Perennials For Wet Soil

Hardy Hibiscus
Turn low-lying damp spots in your landscape into a colorful flower border by selecting perennials that thrive in wet soil. Here are some of the best perennials you can grow in soggy situations.

Cardinal Flower

Commonly called cardinal flower, Lobelia cardinalis, is an easy-care native perennial that sends up spikes of bright red-, white-, or rose-color flowers from midsummer to fall. The plants grow 2-4 feet tall and thrive in full sun or partial shade. This gorgeous plant is highly attractive to butterflies and hummingbirds. It's also deer- and rabbit-resistant. It grows well in Zones 3-9.

Japanese Iris

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. The plants can grow up to 4 feet tall. 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. The plants grow in full sun or partial shade. It grows well in Zones 4-9.

Pickerel Weed

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. This hardy plant requires full sun. The flowers are also attractive to butterflies. It grows well in Zones 3-10.

Chameleon Plant

Spreading quickly in wet, mucky soil, chameleon plant, Houttuynia cordata, makes an excellent ground cover. It gets its name from its bright green leaves attractively mottled with shades of red, cream, pink, and yellow. Small white flowers appear in May and June. This vigorous plant grows 10-15 inches tall and thrives in full sun or partial shade. It grows well in Zones 4-10.

Marsh Marigold

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. It grows well in Zones 3-7.

Corkscrew Rush

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. It grows equally well in sun or part shade. In the north, the plants will die back to the ground in the winter, but will remerge in the spring. It grows well in Zones 5-11.

Obedient Plant

An easy-care native, obedient plant, Physostegia virginiana, is prized for its tall spikes of pink or white snapdragonlike blooms that appear from June until September. The plants thrive in wet soil, growing to a height of 3-4 feet. 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. It grows well in Zones 3-9.

Swamp Milkweed

Growing 4-5 feet tall, swamp milkweed, Asclepias incarnata, makes a bold statement in the landscape. A moisture-loving native, swamp milkweed 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. The plants require full sun. It grows well in Zones 3-6.

Creeping Jenny

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. It grows well in Zones 3-9.

Swamp Sunflower

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. Variety 'Low Down' , shown here, is a dwarf form that is just as floriferous as its taller cousin, but it grows only 18 inches tall. It grows well in Zones 6-9.


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 be aware that left unchecked it may be hard to eradicate. This trait, however, also makes it an ideal choice for a wet low spot where nothing else will grow. It grows well in Zones 4-9.

Elephant's Ear

Named for their pachyderm-size leaves, elephant's ears, Alocasia, are easy-care tropical perennials that come in a variety of colors and bicolors. Growing between 2-6 feet tall, elephant's ears thrive in hot, moist conditions and will grow in full sun to partial shade. 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. It grows well in Zones 10-11.


You don't have to live on the Nile River to enjoy papyrus, Cyperus papyrus. This heat-loving tropical perennial thrives anywhere as long as it's planted in moist soil or shallow water. The plants grow 4-5 feet tall with 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. It grows well in Zones 9-10.

Joe Pye Weed

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. Joe Pye weed 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. It grows well in Zones 3-10.

Hardy Hibiscus

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. They can grow 4-6 feet tall. In the north, the plants are slow to break dormancy in the spring, but once the weather heats up, they burst into new growth. It grows well in Zones 4-9.

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