I have recently moved to a smaller home and down one side and along the back of the property the soil stays soggy and wet. Right now everything is dead and overgrown and I want to clear it all out. What plants will tolerate “wet feet?” I haven’t got much time to spend in the garden, so I am looking for something low maintenance.
You would be surprised at the number of plants that you can grow in areas with poor drainage. Some of these will actually grow in standing water. I regularly add pots of cannas, yellow flag iris and calla lilies to the garden pool in my fountain garden.
If you are looking for low maintenance I suggest you try a combination of trees and shrubs with a few perennials mixed in to add bloom and texture.
Here is a shortlist of plants that will tolerate “wet feet.”
Possumhaw (Ilex decidua) – This deciduous holly produces bright red berries in winter. It can be either a small tree or large shrub. Zones 5 – 9. 20′ tall x 15′ wide.
Red Maple (Acer rubrum) – Also known as a Swamp maple, this tree has brilliant fall foliage. I have 2 ‘Red Sunset’ planted at the front entrance to my garden. Zones 3 – 9. Height and width vary with cultivar.
River Birch (Betula nigra) – This tree has interesting bark and brilliant yellow fall foliage. Zones 4 – 9. 60′ tall x 40′ wide.
Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) – A vigorous grower, give this tree plenty of room mature. Attractive, mottled bark. Zones 5 – 8. 80′ tall x 70′ wide.
Weeping Willow (Salix babylonica) – Perhaps the best known water-tolerant tree. Graceful weeping branches. Zones 6 – 9. 40′ tall x 40′ wide. Roots tend to be invasive.
Bottlebrush Buckeye (Aesculus parviflora) – This is one of my favorite accent shrubs. Candle like blooms appear in midsummer. Thrives in all but the most poorly drained soils. Zones 5 – 9. 10′ tall x 15′ wide.
Florida Anise (Illicium floridanum) – In late spring and early summer, this native American shrub produces fragrant star-shaped flowers. Moist but well-drained soil. Zones 7 – 9. 8′ tall x 8′ wide.
Redtwig Dogwood (Cornus stolonifera) – This is a great shrub because of its bright red stems. I like to use it in my winter container designs. Tolerates wet soils. Zones 2 – 8. 6′ tall x 12′ wide.
Sweet Pepperbush (Clethra alnifolia) – The sweet scent produced by the flowers on this shrub makes it a must-have for any fragrant garden. Moist but well-drained soil. Zones 3 – 9. 8′ tall x 8′ wide.
Astilbe (Astilbe simplicifolia) – One of my favorite astilbes is ‘Sprite’ because of its unique airy, shell-pink flowers and dark, bronze-green foliage. Prefers moist, humus-rich roil. Zones 4 – 8.
Bee Balm (Monarda didyma) – I like this plant because the bees and the hummingbirds find it so attractive. Blooms for an extended period. My favorite is ‘Marshall’s Delight’ because of its clear pink flowers and resistance to powdery mildew. Zones 4 – 9.
Calla Lilies (Zantedeschia aethiopica) – The flowers produced by these summer bulbs remind me of fabric from the 1940s. I grow ‘Green Goddess’ in 1-gallon black nursery pots in my garden pool. Zones 8 – 10.
Canna – Another great plant for growing in standing water. ‘Black Knight’ always has a place in my summer garden because of its deep red foliage. It looks great when planted with purple fountain grass. Zones 8 – 11.
Elephant’s Ear (Colocasia esculenta) – These fun summer bulbs are an easy and quick way to add height and texture to your garden. ‘Black Magic’ is a deep purple, almost black variety. Tolerates fairly wet soils. Zones 8 – 11
Joe-Pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum) – I was surprised and delighted to find this native American flower growing in the English garden of Arley. Prefers moist but well-drained soils. Grows up to 7′ tall. Zones 3 – 9.
Iris – Many iris are tolerant of soggy soil conditions. Japanese iris, Siberian iris, and yellow flag iris are a few that I grow in my garden.
Mint (Mentha) – Mint is a rampant grower that easily runs out of control. This is what also makes it perfect for soggy areas of the garden where nothing else will survive. To limit its spread it can be grown in containers with the bottoms cut out and buried in the ground.
Royal Fern (Osmunda regalis) – This fern does particularly well in poorly drained areas. Will tolerate full sun as long as ample moisture is available. Its regal stature, growing to 6′ tall, makes it a winner for the garden. Zones 4 – 9.
Spiderwort (Tradescantia virginiana) – I have an area in my garden where the irrigation system floods on a regular basis. The spiderwort loves it there. One of my favorites is ‘Innocence’. It’s pure white flowers light up shady areas from summer until fall. Zones 5 – 9.