Bog Garden Flowers

Flowering Plants for Wet Spots

Flower gardeners are so familiar with the drumbeat of good drainage for plants that flowers that require opposite conditions seem to be forgotten. Yet, there are flowers that thrive in wet soil, whether the situation is a pond margin or a low-lying corner of the landscape that never seems to dry out. Whether your soggy spot lies in sun or shade, you can make it a focal point by choosing one or more of these flowering bog garden specimens.
  • 01 of 10
    Purple astilbe close-up. High angle view.
    Anna Rise/E+/Getty Images

    The astilbe is a popular flower promoted by many garden centers for shade gardens. However, without an ample supply of moisture, these late spring through summer flowers will never reach their glorious potential. Astilbes are a slow growing perennial, so unless you’re planting a large group and wish to save money, start with potted plants. In spite of the astilbe’s need for abundant moisture (dry spells will induce dormancy), some drainage during the winter months is necessary. Astilbes are...MORE heavy feeders, so regular soil amendment and fertilizer is important.

  • 02 of 10
    Red Cardinal Flower
    The Red Lobelia, or Cardinal Flower, Is Loved by Hummingbirds. Photo © Lee Coursey

    A native red flower that attracts hummingbirds to shady areas? Yes, please. The spikes of cardinal flowers can reach eight inches on plants that grow up to six feet tall, depending on the variety. The plant is vigorous without being invasive, and if you wish to propagate it you can easily do so by layering. Insect pests won’t bother your cardinal flowers, but browsing deer may stop for a snack.

  • 03 of 10
    Goat's Beard Flowers
    Photo Megan Hansen

    Another fine native wildflower, the Aruncus dioicus has blooms similar to the feathery astilbe, only on six-foot tall plants. This summer bloomer will fill your shady bog garden with volunteer seedlings if you let it.

    Not all goat's beard plants bloom equally: plants that bear male flowers are showier than female plants. Look for plants with many stamens per flower to discern the difference between these plants. 

  • 04 of 10
    Lady's Tresses Hardy Orchid
    Grow Lady's Tresses, a Hardy Orchid, in the Shady Bog Garden. Photo Frank Mayfield

    Although Spiranthes is rarely at nurseries, this delicate native hardy orchid is worth seeking out from responsible growers who cultivate their own plants, rather than gathering them from endangered wild populations. Unlike lady’s slippers and some other hardy native orchids, lady’s tresses are easy to grow, rewarding you with a jasmine-like fragrance for weeks in the fall.

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  • 05 of 10
    Leopard Plant
    Photo Mark Kent

    Commonly called the leopard plant, this shade-loving bog plant is pleasing to the eye even when not in bloom due to its large, circular foliage. It's important to keep this plant well-irrigated during long spells of hot, dry weather, otherwise your plants may attract aphids. This Asian import won’t mind the constant shadows of the north side of your house. Try ‘Britt Marie Crawford’ for purple leaves in addition to golden flowers.

  • 06 of 10

    Mimulus

    Mimulus Flowers
    Photo J Brew

    Whether or not you believe mimulus plants deserve the moniker of monkey flower due to a resemblance to a monkey’s face on the blossoms, you will find that this plant is easy to please in a rain garden or other wet site in your partially sunny landscape. Native forms sport lilac blooms, or you can choose from hybrid cultivars in a rainbow of solid and bicolors.

  • 07 of 10
    Bee Balm
    Photo Laura Perlick/USFWS

    Once upon a time, bee balm got a bad reputation for being a mildew-prone plant that gobbled up any free garden space it could. Now, gardeners choose from better behaved varieties like the purple ‘Scorpio,’ red ‘Jacob Cline,’ or pink ‘Marshall’s Delight.’ Well, the mildew problem has been addressed, but this member of the mint family will stay true to its assertive roots, so remove unwanted plants as needed and share with understanding neighbors.

  • 08 of 10
    Bog Primrose
    Photo R.A. Paterson
    Candelabra primroses offer you Easter egg colors from late spring into early summer, when most primroses are finished with their blooming cycle. Many flowers have a contrasting eye, and some have evergreen foliage. Look for japonica or florindae primrose selections for best bog performance.
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  • 09 of 10
    Siberian Iris
    Photo F.D. Richards

    The bearded iris has enjoyed the limelight in many gardens, but the smaller Siberian iris rarely succumbs to the iris borer or leaf spot disease that claims many bearded iris specimens. To add to its low-care appeal, Siberian irises rarely require division. Your plants may take a few years to get established, so don’t remove them if they don’t seem to take off at first.

  • 10 of 10
    Chelone Turtlehead Flower
    Chelone 'Hot Lips'. Photo Jim Capaldi

    The white or pink flowers of the chelone make a welcome appearance in August and September in the shady garden, when not much else is going on. The plants prefer dappled shade to dense shade, which can cause weak stems that flop over. Turtleheads appreciate humus-rich mulch in addition to very moist soil.