Not many shrubs can tolerate wet, boggy soils. In fact, the North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension describes poorly drained, wet soil as one of the most difficult types of landscape in which to garden. Excessive moisture takes the place of oxygen in the soil, causing plants to slowly suffocate. To avoid stunted growth, damage or even death, choose water-tolerant shrubs for boggy spots.
Small Deciduous Shrubs
The button bush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) thrives in wet soil; in fact, this deciduous shrub cannot tolerate dry soil. The buttonbush's natural habitat includes bogs, marshes and swamps. This shrub grows 3 to 15 feet tall and produces white blossoms in summer. The black choke cherry (Aronia melanocarpa) also thrives in boggy conditions. Black chokecherries grow between 3 and 5 feet tall and prefer slightly acidic soils. Other small deciduous shrubs for boggy areas include bush cinquefoil (Potentilla fruticosa) and huckleberry (Gaylussacia baccata).
Large Deciduous Shrubs
The Northern bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica) grows up to 10 feet tall. This shrub's natural habitat include bogs and water margins. The northern bayberry also tolerates salt and sandy soils, making it a good choice for coastal gardens. The ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius) also prefers boggy, wet soils. A hardy shrub, the ninebark grows up to 10 feet tall. Ninebarks produces white flowers in spring, followed by red fruits. Plant in sun to partial shade. Other large deciduous shrubs for wet soils include highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum) and possumhaw (Viburnum nudum).
Small Evergreen Shrubs
The Florida anise shrub grows up to 8 feet tall and prefers rich soils. This evergreen produces star-shaped, deep red flowers in spring and has aromatic green foliage. The Virginia willow (Itea virginica) grows 3 to 6 feet tall with a similar spread. The Virginia willow tolerates saturated soil and attracts butterflies and birds with its drooping clusters of white flowers. A broadleaved evergreen, this shrub's dark green foliage turns red to yellow in fall in cooler climates. Other small evergreen shrubs for wet spots include coastal leucothoe (Leucothoe axillaris) and Japense fatsia (Fatsia japonica).
Large Evergreen Shrubs
The inkberry (Ilex glabra) tolerates wet soils. This evergreen grows up to 8 feet tall with a 10-foot spread. Inkberries grow in sun to partial shade and produce bee-attracting, white blossoms in summer. The Florida anise shrub can thrive in saturated soils. The dwarf palmetto (Sabal minor) grows up to 10 feet tall. This evergreen tolerates wet soils and prefers sun to light shade. A palm, the dwarf palmetto has large, blue-green, fan-shaped foliage. Other tall, water-tolerant evergreen shrubs include the yaupon holly (Ilex vomitoria) and the wax myrtle (Myrica cerifera).
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- North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension; Qualifiers for Quagmires Landscape Plants for Wet Sites; Thomas Ranney, et al.; 1998
- Clemson University; Plants for Damp or Wet Areas; Karen Russ; 2004
- North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension: Plants for Wet Soils and High Water Table Soils
- Ohio State University: Native Plants of Ohio
- North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension: Shrubs; Erv Evans