What plants grow in shade & wet soil?

Written by john lindell
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What plants grow in shade & wet soil?
Rhododendron (Hemera Technologies/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Shady portions of your acreage that feature a wet soil can often be problematic when it comes to landscaping. You simply cannot plant a species of grass, perennial or shrub in such spots without first knowing whether they can handle such conditions. Luckily, an array of plants suitable for your landscape will grow in shady, wet areas.

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American Beakgrain

American beakgrain (Diarrhena obovata), native to parts of Canada and the United States, is an ornamental grass species you can use in wet and shady habitats. American beakgrain grows to 3 feet and this stout grass is able to tolerate seasonal flooding. This allows you to plant American beakgrain next to swamps and ponds in the shade, without worrying that heavy rain may prove its undoing. American beakgrain possesses narrow blades that are bright green during the growing season, turning to yellow in autumn and finally changing to tan in the winter months.

Carolina Rhododendron

While the Carolina rhododendron (Rhododendron carolinianum) can withstand full sun, it will grow best in shade, preferably beneath taller trees. The species is a native to the Carolinas and Tennessee and it is hardy as far north as U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zone 5. Carolina rhododendron is a broadleaved evergreen shrub, capable of heights to 5 feet. The species will easily handle damp, acidic soil. The pink flowers bloom in May in clusters. Cultivars such as Album feature a white flower. The Luteum hybrid produces a light yellow bloom.


Mix fumewort (Corydalis solida) in with ferns or bleeding hearts in your woodland gardens. Rock gardens in the shade that have wet spots are also good fits for this perennial herb. Native to Asia and the northern sections of Europe, fumewort stays about a foot tall and it produces a red-purple flower in April. Fumewort often goes into a dormant state during the hottest summers, with its foliage wilting. The plant develops from tubers, which you can place under trees and beneath shrubs, where they will emerge despite the shade.

Sweet Woodruff

Moist areas featuring ample shade are ideal for a nonnative plant known as sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum). Introduced from parts of Europe, Asia and northern Africa, sweet woodruff forms a fine ground cover under such conditions, growing only to 1 1/2 feet. Sweet woodruff will self-seed, but it also can multiply by producing fresh growth from its own creeping roots. Sweet woodruff will flower in April and May, with the tiny white blooms having four petals. The foliage is aromatic; the Missouri Botanical Garden notes that it is often an ingredient in fragrant potpourris.

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