Plants and bulbs that grow in very wet soil

Written by cat mccabe
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Plants and bulbs that grow in very wet soil
Ferns thrive in wet soil. (ferns image by TMLP from

Marsh and bog gardens can be just as vibrant, colourful and lasting as a perennial garden on high ground. Plus, wet soil means you won't have to water. When planting in extremely wet conditions, choose wisely. Most bulbs will rot if you set them in standing water or saturated soil, but there are a few that can thrive and even multiply. Take a walk near a swampy area, low-lying woods or along the edge of a pond, and you'll see an incredible diversity of plants to choose from.

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Bulbs for wet soil

Bee balm, wild hyacinth, narcissus and carnassia are adaptable to boggy areas. Narcissus may not perennialise, and may have to be replanted every few years, but their bright shades of yellow in spring are worth it. Bee balm and carnassia can grow to a height of 90 cm (36 inches), and their large, showy blooms add extra height and drama. Wild hyacinth stays low to the ground, and spreads from year to year. All do well in mass plantings, or interplanted for successive flowering. Atamasco, rain lily and crinium also thrive in wet soil and have dramatic blooms in summer.

Tubers for wet soil

Only a few tuberous roots can survive extremely wet conditions, and should be planted in moist soil that can dry out occasionally. One exception is Siberian iris, found growing in swamps, marshes, bogs and shallow streams. Its slender foliage and delicate blooms march in a line through standing water if you let it. Wild yam is another, and bears greenish-white flowers on vinelike stems. Buttercups also grow in wet conditions with plenty of light.

Fibrous root plants for wet soil

Day lily is a common sight in ditches and roadsides where water collects. It spreads through running roots over wide areas, blooming in late spring and early summer, provided the soil contains plenty of peat and not clay. Ferns thrive in wet shade and also spread well. Cat-tails, forget-me-nots and peppermint not only grow well in wet soil, but can become invasive over time. Marsh marigold loves wet feet and full sun, while Japanese primrose does better in shady, cool, wet areas. Wetland shrubs like false spiraea, rose mallow, cinquefoil and elderberry add an extra splash of colour in summer and autumn as their foliage turns.

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