Even the best-planned landscapes can have problems with moisture accumulation, whether due to settling after construction or heavy, seasonal rains. Nearby hardscape, such as patios, walkways and driveways, can add to the problem. Turn wet areas in your landscape from a detriment to a benefit by adding plants that flourish on wet soil. Knowing which plants absorb excess water in a yard can help you design a water-tolerant landscape that complements your home and resolves drainage issues.
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A wide range of water-loving trees, shrubs and perennials will soak up the excess water and thrive in boggy conditions. From willows to sweet woodruff to iris, choose plants appropriate to your USDA plant hardiness zone and sun exposure to make a wet, boggy spot a focal point in the landscape.
Trees retain as much as half of the rain falling on their leaves, cutting down on moisture before it hits the ground. Then their extensive root systems, which can extend three times or more the height of the tree, absorb water from the soil. Excessively wet soils can be devoid of oxygen, but select trees have adapted to thrive in wet soils.
Best Tree Species for Excess Moisture
- Willow (Salix spp., zones 2-9)
- Ash (Fraxinus spp., zones 3-9)
- Red maple (Acer rubrum, zones 2-9)
- River birch (Betula nigra, zones 3-9)
Many native shrub species are particularly suited to wet gardens designed to absorb yard runoff. Like trees, shrubs interrupt rainfall before it hits the ground and absorb moisture from the soil through well-developed root systems. A tall flowering shrub trimmed to a multi-stemmed tree form can become the central point of a rain garden.
Best Native Shrubs for Excess Moisture
- Redosier dogwood (Cornus sericea, zones 3-8)
- Spice bush (Lindera benzoin, zones 5-9)
- Highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum, zones 3-8)
- Common winterberry (Ilex verticillata, zones 3-9)
Moisture-Absorbing Flowering Perennials
An abundance of flowering perennials thrive in wet soils, absorbing pooling moisture with beautiful effect. Low-growing forest species such as Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum, zones 4-9) and sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum, zones 4-8) turn shady, wet areas into woodland gardens.
If your boggy spot is in full sun, consider planting swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata, zones 3-9). As a bonus, swamp milkweed is a food source for Monarch butterfly caterpillars. Rose mallow (Hibiscus laevis, zones 4-9) provides beautiful white to pink flowers on 4- to 6-foot tall shrubs.
Sweet flag (Acorus gramineus, zones 4-9), and many types of iris (Iris spp.) thrive and multiply on wet soils. Many wet-tolerant perennials produce sweet smelling flowers along with lovely foliage to turn wet areas of your yard into beautiful gardens.
Best Flowering Perennials for Excess Moisture
- Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum, zones 4-9)
- Sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum, zones 4-8)
- Swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata, zones 3-9)
- Rose mallow (Hibiscus laevis, zones 4-9)
- Sweet flag (Acorus gramineus, zones 4-9)
- Iris (Iris spp.)