Flowers that grow near rivers

Updated February 21, 2017

One of the major assets of native plants that grow near rivers is that they will make the adaptations, in many cases, to the wet areas of your property. Even if you do not have a running waterway snaking through your property, you may have one or two constantly damp spots and have a hard time finding species that will establish there. Use the types of wildflowers that grow in close proximity to rivers to add colour and fill in the gaps in your landscape.


The floodplains that occur along rivers are home to a flowering plant known as jewelweed (Impatiens capensis). Jewelweed takes its name from the glistening water droplets that accumulate on its foliage from rainfall or dew. The species grows to 5 feet, and this annual is able to self-seed, resulting in large colonies of jewelweed in damp areas. Jewelweed does not need full sun, doing well in partial or deep shade. Jewelweed's flowers bloom from June into early fall. The flower colours are a combination of orange and yellow, with flecks of red splashed on them. Butterflies will find your patches of jewelweed and drink the plant's nectar. In spots where standing water occurs after heavy rain, jewelweed can survive for as long as two weeks with no lasting effects, according to Illinois Wildflowers.

Virgin's Bower

The motto for virgin's bower (Clematis virginiana) should be "Look, but don't touch." The foliage of this climbing vine species is toxic, notes the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Virgin's bower is native to most of the east, growing along riverbanks and floodplains. Adaptable to wet ground, virgin's bower is a species you can train up and around wire fences, trellises and shrubs. The flowers of the vine bloom from mid to late summer. Virgin's bower wraps its stems around objects as it climbs. Plant it in all degrees of sunlight; it grows in full sun to shade. Virgin's bower grows long enough to employ as a ground cover in a damp area.

Cardinal Flower

Use the cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis) along waterways and in wet settings, from USDA Plant Hardiness zone 3 through zone 9. Hummingbirds and butterflies will appreciate your efforts as they sip the nectar from the cardinal flower's red, tubular blossoms. Blooming from July until well into September, this species grows to 4 feet. In the wild, the plant often grows alone, with a number of cardinal flowers spaced along the river shore. You do not have such limitations, meaning you can cultivate the cardinal flower in mass plantings near ponds or streams. The reflection of the brilliant red flowers in the water will add to your landscape's appeal. Cardinal flowers develop in shade or sun, but whatever the conditions, the ground where they exist must always be damp.

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About the Author

John Lindell has written articles for "The Greyhound Review" and various other online publications. A Connecticut native, his work specializes in sports, fishing and nature. Lindell worked in greyhound racing for 25 years.