Overwatering your plants will kill them — as any gardener who’s ever “gone above and beyond” in their quest to quench a plant’s thirst knows, soggy and waterlogged soil will cause foliage to wilt and yellow, leaves to rot, and plants to drown and die.
That’s true for houseplants, but just as accurate when it comes to those tricky low-lying areas of your garden, that always collect rainwater.
Do you have to take radical landscaping steps to change the soil conditions in your garden? That could be an option, yes, but gardeners can also simply choose to work with what they’ve been given.
By opting to add plants that don’t just tolerate, but also actively like, wet soil to the wet and soggy areas of your garden, you can turn a problem area into a favorite spot in no time.
Some of the plants that love wet soil are just so awesome that you’ll soon be thankful that you have soggy low-lying spots in your green space — and here’s a closer look at 14 of the top contenders.
Best Plants That Love Wet Soil
Primroses — Primula — constitute a large genus of more than 450 different species. All are beautiful and low-growing ornamental perennials best-known for their showy blooms, which come in nearly all colors of the rainbow.
Primula vulgaris, or the common primrose, is an extremely thirst plant that’s just perfect for the wetter areas of your garden, so long as you have a well-draining soil type.
The common primrose will liven the soggy parts of your garden up with delightful white, cream, or yellow funnel-shaped flowers during the spring, and veteran gardeners would warmly recommend it for a “rainy garden” just like your own!
Before you get the common primrose, or any other primrose species, started in your garden, you’ll want some specs — so here they are:
- Primroses are typically compact plants that will grow to be around 20 inches (half a meter) tall.
- The showy leaves of the common primrose can be eaten and even have some medicinal value.
- Primroses bloom in April, developing small but pretty flowers that will attract pollinators.
- Primroses do best in partial shade or dappled shade, meaning sunlight through a tree canopy.
- They like moist conditions but do need proper drainage, and can do well in clay or loamy soils with a neutral pH value.
- Primroses can be planted in small spaces.
2. Swamp Azaleas
These moisture-loving plants, scientifically known as Rhododendron viscosum, have open growth habits and will easily take up a lot of space in the soggier parts of your garden. You won’t mind, because swamp azaleas reward you with stunning and fragrant white flowers in late spring to early summer, and specialized bees will soon be paying your garden a visit, too!
Swap azaleas might be a good fit for your garden if:
- The wet soil you’re looking to fill with a beautiful shrub is in a spot that receives six hours of direct sunlight a day, or partial shade with at least two hours of sun.
- You’re in a coastal or mountainous region.
- You’re looking to plant a pollinator magnet that will make bees and butterflies very happy, but that’s unfortunately quite severely poisonous to cats, dogs, horses, and people.
- You need a plant that can withstand hot summer temperatures.
3. Elephant Ears
More commonly known as elephant ears or taro, Colocasia esculenta is another incredibly thirsty plant that will take all the moisture you can throw at it!
This herbaceous perennial, which is native to the wetter regions of East Asia, is most beloved for its large and smooth evergreen leaves, which can be green, burgundy, tan, and even variegated, and have a variety of shapes and sizes that depend on the precise cultivar.
They spread horizontally, and will thrive in your garden if:
- You can offer them full sun to partial shade.
- Have moist, clay or loamy, soil.
- You live in a warmer climate.
- Don’t mind the fact that elephant ears are poisonous to most pets, as well as humans.
4. Canna Lilies
These lilies, also known as arrowroot or canna lilies, are most popular for their incredible flowers that can, depending on the exact species, be cream, yellow, orange, red, pink, or variegated in color and that bloom in the fall and summer. Their sheathing leaves are equally attractive. While canna lilies are high-maintenance plants that novices might not want to grow and care for, they can tolerate a wide variety of conditions — including extremely moist and even drenched soil.
Consider growing canna lilies in wet soil if you can also:
- Offer these plants full sun or partial shade.
- Have a clay or loam soil that’s nutrient rich and slightly on the acidic side.
- Temperatures don’t drop below 25 °F (-4 °C) in your garden.
As a plus, canna lilies aren’t poisonous and love being planted near pools or ponds — and they can also thrive in vertical gardens!
5. Bleeding Heart
Lamprocapnos spectabilis, previously called Dicentra spectabilis but more commonly known as the Asian bleeding heart, Japanese bleeding heart, or simply bleeding heart, is a fast-growing herbaceous perennial that loves shady and wooded areas. Their elegant heart-shaped blooms, which are pink and white, emerge during the spring, and their green rosette leaves (which resemble ferns) are a pleasure to look at, too.
- Need shade to thrive — don’t plant them in sunny areas!
- Love coastal and mountainous regions, where they tolerate any soil condition so long as it’s wet but well-draining.
- Make for excellent shade borders. Their modest height of about a foot (30 centimeters) dwarfs their impressive spread of around two feet (60 centimeters). Due to their mountainous origins, bleeding hearts also make for excellent plants in a rock garden, so long as you can offer wet soil.
- Are mildly poisonous. In other words, don’t eat them, but also be mindful of the fact that their sap can cause contact dermatitis in sensitive people.
If you’re looking for the showiest possible flowering plant for your wet soil, Japanese bleeding hearts have got to be the Number One contender!
This uniquely attractive plant, which is native to Central and Easterm Canada and the United States, goes by many different names. Scientifically called Arisaema triphyllum, it’s also called the bog onion, devil’s ear, dragon root, and Indian cradle.
Jack-in-the-pulpit is by far the most popular name for this woodland wildflower, which can reach impressive heights of around two feet (over half a meter).
The large tubular bloom of the Jack-in-the-pulpit, which appears in spring, is easily its most attractive feature. The upright spike at the center of the action gives rise to numerous smaller flowers, which can range from a deep copper or green color to a lavender or white shade.
Know what you’re getting into before acquiring a Jack-in-the-pulpit, though:
- This plant is extremely poisonous to people, as well as pets like cats and dogs. It’s not a child-friendly plant at all. Choose the Jack-in-the-pulpit for its beauty, not its safety.
- These deciduous plants need partial to deep shade to be able to thrive — never plant your Jack-in-the-pulpit in an open and sunny spot!
- Jack-in-the-pulpits need moist and well-draining, as well as rich, soil to remain healthy. They are not at all picky about pH levels, and grow well in coastal or mountainous areas.
- Plenty of plants attract pollinators and songbirds. The Jack-in-the-pulpit is no different. In addition to that, though, the Jack-in-the-pulpit also offers a mini-reptile paradise. Turtles love to eat the berry-like fruits of the Jack-in-the-pulpit, which emerge during the fall period.
7. Black chokeberry
Are you looking for a fast grower that will cover the wet soil in your garden in no time? The black chokeberry shrub, scientifically known as Aronia melanocarpa, might be just what the doctor ordered!
This upright deciduous shrub spreads widely, and is well adapted to a great variety of conditions — although the black chokeberry shrub appreciates full sun, it also likes partial shade just fine, and favors wet soil.
Native to the eastern regions of North America, the black chokeberry can grow to be three to six feet (one to two meters) tall, although it tends to become leggy. The deep purple to black berries, which make their appearance in fall, have the added advantage of being edible. Although the berries are sour, they can be put to good use in jellies. Before the berries emerge, the black chokeberry shows its tiny pink flowers in early summer.
Get a black chokeberry shrub for your wet garden if:
- You want a low-maintenance plant that will quickly grow to take up a lot of space.
- Are after a shrub that can do well in full sun to partial shade, though you’ll have more berries if you can offer full sun.
- Are looking for a shrub that can serve as a living hedge.
- Like the thought of growing something you can eat, and want pollinators like bees and butterflies around, in addition to birds and small mammals.
- Want a plant that can thrive in any moist soil type with adequate drainage.
8. Winterberry Holly
Winterberry holly (Ilex verticillata) is a luscious deciduous shrub that’s part of the Aquifoliaceae family, with its best feature unquestionably being its gorgeous bright red berries that will stay on the shrub all the way through the winter.
The winterberry holly, also known as common winterberry and black alder, is a great choice for landscaping that’s sure to brighten up any winter garden. Winterberry hollies will usually be around three to 15 feet tall and three to 15 feet (one to five meters) wide — thought this depends on the species.
Winterberry holly can be yours if you:
- Can commit to giving it moist, but well-draining, acidic soil — and the winterberry holly likes loamy, sandy, and clay soil types best.
- Keep it away from your furry friends, as it is toxic to most common pets. Also, DO NOT eat the berries, and seek immediate medical attention if someone in your life so happens to decide to munch on them.
- Keep your winterberry holly in either deep shade, partial shade, or expose it to the full sun — it doesn’t care much.
- Incorporate winterberry holly into a pollinator garden, winter garden, or rain garden — these aren’t your only choices, because this shrub will look great almost anywhere.
9. Pussy Willow
Pussy Willow (Salix discolor) is a deciduous shrub that’s native to North America. This shrub will reward you with soft furry catkins in the springtime — and although many people love that, they do make your garden a little messy.
The pussy willow grows to be six to 25 feet (two to eight meters) tall with a spread of four to 15 feet (one to five meters). The pussy willow also produces white flowers with yellow stamens in March and April.
While Salix discolor is the most popular pussy willow plant, there are two European species too — Salix caprea and Salix cinerea. This bush grows really fast and won’t require that much maintenance.
Looking for a good location for your pussy willow bush? Some great landscaping locations for this handsome shrub are near a pond or a meadow or on your lawn or a recreational play area.
These shrubs are a superb choice for people looking to liven up their garden and attract pollinators, as they’re irresistible to bees, butterflies, and songbirds!
All your pussy willow will need from you is:
- Moist, loamy, and rich soil with neutral acidity and good drainage. Pussy willows flourish in water-rich moist conditions, making great additions to ponds or streams — just what you were looking for if you have wet soil!
- Regular pruning, especially if you want to keep your pussy willow more compact. Pruning is important for pussy willow plants, as they are rather weak and regular pruning will prevent them from frost damage.
- Full sun, preferably six or more hours of direct sunlight, though they can do fine with some shade.
- A temperate climate, because pussy willows don’t like cold winters.
A couple of different species go by the common name “inkberry”, but we’d like to suggest Ilex glabra for your soggy garden. These broadleaf evergreens belong to the holly family, and are a popular choice for swampy or boggy areas — because these shrubs love wet soil. N
ative to North American coastal plains, they’re often planted in coastal regions. Inkberry shrubs do flower, but you’ll hardly notice that. Their small, black, berries are the inkberry’s defining feature, which also makes these shrubs a great candidate for any garden you’d like to see more wildlife in.
Are you hooked, yet? Hang on — only add Ilex glabra to your garden if:
- You’re looking for a tall shrub that can grow to be five to 10 feet (a meter and a half to three meters) tall.
- Your garden receives full sun to partial shade, as these shrubs don’t cope well with deep shade.
- Have acidic clay or loam soil. Good drainage is desired, but inkberry doesn’t mind being “flooded”, either.
11. Weeping Willow
The weeping willow tree — Salix babylonica — has achieved worldwide fame for its drooping branches, which provide a lovely atmosphere.
These short trees are best placed at the edges of ponds or lakes, making them a prime choice for wet areas in your garden. Unlike so many other trees, weeping willows actually like standing water or waterlogged soil.
Here’s what you need to know to keep your weeping willow healthy:
- These trees need at least six daily hours of full sun.
- They absolutely need wet soil, which was exactly what you were after.
- Weeping willows attract pollinators and birds.
- The maximum height of these trees is around 50 feet (15 meters), and their spread is nearly as wide — you’ll need ample space for a weeping willow!
12. Red Maple
Red maple (Acer rubrum) is a deciduous tree from the Sapindaceae family. It is rather easy to grow, because once this tree gets started, there’s no stopping it.
The red maple — which is also called the curled maple, scarlet maple, soft maple, and Carolina maple — has an average size of 40 to 70 feet (12 to 21 meters) tall and has a spread of around 30 feet. The red maple prospers with six or more hours of direct sunlight and loves moist loamy soil.
The red maple has so many alluring features that it’s hard to decide what’s best about this tree:
- The red maple’s enchanting leaves will turn a lovely shade of red in the fall and can also be gold, green, and orange.
- The red maple can bear enticing edible fruits — samara fruits!
- Red maple trees don’t only look pretty in the fall but have delightful and fragrant small red flowers in the spring and winter.
- It’s no surprise that the red maple attracts many pollinators, making it perfect for someone wishing to start a pollinator garden. Some of the animals you can expect to see more of if you have this tree include songbirds, butterflies, moths, small mammals, and bees. This tree will definitely make your garden seem a lot more lively!
13. Virginia Creeper (Engelman’s Ivy)
The Virginia creeper is a deadly deciduous woody vine that grows incredibly fast and “creeps” up your walls. It’s poisonous to humans and pets and in extreme cases, the Virginia creeper’s fruits can be fatal. The Virginia creeper grows in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.
A lot of people view the Virginia creeper as a nuisance, as it spreads fast. However, the cultivar ‘Engelman’s Ivy’ is easier to control and won’t spread as quickly, making it a great choice for those who want the beauty of the Virginia creeper without having to worry that it will end up literally everywhere.
Some people complain that the Virginia creeper’s leaves aren’t anything special. The leaves of the Engelman’s Ivy vine prove them wrong — they are absolutely breath-taking, turning to a deep red shade in fall. This vine will be perfect along your fences, climbing the sides of your house, or on a trellis.
Hoping to bring home an Engelman’s Ivy? Let’s recap some important details:
- Engelman’s Ivy is a fast grower and can usually grow to 40 feet (12 meters) tall with a spread of 24 inches.
- This charming vine attracts birds and pollinators, though deer will leave the Engelman’s Ivy alone.
- All types of Virginia creeper are incredibly adaptive and not at all picky about their soil. Engelman’s Ivy is no exception and will flourish in moist soil.
14. Purple Passionflower
The purple passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) is just one of hundreds of different variants of the passionflower, which is native to North and South America. Purple passionflowers — also ca sometimes called apricot vines or passion vines — are fast-growing trailing vines that are often grown on trellises.
Purple passionflowers are also called “maypops”, which is a reference to the noise made when their fruits are squished. The fruits themselves, are edible berries that are ready to harvest in the fall or summer. They are fleshy egg-shaped fruits and taste a little like apricots.
Some steps you’ll need to take to care of a purple passionflower are:
- Keep the passion vines in full sunlight or partial shade with a few hours of direct sunlight. Purple passionflowers don’t do well in droughts and will need one to one and a half inches of water each week if there has not been rain.
- Give the maypops moist soil that is either clay, loam, or sand based, high in organic matter and with a neutral to acidic pH level.
- Place your purple passion flower in a warm spot, as they thrive in hotter conditions. In cooler climates, your purple passion flower may need winter protection.
A Final Word
These amazing plants, shrubs, and trees are just the start — you can do so much more with your wet soil than you could ever have imagined! If anything screams “no, there’s no need to invest in better drainage”, it’s this collection of wonderfully diverse plants, whicch are guaranteed to turn your garden into an oasis!