16 Best Plants for Wet Areas of Your Landscape

Joe Pye weed

The Spruce / Evegeniya Vlasova

If you have a low-lying area of your yard that collects rain, an easy solution is to use this space to grow plants that thrive in wet areas. The right plants will absorb the moisture and prevent runoff into other areas of your yard—and simple gardening is a lot cheaper than earth-moving solutions, such as installing a dry creek bed, a French drain, or a landscape pond. Many native and naturalized plants have evolved to grow in wet soil, so they are effective landscaping solutions for areas with drainage issues.

Here are 16 good landscape plants that enjoy having "wet feet."

  • 01 of 16

    Black Chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa)

    Black chokeberry with berries

    aga7ta/Getty Images

    Black chokeberry is a deciduous bush that grows to around 3 to 6 feet in height and spread. In the spring, it bears showy white blooms that give way to small black berries that attract birds. Its foliage turns a reddish-purple in the fall. This plant is native to swamps, bogs, and damp thickets. It can adapt to various types of soil, as long as you keep it evenly moist. Also, be sure to promptly remove root suckers to prevent unwanted spreading.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3-8
    • Flower Color Varieties: White, followed by black berries
    • Light: Full sun to partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Average, medium moisture, well-draining
    • Mature Size: 3-6 ft. tall and wide
    • Deer Resistant: No
  • 02 of 16

    Winterberry (Ilex verticillata)

    A branch of red winterberry holly tree

    Benedicte Thierry/Getty Images

    Winterberry is native to swampy parts of eastern North America. Thus, it prefers to grow in loamy, moist, acidic soil, and it can tolerate poor drainage. This woody shrub can reach 3 to 12 feet in height and spread, depending on the variety. Winterberry is dioecious, meaning you need a corresponding plant of the opposite sex growing nearby for the plants to bear fruit. Prune your plants to shape them in the early spring before new growth starts.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3–9
    • Flower Color Varieties: Greenish white
    • Light: Full sun, partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Average, acidic, medium to wet
    • Mature Size: 3–12 feet tall, wide
    • Deer Resistant: No
  • 03 of 16

    Inkberry Bush (Ilex glabra)

    Inkberry holly against a wooden fence
    David Beaulieu

    Inkberry also is native to eastern North America, where it’s often found surrounding swamps and bogs. This evergreen shrub can reach around 5 to 8 feet in height and spread, and it produces black berries in the early fall if plants of the opposite sex are growing near one another. These shrubs generally need minimal pruning, but any shaping should be done in the early spring before seasonal growth begins.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 4–9
    • Flower Color Varieties: Greenish white (not showy)
    • Light: Full sun, partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Average, medium to wet
    • Mature Size: 5–8 ft. tall, wide
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
  • 04 of 16

    Pussy Willow (Salix discolor)

    pussy willow

    Birgit Korber/EyeEm/Getty Images

    Pussy willow is a wetland shrub found growing throughout North America in meadows and swamps and along streams and lakes. But it also has some tolerance for dry soil. Under the right conditions, these shrubs can reach around 6 to 15 feet tall with a 4- to 12-foot spread. Prune them in the late winter or early spring as needed.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 4 to 8
    • Flower Color Varieties: Yellow
    • Light: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Average, medium to wet, well-draining
    • Mature Size: 6–15 ft. tall, 4–12 feet wide
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
    Continue to 5 of 16 below.
  • 05 of 16

    Sweet Pepperbush (Clethra alnifolia)

    Sweet pepperbush in bloom

    Holcy/Getty Images 

    Sweet pepperbush, also known as summersweet, grows in wet woodlands and marshes, as well as along streams and seashores. It reaches around 3 to 8 feet tall with a 4- to 6-foot spread. During summer, it produces long, fragrant flower spikes that tend to attract butterflies and bees. Keep the soil around your shrub consistently moist through watering and rainfall. And prune it as needed in the late winter.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3–9
    • Flower Color Varieties: White
    • Light: Full sun, partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Average, medium to wet
    • Mature Size: 3–8 ft. tall, 4–6 ft. wide
    • Deer Resistant: No
  • 06 of 16

    Tatarian Dogwood (Cornus alba)

    Tatarian dogwood

    The Spruce / Evegeniya Vlasova

    Tatarian dogwood, also known as red-twig dogwood, is ideal for use in a rain garden, as it prefers consistently moist soil. This shrub can reach 8 to 10 feet in both height and spread, and it's valued for its red bark. To encourage new growth, prune about a quarter of the old stems in early spring each year. If you'd prefer a shrub with golden bark, consider the yellow-twig dogwood (Cornus sericea 'Flaviramea').

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3–7
    • Flower Color Varieties: White
    • Light: Full sun, partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, moist, well-draining
    • Mature Size: 8–10 ft. tall, wide
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
  • 07 of 16

    Horsetail (Equisetum hyemale)

    horsetail

    The Spruce / Evegeniya Vlasova

    Horsetail plants can tolerate a variety of conditions, including those where the soil is wet. In the wild, these plants grow in wet woodlands and alongside bodies of water. They grow 2 to 4 feet tall with a 1- to 6-foot spread. Under the right conditions, they can be aggressive spreaders, so make sure to promptly and completely remove rhizomes (underground stems that send up new shoots) from where you don’t want them. 

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 4–9
    • Flower Color Varieties: Nonflowering
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Average, medium to wet
    • Mature Size: 2–4 ft. tall, 1–6 ft. wide
    • Deer Resistant: No
  • 08 of 16

    Leopard Plant (Ligularia dentata 'Britt-Marie Crawford')

    Flowers of Leopard Plant

    mizuki/a.collectionRF/Getty Images

    The leopard plant is a great option to grow around water features and in rain gardens. Its showy yellow flowers, which bloom in early summer, are similar to daisies. And its large leaves are an interesting dark purple with some green tones. This plant reaches 2 to 3 feet tall with a slightly smaller spread. Water regularly and deeply, so the soil never dries out. And ensure that it has some shade, especially in hot weather.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3–8
    • Flower Color Varieties: Yellow
    • Light: Partial sun, full shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, medium to wet
    • Mature Size: 2–3 ft. tall, 18–30 in. wide
    • Deer Resistant: No
    Continue to 9 of 16 below.
  • 09 of 16

    Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris)

    marsh marigold

    The Spruce / Evegeniya Vlasova

    If you’ve ever been hiking through the woods in the springtime, you might have encountered marsh marigolds covering a boggy area with their cheerful yellow blooms. These plants work well around water features in the garden, especially on the margins of ponds. They can even grow in a bit of standing water. Marsh marigolds reach around 12 to 18 inches in height and spread. They’re generally low-maintenance, though you should make sure they have some shade during the hottest months.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3–7
    • Flower Color Varieties: Yellow
    • Light: Full sun, partial sun
    • Soil Needs: Wet, boggy
    • Mature Size: 12–18 inches tall, wide
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
  • 10 of 16

    Yellow Trout Lily (Erythronium americanum)

    Yellow Trout Lily

    Susan Ruggles/Getty Images

    The yellow trout lily, also known as yellow adder's tongue, grows naturally in wet woodlands and along streams in North America, and it thrives in shade. Thus, it’s an ideal plant for shade gardens and around ponds. It features showy yellow flowers in the spring before it goes dormant. You can grow the plant from seed, though it might take around five years to flower. Instead, many gardeners opt for offsets from mature plants. 

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3–8
    • Flower Color Varieties: Yellow
    • Light: Partial shade, full shade
    • Soil Needs: Humusy, acidic, moist
    • Mature Size: 3–6 in. tall, wide
    • Deer Resistant: No
  • 11 of 16

    Blue Flag Iris (Iris versicolor)

    Blue flag iris

    Christine Rose Photography/Getty Images

    The water-loving blue flag iris is native to meadows, marshes, swamps, and shorelines in North America. It grows to around 24 to 30 inches in height and spread and features showy blue-violet blooms in late spring. Make sure your plant has adequate moisture; even a bit of standing water is fine. And watch out for pests, as this plant is susceptible to several insects.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3–9
    • Flower Color Varieties: Blue-violet
    • Light: Full sun, partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Humusy, moist
    • Mature size: 24–30 inches tall, wide
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
  • 12 of 16

    Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium maculatum)

    Joe Pye Weed

    The Spruce / Evegeniya Vlasova

    If you’re looking for a tall plant for a sunny rain garden, consider Joe Pye weed. This perennial commonly reaches around 4 or 5 feet with a 2-foot spread, though 7-foot plants are also possible. It bears fragrant mauve flowers in the summer that tend to attract butterflies. Although this plant prefers full sun, it might need some afternoon shade during hot weather. Cut your plant close to the ground in late winter to promote fresh growth.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3-9
    • Flower Color Varieties: Mauve
    • Light: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Rich, medium to wet
    • Mature Size: 4–7 ft. tall, 2 ft. wide
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
    Continue to 13 of 16 below.
  • 13 of 16

    Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis)

    Cardinal flower in bloom

    Gratysanna/Getty Images 

    Cardinal flowers grow best in rich soil and prefer consistent moisture. In the wild, they’re typically found along streams and swamps and in low woodland areas. And they’re an excellent choice for growing around a pond. They reach around 2 to 4 feet tall with a 1- to 2-foot spread. Give your plants some afternoon shade during the hottest part of the year. And add a layer of mulch if you need help retaining soil moisture. 

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3–9
    • Flower Color Varieties: Red, white, rose
    • Light: Full sun, partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, medium to wet
    • Mature size: 2–4 ft. tall, 1–2 ft. wide
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
  • 14 of 16

    Swamp Hibiscus (Hibiscus coccineus)

    A Swamp Hibiscus Flower close up in a marsh area

    passion4nature / Getty Images

     

    Swamp hibiscus (also known as rose mallow) is a woody-stemmed perennial with hollyhock-like scarlet flowers that bloom from midsummer into fall. They are tall plants that sometimes require staking, especially in partial shade locations. Swamp hibiscus works well massed in groups to fill large moist areas.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 6–9
    • Flower Color Varieties: Deep red
    • Light: Full sun, partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Average, medium-to-wet
    • Mature size: 3–6 ft. tall, 2–3 ft. wide
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
  • 15 of 16

    Hardy Hibiscus (Hibiscus moscheutos)

    Pink hardy hibiscus flowers (Hibiscus moscheutos)

    Photos from Japan / Getty Images

    The classic Hibiscus moscheutos works beautifully in wet areas in your landscape, but a variety of hibiscus hybrids can also work well for moist areas of your landscape, plus they have better cold hardiness than swamp hibiscus. These are complex hybrids, most utilizing H. coccineusH. laevis, and especially H. moscheutos in their parentage. These woody-stemmed perennials produce large, vivid pink and red blooms in midsummer into fall. They should be pruned off at ground level for the winter in colder zones.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 5–9
    • Flower Color Varieties: Pink with reddish eyes, red
    • Light: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Average, medium-moisture to wet
    • Mature size: 3–4 ft. tall, 2–4 ft. wide
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
  • 16 of 16

    Giant Elephant Ears (Colocasia spp.)

    Giant leaf Elephant Ear at Lava Tree State Park in the Nanawale Forest Reserve

    The Spruce / John Fischer

    Southern gardeners might want to try giant elephant ears for a tropical look in moist landscape areas. These startling plants with the enormous heart- or arrow-shaped leaves are reliably hardy in zone 8 and south but will die back when temperatures fall below 45 degrees Fahrenheit. They like to be constantly moist, and gardeners should be ready to feed them regularly. The yellow-white flowers that appear in spring are largely hidden by the huge leaves.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 8–11
    • Flower Color Varieties: Yellow-white (not showy)
    • Light: Full sun, partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Moist, acidic
    • Mature size: 3–8 ft. tall, wide
    • Deer Resistant: No

Tip

Hardy, native wetland plants aren't always easy to find at nurseries. But if you contact your local horticultural society or landscape arboretum, it should be able to recommend good, non-invasive species that are appropriate, along with sellers that carry such plants.


Be cautious about what species you plant if your damp areas are adjacent to public lands or neighboring properties. Some plants spread aggressively and may be regarded as invasive in some regions. There may even be prohibitions or cautions against using them. Purple loosestrife, for example, began as a perfectly desirable landscape plant before it escaped and invaded natural habitat areas. Always check local recommendations before choosing a new plant to grow.

Article Sources
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  1. https://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/plantfinder/plantfinderdetails.aspx?kempercode=c670

  2. https://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?taxonid=281141