If your garden has many areas with poor water drainage, that could be a difficult situation to work with as most plants can’t thrive in excessive moisture conditions. Soggy soils can encourage the development of harmful diseases. Unless the plant is adapted for wet areas and climates, it’s safe to say that it won’t be able to grow successfully in poorly drained spots. By choosing suitable plants, you can turn any under-performing garden into a vibrant landscape full of flowers and ornamental grasses.
There are lots of different plants out there that can tolerate soggy soil. Some of them prefer the kind of moisture levels that would be deadly for most plants as they can grow directly in standing water. We’ve made a selection of the best plants that you should add in a wet yard. While some of them may be more difficult to find at your local gardening center, it could be worth the effort to beautify your garden. As a bonus, many of these moisture-loving plants can have a beneficial effect thanks to the ability to absorb water runoff.
1. Elephant’s Ear
As its name implies, this plant resembles the shape of an elephant’s ear. It has showy leaves with interesting vein patterns that can draw attention regardless of planting location. The elephant’s ear plant could be an excellent choice for many outdoor and indoor areas. It performs well in dry soils but it has very good tolerance to moisture. This plant is capable of growing in very wet conditions, including standing water. The stunning look of its glossy black leaves makes it a favorite for moist areas in any garden.
The foliage of the elephant’s ear doesn’t require a lot of maintenance. Just make sure it’s protected for extended periods of direct sunlight exposure. Intense heat can burn the plant’s leaves without a healthy dose of afternoon shade. You also need to provide this plant with consistently moist soil that’s rich in compost to help it thrive. Disturbing the roots of the elephant’s ear can potentially damage the plant before it can properly establish. Growing this plant successfully outdoors requires a location in hardiness zones 10 and 11.
2. Fiber-Optic Grass
With a unique appearance that can remind you of fiber optic cables, this ornamental grass is well-adapted for thriving in wet areas. The graceful look of its arching leaves can bring a solid textural punch to many different types of gardens. Fiber-optic grass is a thin perennial plant that prefers consistent moisture for its soil and enjoys full sun. It’s native to southern Europe, Australia, and western regions of North America. The plant requires a warm climate so it’s considered fitting for USDA zones 10-11.
The multiple stems of this ornamental grass produce little flower spikes for some extra visual interest. One of the best aspects of this plant is that it’s an evergreen species that provides great color to your wet areas for longer. Low temperatures can be damaging to the fiber-optic grass turning the foliage to yellow or brown. For best growing results, it’s recommended to plant this type of grass strategically to let it cascade over the edges of garden walls.
Winterberry plants are suitable for wet areas thanks to their natural adaptation to swampy regions. Medium to wet levels of moisture are preferred while the plant has decent resistance to poor soil conditions. Winterberry grows as a shrub and can produce bright red berries as long as you’re growing an opposite-sex pair alongside it. The name of this plant is related to the potential of this plant to enhance the bland winter landscape with splashes of vibrant color.
Birds are quickly drawn to the red fruits of the winterberry. The plant tends to grow upright and can reach maximum heights of 15 feet. Although the main attraction of this shrub is the look of its berries, the foliage can be considered a great feature too. Leaves of the winterberry will typically show off a dark green look with elliptical shapes. Winterberry plants thrive best in wetland areas with acidic soils. Make sure you select a sunny spot if you wish to take advantage of bountiful berry production.
4. Sweet Pepperbush
Known by its scientific name Clethra alnifolia, this plant loves wet woodlands and marshes. The fragrant flowers of sweet pepperbush will help to bring many beneficial insects into your garden. A great advantage of this plant is the way its large blooms can appear despite shady conditions. Sweet pepperbush is a versatile shrub that can be grown without issues in hardiness zones 3 to 9. You can find it in its natural environment along the Atlantic coast in the US.
Sweet pepperbush tolerates wet areas very well and can also resist other difficult conditions such as salty air. Aside from their beautiful white or pink flowers, these shrubs are also appreciated for their dense branches. You can count on sweet pepperbush plants for meeting your privacy needs. Maintaining the shrubs in a good condition involves a certain level of pruning. Removing spent blooms is not necessary unless you prefer a clean look for the plants. Some of the best sweet pepperbush varieties to consider are “Crystalina”, “Rosea”, and “Ruby Spice”.
5. Ostrich Fern
Many woodland gardens in America are populated by stately-looking ostrich ferns. These large plants grow well in moist spots and don’t require a lot of sunlight. They can be perfect for adding some texture to wet areas with the help of their light green fronds. Ostrich ferns are hardy plants that can spread quite rapidly by underground rhizomes. Their main benefit is the ability to create a beautiful backdrop where more showy flowers can stand out.
The name of this fern comes from the appearance of its upright fronds that resemble ostrich plumes. If you have spots with moist soil in the garden that are tough to fill, it’s worth giving these plants a try. An interesting feature of the ostrich fern is that its emerging fiddleheads are edible. Flower bouquets can also take advantage of the elegant splash of green texture from this plant. Whether you have a shade garden or a wet woodland garden, the ostrich fern represents a must-have addition.
If you’re looking to add some tropical vibes to your garden, canna flowers can thrive despite moist soil conditions. These large plants show off a bold look with their style of dense stands of vibrant colors. Canna plants can grow very fast and perform admirably in different soil types. There are different varieties to suit the style of your garden better. Taller types of canna plants grow up to 8 feet tall while dwarf varieties barely reach 2 feet.
While gardeners in the past opted for a canna plant for its colorful flowers, nowadays this plant is more appreciated for the foliage. Many hybrid crosses allowed for the creation of unique foliage types that can easily draw all the attention. You can make some visually-appealing combinations in the garden by incorporating canna plants with patterned foliage in mixes of dark red and gold or blue-green. Growing cannas in your yard can take some effort as these plants require very rich soils with consistent moisture.
7. Cardinal Flower
With vibrant red blooms and green or dark red foliage, the cardinal flower could be a spectacular choice for wet areas. A variety of lobelia, this plant is perfectly adapted to live close to ponds and streams. If the soil in your garden is particularly soggy, the cardinal flower doesn’t just tolerate it but actually prefers this level of high moisture. Perennial lobelias are very attractive for hummingbirds so you can also rely on these flowers to bring more life to the garden.
Similar to caring for other heavy feeders, you will need to increase the amount of organic material in the soil to grow this flower successfully. Cardinal flowers can thrive in hardiness zones 2 to 8. These lobelias are native to North America and perform best in sunny conditions where beautiful flowers grow upright to a height of up to 4 feet. Mulching could be a smart decision to protect the plant against water evaporation. Cardinal flowers can be particularly sensitive to extended dry spells so choosing wet areas could be highly beneficial.
8. Pussy Willow
This wetland shrub can be found in its native range along streams and in swamps. It can tolerate medium to wet soil but is versatile enough to grow without issues in dry conditions as well. The pussy willow plant shows off some furry catkins that many gardeners use for decorative purposes. If you live in USDA zones 4 to 8, it’s safe to say that you won’t be having any issues growing this shrub. Pussy willows offer a great textural feel that can be welcomed for any wet area in the yard.
With a maximum height of 15 feet and slightly smaller spread, this plant can become quite imposing. It’s highly recommended to make use of pruning to control its growth. The pussy willow shrub is particularly appreciated in the spring when it can serve as a privacy screen or for creating a focal point in the garden. If you plan on growing this shrub for ornamental reasons, keep in mind that it may need protection against deer and squirrels.
Many delicate plants can thrive in consistently moist soil. One great example is forget-me-not. The flowers of this plant grow in shades of blue and purple. They’re ideal for decorating the edge of a pond or to beautify any other wet area. Forget-me-not plants can bloom in early spring but they’re fairly short-lived perennials. While the flowers of forget-me-not look quite attractive by themselves, their dainty appearance can be enhanced by planting companions such as columbine, bleeding heart, and wild ginger.
Easy to care for and grow directly from seed, forget-me-not can be brought to your garden without effort. The plant spreads through self-seeding so it can take over your garden quite fast unless proper deadheading measures are taken. While this is a low-maintenance plant, it’s worth mentioning that forget-me-nots have some weaknesses. They can die due to excessive heat and humidity. When the growing conditions are ideal, these plants have a tendency to create dense mats of foliage.
Another excellent evergreen perennial to plant in a wet area is horsetail. This plant can handle different conditions and is particularly resistant to very wet soils. Horsetail plants call wet woodlands their home. They can spread very efficiently naturally which means the plants can become invasive under optimal conditions in your yard. Eliminating rhizomes seems to be the best method to control the aggressive spread of horsetail. Growing the plant is incredibly easy. The more difficult part is often containing its spread.
The grass grows to about 4 feet in height with a similar spread. The texture of its stems can remind you of bamboo but there’s no relation despite the similar appearance. Horsetail can grow in standing water so it’s perfect for swampy regions. Although the plant isn’t technically a grass, it’s often used for the same purpose as an ornamental grass. It works great for accenting water gardens. You don’t need to worry about sun exposure with this plant as it can adapt equally well to full sun and deep shade.
11. Siberian Iris
Combining grassy foliage with graceful blossoms, the Siberian iris variety can be considered an attractive option for a plant that grows in wet soil. This type of iris will usually flower at the end of spring. It can tolerate moist conditions better compared to bearded irises. Proper water drainage isn’t a growing requirement for the Siberian iris so that represents an important advantage. Most gardeners grow this plant for its beautiful pink, blue, or purple blooms that tend to last quite long.
The intricate, frilly flowers of this type of iris create an even more vibrant impression through the contrast with the plant’s narrow foliage. Drought conditions can be damaging to the Siberian iris so you won’t have to worry if you pick a wet area in your yard. To maximize bloom production, it may be necessary to add some nitrogen-rich fertilizer, depending on soil quality. There aren’t any other care considerations when it comes to this plant as diseases and pests will rarely affect it.
12. Black Chokeberry
Native to North America swampy regions and damp thickets, the black chokeberry shrub is part of the Rosaceae family of plants. The plant is also commonly known as Aronia. It produces small black fruits that are rich in antioxidants. The raw flavor can be considered a bit strong so this is why the berries are usually processed into jams and juices. Black chokeberry shrubs can thrive in wet areas and will handle different types of soil assuming sufficient moisture is ensured.
Besides the production of tasty fruits, Aronia shrubs are also appreciated for other qualities. White blooms appear in the spring and they look stunning against the dark green foliage. The plant is most attractive in the fall when the leaves change their color to a brilliant shade of red. Chokeberry shrubs are commonly used for attracting wild birds and beneficial insects such as bees. Aronia maintenance will usually involve regular pruning and sucker removal to control unwanted spreading.
13. Red Twig Dogwood
Also known as Tatarian dogwood, this plant feels at home in a wet area in your yard. It can create an impressive visual display with the help of its red bark that grows fairly tall and wide. Red twig dogwood is often used to brighten up winter landscape as the shrub delivers year-round interest. They’re excellent specimen plants to rely on during the cold months. Sometimes they’re combined with other types of dogwood like yellow twig varieties. Aside from thriving in moist soil conditions, the plant is also a reliable choice for erosion control.
Shrubs of red twig dogwood produce variegated leaves and clusters of small flowers. White berries will appear later as well. In terms of light conditions, it’s recommended to ensure that this type of dogwood gets a healthy dose of sunlight. The plant thrives in full sun although it can handle partial shade. Wet woodland gardens can be very welcoming for red twig dogwood bushes. They are well adapted to grow along streams or ponds but have problems with very hot and humid climates.
Sedge is a large family of grasslike plants that tend to prefer moist to wet soil conditions. The texture of a sedge plant can be a great match for other plants that you may have in your yard. This hardy perennial is usually used as groundcover to take care of all those bare wet spots in the garden. It can be a helpful companion for other perennials as sedges can substitute mulching. Their foliage gives similar protection and can benefit pollinators.
The versatility seems to be the main highlight of sedge. Despite the impressive number of different varieties, it’s safe to say that these plants can adapt to all kinds of light conditions. Consistently moist soil represents the only requirement to keep sedge thriving as an ornamental groundcover. Sedges that are native to the US tend to spread quite effectively through rhizomes. These are the recommended options if you want to fill gaps between other plants but there are sedge varieties that grow in clumps or creepers which can be simpler to manage.
Commonly called ‘queen of the prairie’, the meadowsweet plant is a North America native that can make a stunning visual impression through its dainty stalks with fluffy flowers. Contrary to its delicate appearance, this plant is actually fairly tough in terms of growing conditions. It grows best in moist soil but you can count on it to tolerate different types of soil conditions. Meadowsweet is resistant to wind and has a fairly extended growing range when it comes to light conditions – from full sun to partial shade.
Queen of the prairie plants can reach maximum heights of 5 feet and perform ideally when grown in hardiness zones 3 to 8. While other perennials show off their blooms in the spring, meadowsweet flowers will start appearing later in midsummer. It can be a welcomed display once many other early blooming plants start to fade. The flowers of meadowsweet can resemble cloudlike clusters. Color varieties usually include shades of white and pink while the ferny foliage of this plant completes the garden bloom show.
Both shady sites and wet areas can take advantage of a splash of color provided by ligularia plants. The large foliage of this perennial can have some eye-catching color combinations such as blue/green or purple/burgundy. Ligularias are also appreciated for their spires of golden blooms which create a bold display anywhere. The plant can make quite the statement even when it’s not in bloom. To grow this plant successfully, you need to be aware that ligularias need constant moisture.
They can wilt very fast in hot climates so moisture-retentive soils work best to let them thrive. The nutritional content of the soil is another important aspect of caring for the ligularia plant. Extra compost could be required to improve poor soil conditions and help the plant’s stunning flowers grow as expected. In terms of sun exposure, it’s pretty hard to find an optimal balance. Afternoon sun can be damaging in warm climates but ligularias need enough light for flower production. Full shade can be tolerated but the plant seems to thrive in part sun.
17. Inkberry Holly
This is a slow-growing evergreen shrub that you can find in its natural environment near swamps and bogs. The inkberry holly gets its name from the black fruits that are only produced when plants of both sexes are grown close to each other. Considering its natural adaptation to wet areas, this shrub can perform great in damp soil. It’s recommended to plant inkberry holly plants grouped in masses if you wish to create low hedges. Aside from its glossy dark green foliage, the shrub bears white flowers from late spring to early summer.
Bees are particularly attracted to the flowers of inkberry so this is why the shrub can be used to provide food for beehives. Growing the inkberry holly involves a combination of full sun and rich soil that’s consistently moist. The shrub isn’t particularly fussy though. You can grow it well enough despite the lack of ideal conditions. It can tolerate shade pretty well and seems to prefer cool climates compared to other types of holly. Pruning isn’t really a necessity unless you want to give the inkberry a certain shape.
18. Marsh Marigold
The bright gold blooms of this plant can be often encountered in swampy areas. Marsh marigolds thrive in water gardens and they perform best along streams or ponds. The name of the plant strongly suggests that it prefers moist or boggy soil. With a maximum height of around 1.5 feet, these low-maintenance plants can be welcomed additions to brighten up soggy areas in your yard. Marsh marigold is commonly called cowslip and it produces sunny yellow flowers that act like magnets for butterflies and hummingbirds.
Marsh marigold can be grown very well together with other moist soil-loving plants such as meadowsweet, cardinal flower, and ligularia. Both part shade and full sun conditions can work well for cowslip. It depends on your location as the afternoon sun in hot climate areas can be damaging without proper protection. As long as the soil of the marsh marigold is consistently moist, it’s safe to say that you will enjoy a stunning floral display with minimal effort. The springtime blooms can create a memorable contrast with the shiny green foliage.
Turtlehead is a native wildflower that performs very well in wet areas. It can produce colorful flowers in late summer and grows up to 3 feet tall. As opposed to other plants that prefer moist conditions, turtlehead can also tolerate drought which makes it much more adaptable. The name of the plant comes from the distinctive look of its blossoms. The flowers of the turtlehead don’t represent the only notable feature of this plant. Its leather foliage can bring some much-needed visual interest and create a good backdrop for other plants nearby.
When it comes to color varieties, there aren’t many options to choose from as turtleheads will usually have blooms in shades of white and pink. If you keep the natural habitat of this plant in mind, it’s safe to say that you won’t have issues growing it in your yard. Choose the planting spot correctly to ensure adequate moisture and turtleheads will reward you with their beautiful qualities. Part sun exposure seems to be an ideal balance for this plant because full sun conditions might reduce soil moisture.
20. Calla Lily
If you’re searching for a unique-looking plant that thrives in warm climates and moist soil, the calla lily shouldn’t be missed. The graceful flowers of this plant can be found in a staggering range of colors. Choose between shades of red, yellow, pink, white, and orange to match the color scheme of your garden. The elegant style of the calla lily is often a highlight in wedding bouquets thanks to the trumpet shape of the flowers.
It’s recommended to bring multiple calla lilies together in the garden to take full advantage of their exquisite blooms. Select an area with moist soil that’s rich in organic matter. Fertilizer can give these plants a huge boost during the growing season. Pollinators appreciate calla lilies for their ability to attract beneficial insects. While most varieties don’t bloom for long, there are some new cultivars of calla that retain their flowers for extended periods of time.