14 Wet-Soil Perennials to Bring Life to Soggy Spots in Your Yard

Low Down swamp sunflower
Photo: Denny Schrock

Too much moisture can cause some plants to turn to mush. Not these water-loving perennials! They thrive in soggy situations such as an area surrounding a splashing fountain, the edges of a pond, or a low-lying spot that is always damp. A few of these plants even tolerate standing water.

01 of 14

Cardinal Flower

Lobelia cardinalis cardinal flower
Denny Schrock

An easy-care native perennial, cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis) sends up spikes of bright red-, white-, or rose-color flowers from midsummer to fall. This gorgeous plant is highly attractive to butterflies and hummingbirds, but it's also deer- and rabbit-resistant.

Light: Full sun or part shade

Water: Plant in wet soil, or water frequently

Size: Up to 4 feet tall

Zones: 3-9

Buy It: Cardinal Flower ($9, Etsy)

02 of 14

Japanese Iris

Japanese Iris
Laurie Black

Wet, acidic soil is the perfect environment for Japanese iris (Iris ensata). 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 life in shallow water but will survive on higher ground as long as the soil stays moist.

Light: Full sun or part shade

Water: Plant in moist soil, or water frequently

Size: Up to 4 feet tall

Zones: 4-9

03 of 14

Pickerel Weed

Pontederia Singapore Pink
Denny Schrock

Ideal for shallow, standing water, pickerel weed (Pontederia cordata) 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-shape 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.

Light: Full sun

Water: Plant 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

04 of 14

Marsh Marigold

marsh marigold caltha palustris
Dean Schoeppner

The cheerful buttercup-yellow flowers of marsh marigold (Caltha palustris) burst into bloom in the early spring, making this little native a must-have for wet sites. Forming 12-inch-tall clumps, marsh marigold looks terrific planted at the water's edge. Although they can survive drought, the plants will go dormant and lose their leaves if the soil dries out. Marsh marigold is also deer-resistant.

Light: Full sun or part shade

Water: Plant in consistently moist soil, or water frequently

Size: Up to 12 inches tall

Zones: 3-7

Buy It: Marsh Marigold Native Wildflower Seeds ($3, Walmart)

05 of 14

Corkscrew Rush

Corkscrew Rush Juncus effusus Twister
Denny Schrock

One of the most interesting members of the rush family, corkscrew rush (Juncus effusus) develops dark green, twisted, and spiraled foliage making it a great 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 if you want to keep it contained. In the north, the plants will die back to the ground in the winter, but will remerge in the spring.

Light: Sun or part shade

Water: Plant in wet soil, or water frequently

Size: Up to 12 inches tall

Zones: 5-11

06 of 14

Obedient Plant

Obedient Plant
Clint Farlinger

An easy-care native, obedient plant (Physostegia virginiana) is prized for its tall spikes of pink or white snapdragon-like blooms that appear from June until September. This sun-lover can become invasive, so dig and divide it every two to three years to keep it in check. Variety 'Vivid', shown here, is a compact form that grows 1-2 feet tall with dark pink blooms.

Light: Full sun or part sun

Water: Plant in wet soil, or water frequently

Size: Up to 2 feet tall

Zones: 3-9

07 of 14

Swamp Milkweed

Asclepias incarnata swamp milkweed
Marty Baldwin

Growing 4-5 feet tall, swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) makes a bold statement in the landscape. This moisture-loving native plant produces nectar-rich flowers in mid to late summer that are highly attractive to butterflies. Flower colors include white, pink, or mauve. Monarch butterfly larvae also dine on the plants' foliage.

Light: Full sun

Water: Plant in wet soil, or water frequently

Size: Up to 5 feet tall

Zones: 3-6

Buy It: Swamp Milkweed ($24, Etsy)

08 of 14

Creeping Jenny

golden creeping jenny
Denny Schrock

For a plant that grows just a few inches tall, creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia) packs a big punch of color. This ground-hugging perennial sports bright chartreuse foliage that will quickly carpet any wet area. The plant forms new roots at each leaf node as the plant crawls across the ground, so it doesn't take long to spread through the garden. Creeping Jenny also develops small yellow flowers in the early summer. The leaves are the brightest when the plants are grown in full sun.

Light: Full sun or part shade

Water: Plant in wet soil, or water frequently

Size: Up to 2 inches tall

Zones: 3-9

09 of 14

Swamp Sunflower

willow leaf sunflower
Peter Krumhardt

A tough-as-nails native perennial, swamp sunflower (Helianthus angustifolius) 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. It loves plenty of sunshine and rich, moist soil. The variety 'Low Down', shown here, is a dwarf form that grows only 18 inches tall.

Light: Full sun

Water: Plant in consistently moist soil, or water frequently

Size: Up to 8 feet tall

Zones: 6-9

10 of 14

Horsetail

equisetum horsetail weed
Marty Baldwin

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

Light: Full sun, part shade, or shade

Water: Plant in wet soil or standing water

Size: Up to 3 feet tall

Zones: 4-9

Buy It: Horsetail Reed ($9, The Home Depot)

11 of 14

Elephant's Ear

elephant's ear alocasia amazonica
Peter Krumhardt

Named for their pachyderm-size leaves, elephant's ears (Alocasia spp.), are easy-care tropical perennials that come in a variety of colors and bicolors. In the north, grow elephant's ears in pots and move them indoors before the first frost. Keep them in a cool, bright location until spring returns.

Light: Full sun or part shade

Water: Plant in consistently moist soil, or water frequently

Size: Up to 6 feet tall

Zones: 10-11

12 of 14

Papyrus

dwarf papyrus grassy stems in water
Lynn Karlin

You don't have to live on the Nile River to enjoy papyrus (Cyperus 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 the north, grow papyrus in pots and bring the plants indoors before first frost. Set the pot near a sunny window and let it stand in a water-filled saucer. Move the plants back outdoors when the weather warms.

Light: Full sun

Water: Plant in moist soil or shallow water

Size: Up to 5 feet tall

Zones: 9-10

Buy It: Egyptian Papyrus ($15, The Home Depot)

13 of 14

Joe Pye Weed

eupatorium joe-pye weed
Dean Schoeppner

All you have to do with Joe Pye weed (Eupatorium perfoliatum) is plant it and stand back. This robust perennial needs little coddling and develops masses of mauve flower heads in the late summer and fall. It has no insect or disease problems, but it does best in moist or wet soil. Joe Pye weed's nectar-rich blooms also are a butterfly favorite. This plant can grow 5-8 feet tall, so if space is a problem look for the dwarf variety 'Little Joe' that only grows 3-4 feet tall.

Light: Full sun or part shade

Water: Plant in moist or wet soil

Size: Up to 8 feet tall

Zones: 3-10

14 of 14

Hardy Hibiscus

hibiscus
Dean Schoeppner

Big, bold color! That's what you'll get when you plant hardy hibiscus in your landscape. These heat-loving beauties thrive in rich, moist soil, developing dinner-plate-size blooms from midsummer until fall. Hardy hibiscus are available in a wide variety of colors and bicolors. In the north, the plants are slow to break dormancy in the spring, but once the weather heats up, they burst into new growth.

Light: Full sun

Water: Plant in consistently moist soil, or water frequently

Size: Up to 6 feet tall

Zones: 4-9

Buy It: Exotic Hibiscus Collection ($25, Breck's)

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