Even the best-planned landscapes can have problems with moisture accumulation, whether due to settling after construction or heavy, seasonal rains. Nearby hardscapes 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 in 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.
Trees retain as much as half of the rain falling on their leaves, cutting down on moisture before it hits the ground. Then extensive root systems absorb water from the soil. Excessively wet soils can be devoid of oxygen, but select trees have adapted to thrive in wet soils. Willows (Salix spp.), hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 2 through 9, and ash trees (Fraxinus spp.), hardy in USDA zones 3 through 9, grow successfully in wet soils, developing new air-filled roots to replace those damaged by flooding. Red maples (Acer rubrum), hardy in USDA zones 3 through 9, and river birch (Betula nigra), hardy in USDA zones 4 through 9, also thrive in waterlogged areas.
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. Native shrubs for wet areas include redosier dogwood (Cornus sericea), hardy in USDA zones 3 through 8, and spice bush (Lindera benzoin), hardy in USDA zones 4 through 9. Berry-bearing shrubs that can help resolve landscape drainage issues include the highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum), hardy in USDA zones 5 through 8, and common winterberry (Ilex verticillata), hardy in USDA zones 3 through 9.
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), hardy in USDA zones 4 through 9 lily, and sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum), hardy in USDA zones 4 through 8, turn shady wet areas into woodland gardens. Sweet flag (Acorus gramineus), hardy in USDA zones 5 through 9, and many varieties of Iris (Iris spp.), hardy from USDA zones 3 through 10, thrive and multiply in wet soils. Wet-tolerant perennials produce sweet smelling flowers along with lovely foliage to turn wet areas of your yard into beautiful gardens.
- PennState University Consumer Horticulture: Plants for Wet Sites
- Clemson University Extension: Plants for Damp or Wet Areas
- Virginia Cooperative Extension: Trees for Problem Landscape Sites
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Plant Finder
- University of Georgia School of Environmental Design: Low Impact Land Development--The Practice of Preserving Natural Processes
A freelance writer since 1978 and attorney since 1981, Cindy Hill has won awards for articles on organic agriculture and wild foods, and has published widely in the areas of law, public policy, local foods and gardening. She holds a B.A. in political science from State University of New York and a Master of Environmental Law and a J.D. from Vermont Law School.