24 Perennial Water-Loving Plants for Damp Areas in Your Garden

These colorful perennial plants need constant moisture and some will even grow in standing water.

butterfly on swamp milkweed blooms
Photo: Lynn Karlin

You can fight a spot that tends to stay soggy in your yard or turn it into an eye-catching landscape feature by growing water-loving plants that thrive in moisture. The following perennial plants sweeten the deal by producing colorful flowers. Grow a mix of these options to transform a previous problem area into a beautiful focal point in your garden.

01 of 24

Canna

canna spike with red flowers
Marty Baldwin

Add tropical flair to your landscape with canna. This bold water-loving plant has huge leaves and spikes of bright red, yellow, orange, or pink flowers. In cold-winter regions, dig up and store canna rhizomes in a frost-free place over winter and replant them the following spring, or grow them in containers to make storing the rhizomes easier.

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade in consistently moist soil, or water regularly in normal garden soil

Size: Tall varieties can reach 8 feet, but dwarf varieties stay under 2 feet tall

Zones: 8-10

02 of 24

Turtlehead

turtlehead chelone native wildflower
Dean Schoeppner

Turtlehead gets its name from the distinct shape of the individual blossoms and blooms in late summer. It's an adaptable perennial water-loving plant that can thrive in soggy soil and tolerate drought. Over time, it spreads to form a dense clump, but it's not usually aggressive.

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade in consistently moist soil

Size: Up to 3 feet tall

Zones: 4-9

03 of 24

Joe Pye Weed

joe-pye weed eupatorium purpureum
Marty Baldwin

The rosy blooms produced by Joe Pye weed are gorgeous in the late summer, and so are the butterflies it's sure to attract. This tall native plant is perfect for adding height to your garden. Anchor it by growing shorter perennial water-loving plants in front of it.

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade in consistently moist, well-drained soil

Size: Up to 8 feet tall

Zones: 3-10

04 of 24

Siberian Iris

purple siberian iris sibirica
Doug Hetherington

Blooming at the end of spring, Siberian iris has thin, grassy foliage and slender blossoms that give it graceful elegance. Although bearded irises need good drainage, Siberian and Japanese irises will grow in shallow standing water or poorly drained soil.

Growing Conditions: Full sun in consistently moist soil

Size: Up to 4 feet tall

Zones: 3-9

05 of 24

Fiber-Optic Grass

fiber optic grass isolepis detail
Janet Mesic

One of the most unusual ornamental grasses, fiber-optic grass has thin, gracefully arching leaves that look almost like fiber-optic wires splaying from a junction box. Its tiny, light-colored blooms may not be very showy, but they almost seem to glow on the ends of stems. Grow it as an annual in Northern gardens, or bring it indoors as a houseplant.

Growing Condition: Full sun to part shade in consistently moist soil

Size: Up to 12 inches tall

Zones: 10-11

06 of 24

Ligularia

the rocket yellow ligularia perennial
Peter Krumhardt

The yellow spires of 'Rocket' ligularia bring a bright burst of color to shady spots in midsummer. Ligularia's heart-shaped leaves can form a hedge when planted in a row. This bold perennial water-loving plant needs constant moisture to keep it from wilting, especially if it gets afternoon sun.

Growing Conditions: Part shade in consistently moist soil

Size: Up to 4 feet tall

Zones: 4-9

07 of 24

Cardinal Flower

red cardinal flower lobelia cardinalis
Richard Hirneisen

Hummingbirds can't resist cardinal flower's bright red blooms. Available with either green or bronze foliage, this native plant is perfectly at home along a stream or backyard pond.

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade in consistently moist soil

Size: Up to 4 feet tall

Zones: 3-9

08 of 24

Golden Creeping Jenny

creeping jenny lyismachia nummularia aurea
Laurie Black Photography

Cover the ground with 'Aurea' creeping Jenny's striking chartreuse foliage and bright yellow blooms. It climbs beautifully over rocks as long as its roots stay moist, so tuck it into crannies along streams or waterfalls.

Growing Conditions: Full sun, part sun, or shade in consistently moist soil

Size: Up to 3 feet tall

Zones: 4-9

Test Garden Tip

Creeping Jenny is considered an invasive species in some regions of the country, particularly the Northeast.

09 of 24

Forget-Me-Not

purple forget-me-not myosotis
Peter Krumhardt

Especially when it's grown at the edge of a pond or other water feature, forget-me-not forms a delicate-looking cloud of light blue or purple in early spring. This short-lived perennial typically self-seeds in the garden and can pop up here and there throughout your yard (though you can prevent it from spreading by deadheading the faded blooms).

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade in consistently moist soil

Size: Up to 12 inches tall

Zones: 3-8

10 of 24

Japanese Primrose

pink japanese primrose flowers
Bryan E. McCay

A spring-blooming perennial, Japanese primrose produces clusters of pink, white, magenta, or red blooms on long flower stalks. Some flowers also have a dark eye in the center, making them look two-tone. It does best in cool-summer areas.

Growing Conditions: Part shade in consistently moist soil

Size: Up to 2 feet tall

Zones: 2-8

11 of 24

Spiderwort

blue spiderwort tradescantia perennial
Stephen Cridland

'Sweet Kate' spiderwort is one of the most eye-catching perennials in the garden, thanks to its neon yellow-green leaves and cobalt-blue blossoms. This native plant is very adaptable, and can thrive in almost any spot in your garden.

Growing Conditions: Full sun, part sun, or shade in consistently moist soil (can also tolerate drier soils, too)

Size: Up to 3 feet tall

Zones: 4-11

12 of 24

Calla Lily

deep red calla lilly
Marty Baldwin

Graceful callas come in a dizzying array of colors including pink, white, orange, red, bronze, yellow, or maroon. The long-lasting flowers are excellent for cutting, and they add elegance to any bouquet. If you're growing them in a colder region, you'll need to dig up the rhizomes in fall and store them in a frost-free place, then replant in the spring.

Growing Conditions: Full sun, part sun, or shade in rich, consistently moist soil

Size: Up to 3 feet tall

Zones: 7-10

Test Garden Tip

Calla lilies are invasive in warmer areas such as California and Hawaii.

13 of 24

Sedge

sparkler palm sedge carex grass
Denny Schrock

Although it does flower, 'Sparkler' palm sedge is grown more for its showy foliage. This variety is one of the dozens of grasslike plants in the sedge family. Virtually all sedge varieties are water-loving plants that grow in moist to wet soils, and they also like growing in shady areas. They make an attractive low-growing ornamental groundcover, too.

Growing Conditions: Shade, part sun, or full sun in consistently moist soil

Size: Up to 3 feet tall

Zones: 5-9

14 of 24

Marsh Marigold

yellow marsh marigold caltha palustris
John Noltner

As you might expect from a plant called marsh marigold, this perennial water-loving plant produces cheery yellow blooms and does well in constantly moist or even wet soil. Its springtime blooms contrast nicely with the shiny, dark green leaves and will brighten up boggy areas of your yard.

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade in consistently moist or boggy soil

Size: Up to 3 feet tall

Zones: 3-7

15 of 24

Papyrus

dwarf papyrus grassy stems in water
Lynn Karlin

You don't have to live on the Nile River to enjoy papyrus. This heat-loving tropical perennial has graceful stems topped by an umbrella of narrow leaves. Papyrus also develops small greenish-brown flowers from midsummer until fall. In cold winter areas in the north, grow papyrus in pots and bring the plants indoors before your first frost. Move the plants back outdoors when the weather warms.

Growing Conditions: Full sun in wet soil or shallow water

Size: Up to 5 feet tall

Zones: 9-10

16 of 24

Meadowsweet

pink meadowsweet filipendula rubra
Peter Krumhardt

With pink, fluffy, cotton-candy blooms topping 5-foot-tall stems, meadowsweet looks like supersized astilbe. This plant is also known as queen-of-the-prairie, a fitting name for this Midwest native. It grows best in full sun, but it tolerates some shade.

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade in moist, well-drained soil

Size: Up to 5 feet tall

Zones: 3-8

17 of 24

Swamp Milkweed

butterfly on swamp milkweed blooms
Lynn Karlin

With a name like swamp milkweed, you know this is a water-loving plant, but it'll also grow in drier sites. Like its close cousin, orange butterfly weed, swamp milkweed attracts monarchs and other butterflies.

Growing Conditions: Full sun in consistently moist soil

Size: Up to 8 feet tall

Zones: 3-9

18 of 24

Hardy Hibiscus

pink hardy hibiscus moscheutos flowers
Dean Schoeppner

Create all-summer drama with hardy hibiscus's dinner-plate size blooms in white, pink, and red shades. Although hardy hibiscus prefers moist soil, it can withstand extended drought, making it an easy-care perennial flower for sunny sites.

Growing Conditions: Full sun in consistently moist soil

Size: Up to 8 feet tall

Zones: 4-9

19 of 24

Obedient Plant

obedient plant physostegia virginiana
Jane Milliman

No matter which angle you position them on the stem, the blooms of obedient plant stay in place, earning its name. Unfortunately, this native perennial isn't always obedient in the garden, spreading quickly to form a large clump in wet or dry soils.

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade in well-drained, consistently moist soil

Size: Up to 4 feet tall

Zones: 3-9

20 of 24

Japanese Iris

Japanese Iris
Laurie Black

Wet, acidic soil is the perfect environment for Japanese iris. These tall, elegant perennials are available in single, double, and peony-flower forms in shades of blue, pink, white, lavender, or violet. In June and July, they produce spectacular 6-inch-wide blooms. Japanese iris prefers to have their roots in shallow water but will survive on higher ground as long as the soil stays moist.

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade in moist soil or water frequently

Size: Up to 4 feet tall

Zones: 4-9

21 of 24

Pickerel Weed

Pontederia Singapore Pink
Denny Schrock

Ideal for shallow, standing water, pickerel weed develops pretty spikes of pale blue flowers from June through October. Pickerel weed is a native plant that grows 2-4 feet tall with large, arrowhead-shaped leaves. It forms thick clumps; if you don't want the plants to spread, grow them in containers and sink the pots at the water's edge. The flowers are also attractive to butterflies.

Growing Conditions: Full sun in wet soil (ideally on the edge of a pond), in 3 to 5 inches of standing water

Size: Up to 4 feet tall

Zones: 3-10

22 of 24

Corkscrew Rush

Corkscrew Rush Juncus effusus Twister
Denny Schrock

One of the most interesting members of the rush family, corkscrew rush develops dark green, twisted, and spiraled foliage making it an excellent choice for moist landscapes or container gardens. The plants grow 10-12 inches tall and produce small white flowers in the summer. Corkscrew rush spreads slowly by underground rhizomes, so plant it in pots to keep it contained. In the north, the plants will die back to the ground in the winter but will emerge in the spring.

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade in wet soil or water frequently

Size: Up to 12 inches tall

Zones: 5-11

23 of 24

Swamp Sunflower

Low Down swamp sunflower
Denny Schrock

A tough-as-nails native perennial, swamp sunflower is covered with hundreds of bright yellow, daisylike flowers in the late summer and fall. Swamp sunflower is a bushy giant of a plant, growing 5-8 feet tall by 4 feet wide. The variety 'Low Down', shown here, is a dwarf form that grows only 18 inches tall.

Growing Conditions: Full sun in consistently moist soil or water frequently

Size: Up to 8 feet tall

Zones: 6-9

24 of 24

Horsetail

equisetum horsetail weed
Marty Baldwin

If you're looking for a no-work native perennial water-loving plant for a wet area, consider horsetail (Equisetum hyemale). It's prized for its stiff, upright, bamboolike, dark green, segmented stems. Horsetail, or scouring rush, grows quickly by underground runners in moist soil or shallow water. It can spread aggressively, so make sure to keep it contained.

Growing Conditions: Full sun, part shade, or shade in wet soil or standing water

Size: Up to 3 feet tall

Zones: 4-9

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