Plants for Wet Garden Areas

Written by jean lien
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Plants for Wet Garden Areas
Japanese iris bloom nicely in a wet garden area. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

Wet garden areas can be expensive and frustrating. Planting the wrong species leads to their slow death. Adding berms and hauling in topsoil to create raised areas can work for a small garden, but the costs quickly mount for a large yard. Choosing plants native to damp areas is the best option, as there are a number of trees, shrubs, and perennials that grow well in wet soil.

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Willows, bald cypress, eastern red cedar and river birch will thrive in damp spots. Willow species generally grow quite large with highly invasive roots and should be planted well away from building foundations and septic systems. Eastern red cedar and river birch are well behaved yard trees, if planted away from the house or power lines. River birch has bright yellow autumn colour, and eastern red cedar provides evergreen interest all year.


Wet-soil shrubs include physocarpus (ninebark), dwarf willow and shrub dogwoods such as Cornus stolonifera. Nine bark has attractive foliage in yellow or purple, depending on the cultivar. Dwarf willows such as Hakuro Nishiki have none of the invasiveness of their larger brethren. Shrub dogwoods are known for their bright winter twig colouration, ranging from red to yellow-orange.


Japanese iris, lobelia, and bee balm are flowering perennials for damp areas and bog gardens. Lobelia flowers in shades of dark red to pink, with some species having purple foliage. Japanese iris blooms in white, blue and purple. Bee balm inforescences are such a bright crimson red they glow. Calamus grass, ligularia, and variegated cattails are foliage perennials, providing texture and colour all season long. Ligularia has striking leaves up to a foot wide, which contrast well with the upright growth and bright colour of variegated cattail and calamus.

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