15 Best Plants for Wet Areas

Ilex verticillata

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If there's a drainage problem in your yard, you might install a dry creek bed or a French drain. But another possible route is simply to use plants that prefer to live in wet areas. Many native and naturalized plants have evolved to grow in wet soil, so they are effective landscaping solutions for areas with drainage issues. They'll grow where many other plants won't, and they'll absorb water runoff. Here are 15 plants that grow well in wet soil.

Tip

Hardy, native wetland plants aren't always easy to find at nurseries. But if you contact your local horticultural society, it should be able to direct you to a seller that specializes in native plants.

  • 01 of 15

    Black Chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa)

    Black chokeberry with berries

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    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, which 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 Growing Zones: 3 to 8
    • Color Varieties: White
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Average, medium moisture, well-draining
  • 02 of 15

    Arrowwood Viburnum (Viburnum dentatum)

    White flowers snowball or viorne obier, from the Latin Viburnum opulus roseum
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    Arrowwood viburnum also features showy white blooms in the late spring, as well as dark blue berries. Its green leaves turn to shades of red, orange, and yellow in the fall. This shrub can reach around 6 to 10 feet in height and spread. It prefers moist, loamy soil and needs good drainage. Prune your shrub to shape it just after it’s done flowering.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 2 to 8
    • Color Varieties: White
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Average, medium moisture, well-draining
  • 03 of 15

    Winterberry (Ilex verticillata)

    A branch of red winterberry holly tree

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    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. The shrub can reach around 3 to 12 feet in height and spread. Moreover, 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 Growing Zones: 3 to 9
    • Color Varieties: Greenish white
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Average, acidic, medium to wet
  • 04 of 15

    Inkberry Bush (Ilex glabra 'Densa')

    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 Growing Zones: 4 to 9
    • Color Varieties: Greenish white
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Average, medium to wet
    Continue to 5 of 15 below.
  • 05 of 15

    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 Growing Zones: 4 to 8
    • Color Varieties: Yellow
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Average, medium to wet, well-draining
  • 06 of 15

    Sweet Pepperbush (Clethra alnifolia)

    Sweet pepperbush in bloom

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    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 Growing Zones: 3 to 9
    • Color Varieties: White
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Average, medium to wet
  • 07 of 15

    Tatarian Dogwood (Cornus alba)

    Tatarian Dogwood
    Paul Hart/Getty Images

    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 the early spring each year. If you'd prefer a shrub with golden bark, consider the yellow-twig dogwood (Cornus sericea 'Flaviramea').

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 7
    • Color Varieties: White
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, moist, well-draining
  • 08 of 15

    Pigsqueak (Bergenia cordifolia)

    Bergenia plants blooming

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    Pigsqueak is a perennial that’s primarily grown as a ground cover. It received its common name because its leaves make a squeaking noise when you rub them between your fingers. The plant reaches around 1 to 1.5 feet in height and spread. It not only tolerates wet soil, but it also grows well in shade. Prune any damaged, dead, or diseased foliage in the late winter or early spring. And promptly remove spent flowers in the spring to promote more blooming.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 8
    • Color Varieties: Pink
    • Sun Exposure: Part shade to full shade
    • Soil Needs: Average, medium, well-draining
    Continue to 9 of 15 below.
  • 09 of 15

    Horsetail (Equisetum hyemale)

    Stalks of horsetail rush plants growing in a mass.

    Frederic Cirou/Getty Images 

    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 along bodies of water. They reach around 2 to 4 feet tall with a 1- to 6-foot spread. And 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 Growing Zones: 4 to 9
    • Color Varieties: Nonflowering
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Average, medium to wet
  • 10 of 15

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

    Flowers of Leopard Plant

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    The leopard plant is a great option to grow around water features and in rain gardens. Its showy yellow-orange flowers, which bloom in the early summer, are similar to daisies. And its large leaves are an interesting dark purple with some green tones. This plant only reaches around 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 Growing Zones: 4 to 8
    • Color Varieties: Yellow-orange
    • Sun Exposure: Part shade to full shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, medium to wet
  • 11 of 15

    Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris)

    Marsh marigold blooming

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    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 1 to 1.5 feet in height and spread. They’re generally low-maintenance, though you should make sure they have some shade during the hottest months.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 7
    • Color Varieties: Yellow
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Wet, boggy
  • 12 of 15

    Yellow Trout Lily (Erythronium americanum)

    Yellow Trout Lily

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    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 Growing Zones: 3 to 8
    • Color Varieties: Yellow
    • Sun Exposure: Part shade to full shade
    • Soil Needs: Humusy, acidic, moist
    Continue to 13 of 15 below.
  • 13 of 15

    Blue Flag Iris (Iris versicolor)

    Blue flag iris

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    The water-loving blue flag iris is native to meadows, marshes, swamps, and shorelines in North America. It grows to around 2 to 2.5 feet in height and spread and features showy blue-violet blooms in the 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 Growing Zones: 3 to 9
    • Color Varieties: Blue-violet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Humusy, moist
  • 14 of 15

    Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium maculatum)

    Joe Pye Weed Wild Flowers (Eutrochium)

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    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. 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 the late winter to promote fresh growth.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 8
    • Color Varieties: Mauve
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Rich, medium to wet
  • 15 of 15

    Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis)

    Cardinal flower in bloom

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    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 Growing Zones: 3 to 9
    • Color Varieties: Red, white, rose
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, medium to wet