiddleheads, including those from the cinnamon fern, are edible.

10. Dogwood Tree

(Cornus species)
close up of a white flowering dogwood branch (Cornus florida) in full bloom
Some bits of ground stay perpetually soggy due to an introduced water flow, such as a septic tank drain field. The right sort of water-tolerant plants, such as dogwood trees, can thrive in such spots while helping to stabilize the ground and manage excess moisture. Dogwoods have shallow roots, making them one of the safer tree choices around septic tanks or other structures.

Adapting To Your Local Plant Growing Conditions

two-story brick luxury home with a rain garden in the front yard
Wet soil can be challenging to work with. But, water is the essence of life. Your soggy soil provides the opportunity for guilt-free cultivation of some lovely water-loving shrubs and flowers.
If your property’s storm water runoff creates an excessively wet bit of land, consider setting up a rain garden. It’s an eco-friendly landscaping feature that helps distribute surplus water while providing a haven for native pollinators and plants.

4 Comments

  1. annette cate

    My yard tends to hold water and be soggy during the spring and gets dry in the summer.. we are wanting to grow a border/privacy type hedge across the front of the property.. what type of plants/shrubs would be good for this??

    Reply
    • My Garden Life

      Hi Annette,
      You’ll want to be sure that you choose shrubs suitable to your growing zone. A local nursery with knowledgeable staff is always a good source of information on plants suitable for your region. So, depending on your location, here are some deciduous shrub options that might work for you:

      Shrub-type dogwoods such as Cornus alba, Cornus sericea (aka Cornus stolonifera), Cornus amomum, or Cornus kousa.
      Arrowwood viburnum (Viburnum dentatum) or the cranberrybush viburnums (Viburnum opulus or Viburnum trilobum).
      Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia).
      Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica).
      Chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa)

      Some evergreen shrub options include:
      Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis)
      Wax myrtle (Morella cerifera)
      American holly (Ilex opaca)
      Florida anise (Illicium floridanum)

      Reply
  2. Genevieve

    I have a walled in area by my front door that stays very moist with all shade, what would fill in this spot

    Reply
    • My Garden Life

      Hi Genevieve,
      It sounds like a good location for hardy fern, hosta, sedge, or hellebore. If you have the space, you can create a very interesting and attractive planting by combining shade-loving plants with different textures or leaf colors. Hostas in particular come in a wide range of leaf color variations. Be sure to take into account the plant sizes and mature spread if planning to use more than one type of plant.

      Reply

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