33 Plants That Thrive in Moist or Wet Soil and Absorb Extra Water

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If you have an area on your land where water sits or runs through frequently, you’ll be happy to know that there are plenty of plants for you to beautify it. Many people think that areas that have wet or constantly moist soil aren’t any good for planting.

The fact is though, there are many plants that not only love moisture but will also absorb that excess water. Perfect for areas that are prone to erosion from runoff or low areas that tend to puddle.

If you want to know what plants to put in a moist or frequently flooded area, read on!

Picking Plants for Wet Areas

Part of successful gardening is picking the right plants for the right areas. Standing or frequently flooding water will kill or severely weaken many types of plants, but that’s because they don’t like water.

If you have an extremely wet area or an area that is a natural run-off for water, you need to be extra conscious of what type of plants to put there. But that doesn’t mean you’re doomed to bare dirt.

The right plants can not only add beauty to moist or wet soil, but they can absorb excess moisture and prevent erosion.

Wet or extra moist soil may be suitable for trees, shrubs, flowers, or a mixture of plants. You just need to pick the right ones.

Be aware that many species have cultivars and varieties that are better suited to extra moisture. It can help to speak to a local expert to know what works best in your particular area.

Also note that the plants on this list are mostly those that are good for wet, moist, or boggy soil or soil that is occasionally wet and occasionally dry. These plants are different than those that grow in water.

If you’re interested in a water garden, check out our guide to those plants. If you’re looking for edible plants that can grow in a boggy area, we have a guide for that, too.

Trees That Are Good For Wet Areas

Think safety when planting trees in very moist or wet areas. If you get high winds, make sure you choose trees that don’t grow too big and don’t choose those that have very shallow root systems. The last thing you want is trees falling over because the ground was too wet to hold them in.

1. Black Gum

This deciduous tree (Nyssa sylvatica) grows well anywhere in USDA Growing Zones 3-9. It likes full sun or partial shade and grows up to 50 feet tall and 30 feet wide.

There are a few different varieties with varying colors and shapes, but all are relatively low-maintenance with a long taproot that enables them to access water during drought or survive flooding.

2. River Birch

Not only is river birch (Betula nigra) suitable for moist or wet soil, it’s also tolerant of heat so it makes a good choice for many areas in the south. It’s suitable to grow in Zones 4-9.

River birch will also tolerate dry soil, so if you have an area that is wet in winter, but dries in the summer, this is the perfect tree. Just remember to mulch around it if the summer ground gets dry.

3. Bald Cyprus

You may have seen pictures of this tree showing it in flooded areas covered in moss. It’s certainly a plant that’s a water lover, though it grows well in both wet soil and moist soil, and grows in Zones 4-9.

Bald cypresses (Taxodium distichum) grow massive, albeit at a slow rate. Be aware that over the years, this tree can grow to 120 feet tall. They are also known to live for around 600 years.

4. White Cedar

Also known as Atlantic white cedar (Chamaecyparis thyoides), this tree is quite well known for growing in swampy areas.

Although it typically grows to over one hundred feet, check specialty nurseries in your area because you can sometimes buy dwarf varieties that grow only five to six feet tall.

Grow in Zones 3-8, and make sure it gets plenty of sunshine along with all that moisture.

5. Weeping Willow

Weeping willow tree against water

The stately weeping willow (Salix babylonica) has a reputation for breaking easily in storms, likely from being weak from its rapid growth. Best planted on the edges of your watery area, make sure there are no buildings, septic tanks, underground electricity cables, water pipes, or anything else nearby, because this tree grows fast, as does its root system.

But it’s still an excellent tree for watery areas around ponds and streams where a few falling branches won’t bother you.

Pests also happen to love this tree, but it sure looks majestic when it’s healthy. If you’re determined to keep one in your yard – and we totally understand given how beautiful it is – you’ll likely need to spray regularly.

Grow weeping willow in Zones 6-8.

6. Red Maple

Acer rubrum, aka the red maple, is an extremely popular tree in Zones 3 to 9. They grow up to 70 feet tall, but there are many smaller hybrids and cultivars. These plants prefer moist soil and will tolerate wet roots for brief periods.

7. Ash

Ash trees (Fraxinus spp.) happily grow in Zones 3-9 in moist to wet soil. They prefer consistently moist soil, but brief periods of wetness are fine as well.

These trees have beautiful flowers and grow up to 130 feet tall, depending on the species.

8. Oriental Arborvitae

Oriental arborvitae is native to Japan, China, and Korea, but have become popular in cultivation around the world. In the US, they grow well in Zones 6-11. These trees stay compact and some are even shrubs rather than actual trees.

9. Freeman Maple

Freeman maple (Acer × freemanii) is a stunning red tree that shines bright in Zones 3-7. It’s a hybrid of a silver maple and a red maple to create a tree that is sturdy and strong but with the beautiful coloring of red maples. It is tolerant of flooding and runoff.

10. Swamp Cottonwood

Swamp cottonwood (Populus heterophylla) grows well in – you guessed it – swampy areas. They’re best in Zones 5-9, but check your local nursery if you are out of these Zones because there are hybrids that may thrive in different climates.

Shrubs That Are Good For Wet Areas

Not everyone has the land or desire for trees in wet or moist soil, so if shrubs are more your thing, try any of these beauties of varying sizes and shapes. Combined with trees, you can make a stunning, varied display.

11. American Cranberry Bush

Viburnum trilobum is a cold-tolerant shrub that grows to about 12 feet tall in Zones 2 to 7. It prefers wet soil to standing water, but it can tolerate occasional flooding. Plant it in full sun and you should get nice berries you can use in jams and jellies.

Our guide can help you figure out how to plant and grow these edible beauties in or out of wet soil.

12. Spicebush

This native to the eastern United States has a distinctive aroma when the leaves, fruit or twigs are crushed. It is a deciduous shrub that grows to about 12 feet tall and can grow in full sun or shady positions. Grow spicebush (Lindera benzoin) in Zones 4 to 9.

13. Red Twig Dogwood

Red twig or red osier dogwood (Cornus stolonifera) is a cold-tolerant plant suitable for Zones 2 to 7. It will withstand cold and up to a reasonable heat level.

Add to that, red-twig dogwood will grow in full sun and full shade. These plants require little fertilization or pruning and are a great addition to river banks, swamps, moist soil, and wet areas.

14. Summersweet

Not only does summer-sweet (Clethra alnifolia) love wet areas, it doesn’t like hot and dry conditions. It has a nice fragrance and is an attractor for birds and pollinators. This is a good hedge option for USDA Growing Zones 3 to 9. Despite the wet conditions, summer-sweet will develop quite an extensive root system, making it a solid plant in wet conditions.

15. Buttonbush

You may know this moisture-loving plant by the names of buttonwillow or pond dogwood (Cephalanthus occidentalis). Geese, shorebirds, and ducks love the plant and the environment it creates. Plant it in USDA Growing Zones 5 to 10 and let it do its thing.

Plants That Are Good For Wet Areas

Looking to add some color to an area with moist soil? The following plants are ideal. There are options for full sun or full shade and options for spots that are constantly moist or just occasionally flooded.

16. Bee Balm

Don’t put this in very boggy soil, but if you have soil that is always moist, bee balm (Monarda spp.) is a great choice. It doesn’t like it when the soil dries out for too long, so plant where the moisture is high and consistent, and where less water-loving plants would suffer. Plant in USDA Growing zones 4 to 9.

17. Daylily

Other than clay soil, daylilies (Hemerocallis spp.) will do well in any wet spot and absorb excess water in the soil. They are maintenance-free and can usually be left to their own devices. Grow in Zones 4-9.

18. Violet

Great near water sources and damp soil, violets (Viola spp.) make a wonderfully colorful ground cover. Some species may become invasive if left to their own devices for too long, but as a plant for wet areas they are a good choice.

In Zones 2-11, you can give them a go as they often grow wild and spring up in random places.

19. Marsh Marigold

Have a very boggy area? Marsh marigold (Caltha palustris) is your answer if you live in Zones 3-7. Marsh marigolds do well in very wet areas and especially so on the edges of waterlogged areas of your garden.

20. Horsetail

This bamboo-like plant (Equisetum spp.) is a striking water-loving plant and spreads through rhizomes under the ground even when it’s wet. Although native to North America, it can become a little invasive.

Horsetail grows in Zones 4-9 in full sun or partial shade. If you like different types of plants from most other people, try this one for wet or moist soil where lots of plants fail to thrive.

21. Southern Blue Flag

Iris virginica, commonly known as southern blue flag, loves very wet and acidic soil, and the fact it doesn’t like dry soil makes it the perfect plant for boggy areas. Generally deer-resistant, in Zones 5-9 it will attract pollinators and hummingbirds to your garden.

22. Flowering Rush

Have shallow, but slow-moving water? Here is your plant. Be aware though that once it is planted, you’re likely to be unable to get rid of flowering rush (Butomus umbellatus). Also, make sure you are allowed it in your area since it is banned as invasive in some places.

Bees and butterflies love it and it’s known to be a good water filter in Zones 3-10. Plant in full sun or partial shade, but with lots of water.

23. Water Canna

In wet soil or water up to 12 inches deep, water canna (Canna glauca) will thrive. Winter survival in Zones 7-10 is easy, but in zones 5 and 6, plant in pots and bring them inside in the winter if you’re able to.

This is another plant that spreads underground through rhizomes, so be prepared for new plants to appear each year.

24. Rose Mallow

Rose mallow (Hibiscus moscheutos) thrives in Zones 4-9. It’s native to many parts of North America and is perfectly happy in swampy areas. In fact, its other common name is swamp rose mallow.

It comes in pink, white, or rose flowers and can grow in shade or full sun so long as it has lots of water available. Perfect for the edge of streams or rivers.

25. Monkey Flower

Bright yellow monkey flower (Mimulus ringens) is native to North America, where you will find it out in the wild in Zones 3-9. You can often buy it at specialty nurseries.

Most people plant it in regular to moist garden soil to enjoy the floral display, which lasts from spring until fall. But it will also tolerate boggy conditions. Local fauna such as buckeye butterflies will thank you for planting monkey flower, as this is an important host for them.

26. Sweet Woodruff

Sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum) is a beloved groundcover for dry and wet soils alike. This hardy plant has pretty little white flowers all spring and summer long. It is perfectly happy in full shade or part shade in Zones 4-8.

27. Crinum Lily

Crinum lilies (Crinum spp.) come in a massive array of colors, with huge, fragrant flowers that will thrive in Zones 9-11. It does well in both wet soils and dry soils, so it can adapt to spots that experience flooding.

Grasses That Are Good For Wet Areas

Don’t forget grasses in those wet and boggy areas. They make exceptional groundcovers to hold the soil and fill in wet areas with green plants that will add visual interest.

28. Cordgrass

Growing up to seven feet tall, cordgrass (Spartina spp.) gives you a coastal feel to wet areas. It spreads quickly, but it’s a perfect choice to create a habitat for many birds. Even though it will survive in submerged areas, wet and boggy soil is perfect for cordgrass. Plant in Zones 5-11.

29. Indiangrass

Perfect for moist or wet soil, Indiangrass (Sorghastrum nutans) is for Zones 4-9, especially in windy areas.

30. Lovegrass

There are many lovegrass (Eragrostis spp.) species that do well in swampy areas. Eliott’s lovegrass (E. elliottii) and purple lovegrass (E. spectabilis) are both fairly small at under two feet and both are native to North America.

Purple lovegrass has purple seedheads on tall stalks, while Eliott’s has a gauzy cloud of beige seedheads.

Contrasting stems at three feet tall with flowers standing four feet tall, blue lovegrass has blue-green blades and golden-brown seedheads in the late summer and fall.

Most lovegrasses grow in Zones 7-9.

31. Frank’s Sedge

Frank’s Sedge (Carex frankii) is a native plant in parts of North America in Zones 5-8. The blades are light green, as are the bristly spikelets that form in the summer. It does well in partial to full sun and moist to wet soil.

32. Palm Sedge

Palm sedge (Carex muskingumensis) is another native grass in North America where it grows in Zones 4-8. The glossy green leaves emerge from a main stem, making it look like a low-growing palm tree. It has bronze seedheads.

Check with specialty nurseries to find this beauty, which grows well in sun or shade, in damp soil. Each plant reaches two to three feet tall, so it can work as a border plant or groundcover.

You can find several varieties at specialty nurseries with varying colors and heights.

33. Fox Sedge

In wetland areas in parts of North America, fox sedge (Carex vulpinoidea) grows wild in beautiful big clumps of green blades. The fluffy seedheads are bronze and pop up in midsummer. This is the perfect green for rain gardens or wet areas in Zones 3-8.

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