Too much water in parts of many landscapes is a problem for some home owners. Keep in mind, there is a difference in areas that are slow draining with soil that stays wet for periods of time, and flooded, soggy areas in landscapes. The problem can be one that occurs all year long, seasonal, may be drainage overflow, or flow to a low point in the yard. Whatever the reason, there is a way of turning a moist, slow draining area to your advantage. Some plants and shrubs thrive in wet areas, and with the right ones you can still achieve an interesting and attractive landscape.

Problems vary with damp areas in your landscape. It is often hard to get plants and shrubs to grow in these areas unless the right ones are chosen. Mosquitoes and other annoying insects are encouraged by soggy areas in your landscape so pests can be a problem for your plant. Moist areas can often emit an unpleasant smell, as well as visually make an area look quite ugly. Choosing the right damp soil tolerant plant is a great step in correcting these problems. Its good to note there is a difference in certain damp soil tolerant shrubs doing well in slow draining areas, and these tolerant shrubs not doing well in areas with constant standing water.

There are a number of damp soil tolerant shrubs to choose from – what it boils down to is personal preference. Hydrangeas come in a magnitude of colors and sizes and need more water to remain healthy. A friend of mine planted hydrangeas near their down spout and the plant took off and flourished. Because your front yard is a public space, use hydrangeas to frame and present your home; its entrance and other important features such as windows and porches, all which could be near gutter drains that sometimes overflow. Hydrangeas love moisture, in fact, its name comes from the Latin term hydra, which means water.

Another good choice are azaleas. They can handle moderate moist soil that drains within a couple hours. Azaleas has a shallow root system so regular watering is a necessity so the roots do not get dried out. Moisture evaporates easily in the upper 3 to 4 inches of soil, especially in dry climates. They grow well when given 1 inch of water once a week. Azaleas are a flowering shrub in the genus Rhododendron. Rhododendrons generally have much larger leaves and their flowers are bell shaped and have ten or more stamens, while azalea blooms are typically funnel shaped and have five stamens. Azaleas are more accommodating for landscapes and are more versatile for home owners. Azaleas are a one stop shop when it comes to beauty between the gorgeous, glossy hunter green foliage and the choices among many different colors to fit any setting in landscapes. Plant a low-growing border to soften the appearance of irregular or uneven ground. Areas where slight regular run off occurs in your landscape during showers and creates irregular or uneven ground is a poplar choice for azaleas.

No matter the area in your landscape with excess water in one form or another, it is best to know your yard in terms of why, when, and how much those areas get more water than other parts. Some areas could require a bit of landscape engineering which could be as simple as building up a low point so water does not pool for long periods of time or building up certain areas to direct water flow. No matter the water loving parts of landscapes, there is a moist soil tolerant plant out there for you.

Plants That Thrive in Wet Climates

It may be wet where you live, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a lush and beautiful garden. Whether your garden’s wet spots can be attributed to topography or seasonal drainage, it’s still possible to create a visually stunning landscape. The trick is to cultivate plants that grow well in wet soil. Many plants are touted for their ability to withstand dry conditions, but how often do you hear about plants that thrive in wet weather? Here are some water-loving perennials, shrubs, and trees that are sure to make your outdoor areas pop.


The best thing about perennials is that you can enjoy them year after year. Perennials that do well in moist environments thrive when exposed to excess moisture. Before you plant them, however, you might want to augment the soil with compost and humus to help improve its quality.

Japanese primrose grows well in consistently moist soil and is known for its bright flowers. Plant it in an area with partial shade where it’ll be able to readily self-sow. It’s very low maintenance and deer-resistant, too.
Lobelia cardinalis boasts red tubular (cardinal) flowers on tall spikes. Cardinal flowers are even considered wildflowers in many parts of the country. Plant them in a spot with moist, fertile soil and plenty of afternoon shade, unless you live in a cool area — then just plant it in the sun.
Marsh marigold is a succulent whose bright yellow flowers resemble those of a buttercup. It grows best in woodland areas, bogs, and ponds. This plant is epsecially helpful for attracting beneficial insects, hummingbirds, and butterflies.
Many varieties of irises thrive in wet conditions, including Louisiana irises, yellow flag irises, Siberian irises, and Dorothea K. Williamson irises.
Ostrich fern features green fronds that add textural interest to any garden. Although it spreads easily, you can keep it under control by simply removing all unwanted shoots.
Creeping jenny is a type of groundcover known for its bright green foliage and yellow flowers.
Forget-me-nots may be short-lived, but they do provide a bright splash of color in the springtime. Since they readily self-seed, you’ll be able to enjoy their flowers for years to come.
Calla lilies add lasting color to your garden and grow well in moist conditions. If you live in an area that experiences cold weather in the winter, dig up their rhizomes in the fall and replant them in the spring.

Hydrangeas look great in any garden but tend to grow best in areas where the soil is moist. Hibiscus flowers also do well in these climates and allow you to enjoy colorful blooms all summer long.

Use shrubs to add some height and visual interest to your garden. Many shrubs also serve as natural barriers and create a greater sense of privacy.
Buttonbush is a tall shrub that can grow up to 12 feet tall. It features deep green leaves and colorful flowers. Be warned, birds love noshing on this shrub’s seeds!
Tatarian dogwood is an easily adaptable shrub that thrives in soils both wet and dry. While most shrubs and flowers shine in the spring, this shrub turns into an absolute showstopper during the fall and winter months. The plant features bright berries and red stems, and although its flowers aren’t particularly notable, they do provide essential nourishment to birds and other wildlife.
Winterberry is another shrub that stands out in the winter. After the shrub loses most of its leaves in the fall, bright berries begin to appear on the stems. This plant can grow up to 15 feet tall, so be sure to give it plenty of room to thrive.

Atlantic white cedar thrives in wetland areas. These trees tend to grow very tall and are often used for lumber due to their durability and resistance to decay.
Black and green ash trees are medium-sized trees with scaly bark. They flower in the spring. Black ash is most commonly used to make woven wooden baskets. Green ash is a hardy tree that’s often used to replace felled elm trees. It grows in a variety of soils, including moist, wet, and clay soils.
Red maple trees also provide visual interest year-round thanks to their vibrant color. They grow quickly and are generally considered to be low-maintenance trees.
Sweetbay magnolia, also known as swamp magnolia, is an evergreen tree that can grow up to 100 feet tall. It’s found in swampy areas along the East Coast, and it’s known for its white, strongly-scented flowers. Many birds rely on its seeds for nourishment.

Bonus Planting Tips

If the area you’re planting in is consistently wet, be sure to put down a few inches of coarse sand and pebbles to prevent algae from growing in it.
If you want to maintain wet soil year-round, consider creating a partially man-made bog area. To do this, just remove the soil in the area you’d like to create the bog in, lay down a black plastic tarp, and fill it with fertile soil. Fill it with plants (like those mentioned above) that will thrive in wet conditions. The plastic will help maintain moisture.

How to choose the best trees for wet soils

Selecting the right trees for your site can be a daunting process, especially if you have the added issue of contending with difficult site conditions, as well as satisfying your tastes and styles. Selection of tree species to plant in areas prone to water logging or damp conditions is fairly limited, as there are only a number of trees that will tolerate this adverse condition. Generally trees need both oxygen and water blended in measure in which to thrive but in recent times too much rain has contributed to standing water and flash flooding where only the wetland group of trees are able to survive. Typically, for areas that get saturated for more than one week of the year the following Genus are best to plant; Alder, Willow, Poplar and Swamp Cypress. The following are our top 5 recommended trees for wet soils:

Alnus glutinosa (Alder)

Betula nigra (River Birch)

Populus tremula (Poplar)

Salix alba Tristis (Weeping Willow)

Taxodium distichum (Swamp Cypress)

Apart from the Swamp Cypress all of these can be planted as multi stems or standards and are a great way to lock up soils that may be prone to erosion. Multi stems are also great on windy sites as they are bottom heavy and are easy to establish without worrying about staking.

Don’t be tempted to go with any other genus on land prone to repeated waterlogging. Prunus, for example, will hate it and soon fail so beware, you can’t outwit Mother Nature! Choosing the wrong tree species for a water logged sites can have extremely detrimental results, as wet sites cause restriction in root productivity, root decay and even tree failure in very short periods of time. Therefore, choosing trees for your project that are tolerant of wet conditions from the offset is a great way of avoiding the disappointment of tree failure and ensuring that the trees you plant pass the test of time.

If you are tempted by alternatives, one thing you can do to aid planting succes is mound plant, i.e. planting with half of the container root system above ground level and mounding up the soil to cover it. By planting proud of ground level you are likely to give the root system greater and longer access to oxygen as the some of the root system will be above the water line.

When planting Barcham Trees you have the added benefit of immediate results following tree planting, as our unique container grown tree production method produces trees with a complete root system that will readily establish and continue to thrive from that point onwards. If you need any help or advice, please do not hesitate to contact our experienced tree team via chat, email or telephone.

9 Trees that Can Survive Flooding

It’s that time of year, where storms, hurricanes, and flooding become more common. Storms deliver torrential rain that can lead to massive flooding, damaging homes, businesses, and sometimes our community trees. But some tree species are more tolerant than others at withstanding the impact of a storm and its aftereffects like puddles, soil deposition, and rushing streams.

Here are 9 tree species that can weather a storm in wet soil and flood conditions.

1. River Birch

Betula nigra

As its name suggests, the river birch naturally grows along river banks. But as a landscape tree, it can be planted almost anywhere in the U.S. The species is valued for its relatively rapid growth, tolerance of wetness and some drought, unique curling bark, spreading limbs and relative resistance to birch borer.

The river birch has not yet reached the popularity of many maples and oaks, but it is well on its way. In 2002, one of its cultivars was even named the Urban Tree of the Year by the Society of Municipal Arborists.

Hardiness zones 4-9.

Read: How You can Help Restore Communities and Forests Devastated by Recent Hurricanes

2. Black Tupelo

Nyssa sylvatica

Called “one of the best and most consistent native trees for fall color” by tree expert Michael Dirr, the black tupelo is a terrific landscaping choice. Displaying various hues of yellow, orange, bright red and purple—often on the same branch—its foliage is a stand-out of the autumn season. Even the distinctive bark, which resembles alligator hide, adds visual and textural interest.

And while its blooms may not seem noteworthy, bees will be very appreciative of the presence of this tree, as it serves as an important late-spring food source.

Hardiness zones 4-9.

3. Weeping Willow

Salix babylonica

This graceful giant is known for its open crown of wispy, ground-sweeping branches and long, slender leaves. Often seen as one of the first indications of spring, the weeping willow’s yellow twigs and green foliage appear early in the season—sometimes as early as February.

The tree is easy to grow and quick to take root, reaching heights between 30′ and 40′ and nearly the same in width. It lends itself well to planting singly or in small groves near the edge of ponds, lakes and rivers.

Hardiness zones 6-8.

4. Baldcypress

Taxodium distichum

The Baldcypress tree is the classic tree of southern swamps. There, in its habitat, it displays a peculiar habit of raising conical “knees” from its roots. The function of these growths is something of a mystery, although some believe it is a way to help the roots get oxygen. This tree dwells in swamps because it out-competes most other trees on such sites.

To the surprise of some people, the baldcypress does quite well when planted in the right soil in yards or along streets and is a beautiful specimen tree. It has been grown successfully in cities as far north as Milwaukee and on dry Texas hills.

Hardiness zones 4-10.

5. Red Maple

Acer rubrum

Red maple is one of the best named of all trees, featuring something red in each of the seasons—buds in winter, flowers in spring, leafstalks in summer, and brilliant foliage in autumn. This pageant of color, along with the red maple’s relatively fast growth and tolerance to a wide range of soils, makes it a widely planted favorite.

The natural range of red maple begins roughly at the eastern edge of the Great Plains north to Lake Superior, extending eastward to the Atlantic. But homeowners and urban foresters are growing this tree all across the United States.

Hardiness zones 3-9.

Read: Are You Ready for Hurricane Season?

6. Hackberry

Celtis occidentalis

The hackberry, while often forgotten by casual consumers, is commonly heralded by tree experts as “one tough tree.” Found on a wide range of soils east of the Rockies from southern Canada to Florida, these trees thrive in a broad span of temperatures and on sites that vary from 14 to 60″ of annual rainfall. They can even stand up to strong winds and tolerate air pollution.

All this hardiness adds up to a good landscape choice, particularly if you’re looking for an energy-conserving shade tree that doesn’t require watering.

Hardiness zones 3-9.

7. American Sweetgum

Liquidambar styraciflua

The American sweetgum—with its star-shaped leaves, neatly compact crown, interesting fruit and twigs with unique corky growths called wings—is an attractive shade tree. It has become a prized specimen in parks, campuses and large yards across the country.

If you’ve got the space and are looking to add some fall color, this tree is a sure bet. The glossy green leaves turn beautiful shades of yellow, orange, red and purple in the autumn.

8. Overcup Oak

Quercus lyrate

The overcup oak tree is a long-lived, very sturdy shade tree that will thrive in a wide variety of soil conditions. Long overlooked by growers, the tree is gaining popularity and has been made more readily available for home landscapes.

Because of its size, shape, adaptability and hardiness, the overcup oak makes an excellent urban street tree.

Hardiness zones 5-9.

9. California Sycamore

Platanus racemose

The California Sycamore is a majestic native with a rapid growth rate. In expansive landscapes, it can make a fine specimen tree. Standout features include a peeling, mottled trunk; a spreading crown; heat and wind tolerance; and enormous size.

While it is a beautiful tree, several factors should be considered when planting it, including size, fruit, dense branching, roots and moisture requirements.

Hardiness zones 7-10.

My window looks out on 9 Mile Creek, a rural looking creek in an urban/suburban environment in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota. In the six years our company has been here, this is the closest I’ve seen water come to the parking lot. For a number of weeks this spring and summer, the large ash trees on the 100 year floodplain were in standing water between one foot and three feet deep.

Below is a graph of Minnesota’s precipitation for the first half of 2014. Minnesota’s long-term annual average is 32.6 inches – as you can see we are almost there by June and the two wettest months of the year (July, August) have not yet passed.


A map from the early 2000s from the EPA predicted increases in very heavy precipitation (big storms) throughout the United States. The Northeast is predicted to have a 67 percent increase! Another map (looking like a patchwork quilt) from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shows that most of Minnesota has had an increase in precipitation by up to 20 percent since 1900. The same increase or more is seen in Indiana, Michigan, northern Illinois and the northeastern United Stations. All but two patches of the Eastern United States (Central Florida and Central/Southern Appalachia) have had a 10 percent increase in rain. Minnesota and the upper Midwest are predicted to have a 33 percent increase in these larger storms. I think now is a good time to make a list of trees, shrubs and vines that can tolerate standing water

Map courtesy Environmental Protection Agency


Here are plants that I have seen with my own eyes growing in standing water (<3′) for weeks at a time and surviving well. Most were in a natural condition, but I also witnessed a few with long flood durations in urban settings. The list is Midwestern and Eastern North America centered, pretty much east of the 100th meridian. Most of these trees and shrubs are hardy into USDA Zone 5, but notably not Red Mangrove (USDA Zone 10). There are other folks who have seen different trees in standing water, so it’s not comprehensive, but these are ones I can personally vouch for. This is qualitative not quantitative data. Some of these trees are not native, or are weak wooded with bad branch attachments. Many are light on aesthetics; Gary Johnson, Extension Professor in urban forestry at the University of Minnesota fondly describes some of them as “Junkyard Dogs.” I don’t get to use that phrase nearly enough.


Thuja occidentalis – Northern White Cedar/Arborvitae (thrives in higher pH soils)

Salix Babylonica – Babylon/Weeping Willow

Taxodium distichum – Bald Cypress (takes briny water)

Salix nigra – Black Willow

Picea mariana – Black Spruce (thrives in lower pH soils)

Quercus macrocarpa -Burr Oak (Hard to believe, but there it was)

Fraxinus nigra – Black Ash (I wouldn’t plant because of Emerald Ash Borer)

Acer negundo – Box Elder (right now it has been in standing water for weeks, outside my office/Kestrel on 9 Mile Creek)

Populus deltoides – Dogtooth Cottonwood

Fraxinus pennsylvanica – Green Ash (I wouldn’t plant because of Emerald Ash Borer)

Larix laricina – Eastern Larch (thrives in lower pH soils)

Acer rubrum – Red/Swamp Maple

Rhizophora mangle – Red Mangrove (takes salty water)

Nyssa biflora – Swamp Tupelo

Quercus bicolor – Swamp White Oak


Alnus incana – Alder

Vaccinium angustifolium – Blueberry (thrives in lower pH soils)

Cephalanthus occidentalis – Buttonbush

Potentilla fruticosa – Bush Cinquefoil/Potentilla (thrives in higher pH soils)

Sambucus canadensis – American Elderberry (right now it has been in standing water for weeks, outside my office/Kestrel on 9 Mile Creek)

Amorpha fruticosa – Indigobush

Myrica pensylvanica – Northern Bayberry (thrives in low pH soils)

Salix exigua – Sandbar Willow

Hypericum perforatum – St. Johnswort

Symphoricarpos occidentalis – Western Snowberry


Vitis riparia – Riverbank Grape

Climate change scientists have shown that the largest fluctuations in extremes are occurring in the Northern Hemisphere in the northern temperate and boreal climates. Currently south central Minnesota, where the twin cities of Minneapolis-St. Paul are located is experiencing one of the wettest years ever. A few people (me included) are interested in these statistics, because there is a pattern here in Minnesota: Winter 2011 was our mildest in decades; Spring 2012 was our earliest spring in 50 years; Summer 2012 had a prolonged drought; Winter 2012 was long and the coldest in 20 years; Spring 2013 was much wetter than average; Summer 2013 was a record breaking drought; Winter 2013 was the coldest in 40 years and the snowiest in 20 years, and Spring 2014 was our wettest ever. If I was a betting man I would say that the pattern is more extreme versions of each season: wetter springs, colder winters, drier summers and rosier red falls.

My advice is to become familiar with trees that can tolerate wet conditions. We’ll all be needing them.

Peter MacDonagh, FASLA, ISA, is Director of Science + Design at The Kestrel Design Group.

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

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Friday – February 20, 2009

From: Clifton Park , NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Rain Gardens
Title: What plants can absorb the excess water in my back yard?
Answered by: Jimmy Mills


I am looking for any plants and trees that can absorb the excess water in my back yard. There is a large area that is swampy and always wet. Could you please provide me some suggestions?


You don’t mention the source of the water, or how much there is. or whether it is there all of the time or only intermittently. This may be more of a problem for a hydrologist than for a botanist.

It is true that plants absorb moisture from the soil and release it through their leaves (transpiration), but absorbing excess water may be beyond the capability of most plants. Bear in mind that many plants can’t survive in soil that is saturated with water.

To find trees that can grow in moist/wet environments, go to the Explore Plants menu on the “Ask Mr. Smarty Plants” page and click on “Recommended Species”. Select the state of New York on the map, and you wiill get a list of 112 commercially available native plant species suitable for planned landscapes in New York. Select the Narrow Your Search option and choose Tree under “HABIT”, Perrenial under “DURATION”, and both Moist and Wet under “SOIL MOISTURE” and the list shrinks to 37. You can repeat the process , choosing Shrub under “HABIT”, and you will get a list of 14 shrubs.

I’ve done this to find five tree species that are adapted to grow in wet soils.

Bur Oak Quercus macrocarpa (bur oak)

Black Gum Nyssa sylvatica (blackgum)

Canadian Serviceberry Amelanchier canadensis (Canadian serviceberry)

Gray Birch Betula populifolia (gray birch)

American Beech Fagus grandifolia (American beech)

Our National Suppliers Directory can help you find nurseries in your area that handle these plants.

From the Image Gallery

Bur oak
Quercus macrocarpa
Nyssa sylvatica
Canadian serviceberry
Amelanchier canadensis
Gray birch
Betula populifolia
American beech
Fagus grandifolia

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Trees And Water – Wet Soil Trees For Standing Water Areas

If your yard has poor drainage, you need water loving trees. Some trees near water or that grow in standing water will die. But, if you choose wisely, you can find trees that not only grow in wet, swampy area, but will thrive and may even help correct the poor drainage in that area. Let’s look at how to choose wet soil trees and some suggestions for trees to plant in wet areas.

Your Tree and Water Drainage

The reason some trees die or grow poorly in wet areas is simply because they cannot breathe. Most tree roots need air as much as they need water. If they do not get air, they will die.

But, some water loving trees have developed the ability to grow roots without needing air. This allows them to live in marshy areas where other trees would die. As a home owner, you can take advantage of this trait to beautify your own wet and poorly drained areas.

Using Water Loving Trees to Correct Drainage Issues

Wet soil trees are a great way to help soak up excess water in your yard. Many trees that grow in wet areas will use large amounts of water. This trait causes them to use up much of the water in their vicinity, which may be enough to dry the surrounding area out enough so that other plants that are not as adapted to wet soil can survive.

A word of caution if you plant trees in wet areas. The roots of most wet soil trees are extensive and can possibly cause damage to pipes (though not often foundations). As we said, these trees need large amount of water to properly grow and if they use up all the water in the wet area of your yard, they will seek water elsewhere. Normally in urban and suburban areas, this will mean the tree will grow into water and sewer pipes looking for the water it craves.

If you plan on planting these trees near water pipes or sewers, either make sure the tree you choose does not have damaging roots or that the area you will be planting in has more than enough water to keep the tree happy.

List of Standing Water and Wet Soil Trees

All of the trees listed below will flourish in wet areas, even standing water:

  • Atlantic White Cedar
  • Bald Cypress
  • Black Ash
  • Freeman Maple
  • Green Ash
  • Nuttal Oak
  • Pear
  • Pin Oak
  • Plane Tree
  • Pond Cypress
  • Pumpkin Ash
  • Red Maple
  • River Birch
  • Swamp Cottonwood
  • Swamp Tupelo
  • Sweetbay Magnolia
  • Water Tupelo
  • Willow

8 Water-Loving Trees

Is there that one place in your yard or on your property that all the water seems to collect? The place that seems to kill any plant that you plant there and is just too wet for grass to survive. Here is a list of some trees that will grow well in this area. Be cautious when planting water loving trees, as some of the larger ones also have massive root systems that will search for water, often taking over septic tanks, field lines and water pipes. Click on the link of the tree that interests you for more information on it. Check out our article on water loving plants.

1. River birch, Betula nigra

This tree is very adaptable. It grows naturally beside creeks and in moist lowlands. It can handle dry clay soils but prefers moist, acidic and fertile soil. This tree needs room to grow and can take over a landscape when put in the wrong place. It will shade its lower branches once it gets large enough, dropping dead branches below. This tree is tough as nails and known for its beautiful exfoliating paper bark. Not recommended near the house, septic tank or near a lawn that likes sun. This tree is considered a fast grower and usually presents as a multiple trunk tree. This tree has good insect and disease resistance. “Heritage” is recommended cultivar.

2. Willow oak

No landscape is complete without a great shade tree and all landscapes need oak trees. The Willow oak is the oak of choice in urban areas because of its great shape and fast growth rate but ideal in a landscape setting. You can expect 2 feet of growth or more each year (fast for an oak). This trees abundant acorn production makes it a favorite for many different animals. Most often found in lowlands and along streams, Q. phellos can survive harsh urban settings as well. This tree is very resistant to insects and disease. Can be planted in areas of fluctuating water lavels and is often planted for its versatility and its lumber.

3. Bald cypress

The bald cypress is a pyramidal conifer that grows native in swamps or marshes. This tree is called “bald” because it is one of few conifers that go dormant, as most are evergreen. This conifer gets brilliant goldish-orange fernlike foliage in the fall and gets a bulbous trunk that protrudes just above the water or ground. This tree is very adaptable and can grow in dry, clay soil as well. Bald cypress is related to the redwood (Metasequoia) which can grow up to 300 feet tall. Bald cypresses grow 120 feet tall and can live to be over 600 years old.

4. Swamp white oak

This tree can live to be over 300 years old and develop a 60 foot round canopy. This tree lives alongside creeks and lowlands and can tolerate flooding just fine. This tree has great drought tolerance but can become susceptible to many insects and diseases. This tree may be harder to find, as they are not commonly mass propagated. It is said that over 400 swamp white oats are being planted at the September 11th memorial in Manhattan.

5. Sweet bay magnolia

Also known sometimes as sweet magnolia, swamp laurel or white bay, the Sweetbay magnolia is most prominent along creek sides and swampy lowlands in Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina but can grow as far north as Pennsylvania. This tree can handle extensive flooding or damp conditions. The silvery underside of these trees leaves puts on a brilliant show in the wind. Sweetbay can also handle well drained soil and makes a great specimen tree and will be the focal point in any landscape.

6. Weeping willow

When planted in the proper place there is not a more serene tree around. When planted in the wrong place, you may find yourself replacing your septic tank or field lines or having your water pipes drilled out. This tree has a massive root system and will seek any source of water. This trees canopy is vast and this trees roots will grow out of the ground, making mowing a problem and picking up or buckling any driveway or sidewalk that is remotely close. Give this tree plenty of space and a moist environment and it will put on quite a show. This tree is also a very fast grower.

7. Black tupelo

This tree has excellent fall color and does well in damp to wet places and can tolerate occasional flooding or standing water. Having a tap root makes it somewhat unique and nearly impossible to transplant. It is a very adaptable tree and can tolerate some drought and well drained dryer soil. This plant is dioecious, meaning that it comes in male and female and requires one of each to produce fruit and flowers which are insignificant. This makes a great lawn or street tree and is pretty resistant to insects and disease. It is also referred to as Black gum.

8. American sycamore

This tree grows to be a large, deciduous tree whose large leaves can really litter a yard. This tree is recommended for larger properties planted on a wood line or near a creek or lowland. This tree has very impressive colorful, peeling bark and a unique color bark that is unmistakable. This tree is adaptable and can tolerate some drought and well-drained soil. Sycamore has an invasive root system so avoid planting in the lawn or in high traffic areas. Sycamore is also a moderate to quick grower. Other names include Planetree, buttonwood and buttonball.

Other related articles:

15 Types of Evergreens Landscaping

10 Water Loving Plants

Types of Maple Trees

Fastest Growing Trees

Types of Oak Trees

Types of magnolia trees

Why wont Grass Grow Under My Trees

How to Grow Plants Using the Color Spectrum of Light

12 great live Christmas trees for the landscape

Types of pine trees

25 plants and trees with great fall color

Japanese Maple & other moisture-loving plants

A golden fullmoon maple (Acer shirasawanum ‘Aureum’ takes center stage in this in this moderately wet site.

(Rick Wetherbee)

Many of us in the Pacific Northwest deal with soggy clay soil, especially in spring. But there’s no need to let that put a damper on growing plants in wet places.

Sure, you can take the more expensive, mechanical approach with extensive drainage systems, dry creek beds or installing raised beds filled with imported garden soil. However, the easier and less expensive option is to utilize design tips for wet places, and to grow plant trees, shrubs and perennials with roots that can adapt to more soggy sites.

Degrees of wetness

There are many ways to transform a wet space from unusable to beautifully functional. But the key to making it work begins with understanding your site, its characteristics and seasonal conditions.

An area considered to be “soggy” is consistently wet and spongy with high water saturation. The soil is damp underfoot, but never swampy. Moderately wet sites have soil that is consistently moist but not waterlogged.

Areas that become saturated during the rainy season but reasonably dry out between rainfalls are considered intermittently or seasonally wet. This type of area may also be dry for several months once the rainy season is over.

Making the most of soggy sites

Besides rainfall, there are other factors that can contribute to soggy soil, especially if the growing area sits on a high water table or has soil that is heavy clay or drains poorly. If that soggy area sits in a shady spot protected from winds, it may remain wet or soggy year-round. Water from higher elevations and surrounding hardscapes — streets, driveways, rooftops — may collect in a low spot in the yard, resulting in soggy soil.

Wet areas such as these can provide a wonderful opportunity for creating high-impact designs. Turn a poorly drained, fairly sunny site into a wet meadow with appropriate bird- and butterfly-attracting wildflowers and grasses.

Is rainwater runoff an issue? A rain garden can utilize that runoff in a way that not only beautifies your space, but also benefits both wildlife and the environment. By employing a few rainscaping techniques, more water will filter into the soil or be contained for future use rather than being lost as runoff.

Low soggy areas and swales offer yet another opportunity for utilizing wet spaces. Swales between property lines or other low-lying areas offer an ideal environment for growing moisture-loving plants and grasses within the swale or along its edges.

Planting the swale with shrubs and perennials that tolerate wet soil will increase infiltration of nearby runoff into the soil. Of course, any low, soggy area also make the perfect spot for growing a wetland garden.

Style by design

Design ideas and strategies that work for other areas of a landscape apply equally well to gardens in wet places: combining plants in attractive groups, incorporating textural layers within the vertical space by arranging plants with good visual hierarchy, mixing a variety of colors and textures for visual interest, and finding a common thread that ties everything together through a consistent style.

Whether transforming a moderately wet space or a seasonally soggy area, the type and style of design you choose is best determined by the size of the area, how often and how long the area remains wet, the consistency of wetness (water depths and conditions may vary within the space) and the varying levels of sun and shade.

By putting all the pieces together, you will ultimately be better equipped to transform the problematic wet area in your yard into an asset with a purpose.

–Kris Wetherbee


The best mulch for soggy sites will depend on your design aesthetics, availability, cost factor, plant needs and the pH of your soil. Mulch from shredded hardwood or wood chips helps to build the soil while suppressing weeds. Mulching with wood chips will help capture nitrogen runoff in the area. Pine-based mulches work well with acid loving plants and biodegradable textiles help prevent erosion on slopes and hillsides.

Gunnera and pieris shine beautifully in this moist, shady area of the garden.


Depending on the cause, wet areas may be quite soggy, moderately and consistently wet or intermittently or seasonally wet. Fortunately, there are plants that thrive in each of these conditions. Here are a few plant options to get you started.

Plants for soggy sites



buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis), purple osier willow (Salix purpurea), scarlet rosemallow (Hibiscus coccineus), winterberry (Ilex verticillata)


Grass and rush-like plants:

Plants for moderately wet sites


Atlantic white cedar (Chamaecyparis thyoides), American hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana), fringe tree (Chionanthus virginicus), green ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica)



gunnera, hosta, ligularia, meadowsweet (Filipendula spp.), rodgersia, spiderwort (Tradescantia virginiana)

Plants for seasonally wet sites


American elm (Ulmus americana), hackberry (Celtis occidentalis), river birch (Betula nigra)


black chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa), Fothergilla, Kerria japonica, pussyswillow (Salix discolor), summersweet (Clethra alnifolia)


bluestar (Amsonia tabernaemontana), butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa), Coreopsis verticillata, false spirea (Astilbe spp.), geranium, obedient plant (Physostegia virginiana), scarlet monkey flower (Mimulus cardinalis), tufted hair grass (Deschampsia cespitosa), western bleeding heart (Dicentra formosa)

Correction: Yellow Flag (Iris pseudacorus) is an Oregon class B noxious weed and was removed from this list.

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