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Last updated on January 21st, 2020
Sometimes soil stays very wet simply because of a high water table or a compact nature. Unless you take measures to install proper drainage this will be something you have to work with regularly and part of that includes finding plants that are suitable for damp conditions.
Plants that like wet soil are easy to find if you know where to look. Just because you have a specific type of soil doesn’t mean you won’t be able to have beautiful flowers all year round.
First, you have to figure out if you have wet soil or just poor drainage
It’s important for you to verify whether or not you have wet soil or poor drainage. There are a couple of options you have one of which includes excavating a pit and leaving it overnight to see if water collects from the bottom. When you do this you want to excavate a straight-sided pit that is approximately 60 centimetres deep. Just don’t forget to cover it so that no rainfall can interfere with your results or do this when no rain is forecasted. If you noticed that water collects in that pit 24 hours later you have a high water table. If there is no water, fill the pit with water and leave it for a second 24-hour duration. If after the second 24-hour mark the water is still in the pit and hasn’t filtered into the ground, you have poor drainage which is the best outcome as that means you can do something about it an improve the drainage to widen the variety of plants you can choose.
You can also dig a pit and examine the roots of plants nearby to see how wet they are. if you see that the plant roots stay within the top 50 cm of your soil that is indicative of an inability to penetrate deeply because of a hard layer in which case you may or may not be able to dig it up and help improve drainage.
Gardening on wet soils
There are quite a few options for gardening on wet soils. If your soil simply has bad drainage something you examined by digging the pit, but it doesn’t have a high water table, you can try to amend the soil by adding lots of organic matter to break up the soil and improving the drainage, you want to add plenty of grit too as they help improve drainage. It is typically not effective enough just to add sand or grit but you can add organic matter to break up the clay which is often the course for poor drainage. To do this effectively you will need organic matter such as compost and grit if you are going to make the necessary impact in your soil structure and dig it in well.
No matter the efforts you take to eradicate problems with your soil it is still in your best interest to choose plants that are tolerant of damp conditions. Planting in raised beds will also help to protect against waterlogging in areas that have improper drainage.
If you have a high water table you can choose to simply plant a bog garden and there are plenty of plants that will grow well such as astilbes or you can try to amend the soil or install an artificial drainage system to help you keep your plants happy. Again building raised beds can help resolve this issue but the cost can be high.
Top 10 most loving plants:
Astilbe (False goats beard)
A beautiful perennial that has fern-like foliage and glossy flowers that draw the eye, you can enjoy plants that reach a maximum height of 1.5 meters with flower clusters that can reach up to 30cm or more. These particular plants thrive in shady areas and their wonderful way to add texture to your garden if you have wet soil that prohibits the growth of other plants.
The plants will actually burn in full sun so having a moderately shaded area is perfect. They prefer soils that have higher levels of moisture but you still want to make sure the roots don’t get waterlogged during the rainy season by using the amendments to your soil mentioned above.
When you are planting these in the ground to make sure they are approximately 0.5 to 1 metre apart so that they don’t compete with one another. When you plant them, you want to make sure the roots are slightly fanned outward and downward. They will spread quickly and form clumps which you can divide to increase the number of plants you have overtime.
Hostas are perennials that are easy to grow and live so long they may even outlive the gardener. They produce beautiful flowers in the summer that offer rich fragrances and attract bees. They prefer moist soil and will do splendidly if grown in a wet soil environment or damp conditions. The different varieties available offer a range of green shades for the leaves and the flower clusters that are produced thereafter.
With hostas, you need to be cognizant of deer and rabbits who will eat them. The leaves on younger plants are in fact edible for humans as well. They can be eaten raw or boiled with a flavour very similar to asparagus or lettuce and the Japanese have been doing this for years and its known as urui. Much like goldfish, hostas are designed to grow within their environment. This means if you have a smaller area, you won’t have to split them or prune them because they will simply grow at a slower pace. If you have a larger area, by comparison, they will grow at a faster pace.
Caltha palustris – Marsh marigold
This type of plant is referred to commonly as the marsh marigold because it produces beautiful yellow flowers but prefers a wet environment which makes it ideal for rain gardens or bog gardens.
It will thrive best in partial shade or full sun in shallow water which is why it is typically found in water gardens or at the perimeter of a pond. It flowers most effectively during full sunlight but that doesn’t mean a shaded area won’t serve it just as well. You will simply have fewer flowers with less vibrancy if the area in which you plant it has limited sunlight.
It will typically grow upwards of 30 to 40cm with hollow branching stems on top of which are bright yellow flowers that span 6 to 9cm in diameter. The flowers reach their maturity and then lend themselves to seed pods which naturally split open and help to disperse additional seeds and produce more marigolds. Much like the hosta, the younger leaves are edible so you can boil them but do not eat them raw, and use them as cooked greens in your meals. These will grow in the wettest, waterlogged soils.
Lobelia cardinalis (Cardinal flower)
Otherwise known as the Cardinal flower, this plants thrive in wet areas and attracts butterflies and bees by way of its scarlet red blooms that grow up a beautiful stem of rich green and red.
The Cardinal flower will actually tolerate brief flooding and will not thrive if it is ever allowed to dry out so any area in your garden which remains wet and never dries out is going to be perfect.
If you have a colder climate where you live you should apply root mulch to protect the root system in the winter and maintain moisture.
This is a clump-forming perennial that produces terminal spikes of flowers between July and September which will offer a wonderful array of colour to any swampy area you might have. Moreover, this plant does not have any issues with diseases or insects which is good news. At most the snails and slugs in your garden might try to crawl across it and damage the foliage but other than that it is a low-maintenance option.
Zantedeschia aethiopica (Calla lily)
Referred to colloquially as the calla lily this semi-evergreen perennial produces large magnificent flowers that are shaped like a trumpet and have a tinge of yellow where the flowers connect with the stems. It stands out even more so thanks to the dark green, glossy leaves that unfurl below. These flowers will remain on display for weeks throughout the late spring into the early summer.
Given the size these plants are better suited to filling larger spaces in your otherwise wet garden. They can reach up to 90cm tall and 60cm wide. They can also be used as marginal pond plants and can be planted in up to 30 centimetres of water and mud which makes them perfect for any areas that never dry out. They are also resistant to deer and rabbit so if those are animals which you contend regularly rest assured your calla lilies will be just fine. They provide a spectacular effect when used as a border and the breathtaking flowers are very easy to grow to require next to no maintenance once they have been planted.
If you are looking for a giant plant to feel your wet garden, this is it. This perennial is known for the leaves that can grow up to 2 meters across. The plant itself can extend up to 3 meters in height. It will produce large, spikes that contain reddish green florets come springtime which adds a nice smattering of colour in an otherwise watery area.
They can survive colder areas as long as you protect them in the winter time by adding mulch and otherwise prefer deeply moist wet soil with partial shade. If possible shelter them against drying winds. The only problems you might face are snails and slugs.
Hydrangea macrophylla (mophead hydrangea)
Mophead hydrangeas can come in many sizes and colours depending on your soil. The nice thing about mophead hydrangeas is that your wet soil will not discourage their flowering and the pH of the soil there in can alter the colour unless you choose white varieties specifically.
There are unique varieties that offer different shades of hot pink, mixtures of lime green with purple tinge has, hot pink centres tinged with cream, and much more.
They prefer shaded areas and moist soil so raised garden beds in a garden that remains moist at all times will do just fine. Moreover, they require next to no maintenance, they don’t need regular feeding or pruning unless you want to maintain their size and simply help their health a little bit more than normal.
This deciduous shrub is the perfect shade growing hedge creator. If you need to build a hedge this is the plant to choose for wet soil. It is very tolerant of heavy shade and heavy moisture. it requires a larger space than some of the other plants listed here in so far as the heights can reach up to 3 meters as can the spread. Between April and May you will see it bloom and produce a glittering of yellow gold on top of the green stems.
The blooms appear on the wood from the previous year so pruning should only take place in the springtime after flowering. This plant will produce suckers immediately in order to expand its reach both literally and figuratively so it is in your best interest to remove suckers as soon as you see them especially if you have an otherwise confined garden and any plants that are grown nearby.
Sometimes this plant is referred to as the Easter Rose because it will Bloom around Easter and when it does it looks very similar to roses. The flowers it produces are double-flowered, Pom-Pom shaped flowers that can span up to 6 cm in diameter.
Leycesteria formosa (Himalayan honeysuckle)
Commonly referred to as the Himalayan honeysuckle this deciduous shrub does very well in shaded, wet areas. The stems rise up and give way to beautiful flowers that hang and are white with a deep red bract around it. When allowed to reach full maturity the spread can span almost two meters wide and 2 meters tall but also responds well to hard pruning.
Easy to care for, colder regions just need to add some mulch to protect the root system during cold winters. Once the flowers have bloomed between June and September they are followed by beautiful, edible berries. You will get small purple berries that purportedly have a taste very similar to toffee or caramel. While the plant does not have serious problems with insects or diseases it is sometimes colloquially called the Pheasant Berry plant in England because pheasants will come around your property and eat the berries if able.
Perfect as a border plant or specimen plant, this shrub brings with it old-fashioned blooms that appear in the springtime and then again sporadically throughout the summer. It can span up to 3 meters wide and tall if allowed to grow without pruning but you can keep it in check with some moderate pruning.
There are dwarf varieties for smaller gardens and regardless of the variety, it will thrive in wet soil so long as you give it partial sunlight and don’t allow it to become waterlogged. Once a year you can fertilize it in the winter to promote more flowers in the springtime. And then sit back and relax as the stunning leaves develop in their rich green shade accompanied by an edging of cream or yellow followed closely by beautiful white and pink flowers.
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