We Love Wet Feet!
Choosing Native Moisture Loving Shrubs for the Landscape & Garden

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This colorful and easy to grow Red Buckeye makes a perfect shrub for those problematic wet areas in your landscape

Photo Credit: Betty/Wikimedia Commons

That soggy spot in the yard is the bane of many a home landscaper.  Most anything you plant there seems to die. 

Commonly sold landscape plants, in general, and woody shrubs in particular, don’t much care for the kind of soil that will not drain well.  This is called hydric soil

The What and Why of Moisture Loving Shrubs

The definition of a hydric soil is one that formed under conditions of saturation, flooding or ponding long enough during the growing season to develop anaerobic conditions in the upper part of the soil profile.

Death by strangulation is the common result if you try to plant most garden center shrubs in area that has hydric soils.   The roots cannot get enough oxygen or nutrients by their normal methods, and they just die off.  Those shrubs that do survive are ones that are found in your local native wetland habitats.



Native wetlands shrubs are not hard to locate.  Check with your Native Plant Society or the National Nursery Directory for local nurseries in your area that carry them. 


Right Plant in the Right Place

Wetland plants are divided into four groups according to how often they occur in wetland habitats.  They are as follows: 

You want to choose the plants that most closely match your soil conditions.  Your nursery should be able to tell you which classification your prospective shrub falls into, but the best way is to know before you go by checking the Plants Database of the USDA.  You will not be tempted to buy some cute little shrub that will not survive if you plan in advance.


Native Shrubs to the Rescue

Itea virginica Virginia Sweetspire

Virginia Sweetspire
Photo Credit:  SB_Johnny/Wikimedia Commons

As you might imagine, choosing native shrubs that already thrive in wetland conditions will insure greater success in your damp landscape areas.  You can choose shrubs that will accommodate everything from being in water full time (obligate), to those that can be sometimes saturated (facultative upland). 

We have grouped some of the most common plant families for wetlands, as well as some outstanding stand alone species.

  There are plants for every USDA Zone and geographical region of the US and most of Canada. 

You will sacrifice nothing in the way of color, winter interest, wildlife habitat or ease of growth with these wonderful wetland shrubs.  Check out our top suggestions, including where to buy your wetland loving shrubs.

There are plants in these groups that are obligate, facultative wetland, facultative and upland facultative.  This means you will be able to find a shrub for any moisture condition you have in your yard. 

Outstanding Stand Alones 

These shrubs don't have a whole family of wet feet lovers, but they are great just on their own.                                      
Cephalanthus occidentalis - Button Bush
Amorpha fruticosa - Western False Indigo
Baccharis salicifolia  - Mulefat
Chilopsis linearis - Desert Willow Shrub
Gaultheria ovatifolia –
Oregon Spicy Wintergreen
Clethra alnifolia - Summersweet Clethra
Itea virginica  - Virginia Sweetspire
Calycanthus florida  - Sweetshrub
Lindera Benzoin -  Spicebush





Buckeye Family

Aesculus pavia - Red Buckeye
Aesculus parviflora – Bottlebrush Buckeye
Aesculus sylvatica - Painted Buckeye




Bottlebrush Buckeye Aesculus Parviflora

Bottlebrush Buckeye
Photo Credit:  Magnus Manske/Wilimedia Commons



Bayberry/ Wax Myrtle Family  

Myrica californica - Pacific Wax Myrtle
Myrica cerifera - Southern Wax Myrtle
Myrica gale - Sweet Gale
Myrica pensylvanica - Bayberry

Myrica cerifera Wax Myrtle

Southern Wax Myrtle
Photo Credit: BotBln/Wikimedia Commons



Blueberry Family  

Vaccinium arboreum – Farkleberry
Vaccinium caesariense -New Jersey blueberry
Vaccinium calycinum - Ohelo Kau La'au
Vaccinium cespitosum - Dwarf Bilberry
Vaccinium corymbosum - Highbush Blueberry
Vaccinium deliciosum - Cascade bilberry
Vaccinium ovatum - Evergreen huckleberry
Vaccinium parvifolium - Red huckleberry

Vaccinium corymbosum Highbush Blueberry

Highbush Blueberry
Photo Credit: Gebruiker:Rasbak/Wikimedia Commons



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Chokeberry Family                                            
Aronia arbutifolia - Red Chokeberry 
Aronia melanocarpa -  Black Chokeberry
Aronia arbutifolia var. atropurpurea –
Purple Chokeberry

Aronia albutifolia Red Chokeberry

Red Chokeberries
Photo Credit: Abrahami/Wikimedia Commons



Dogwood Family                                        
Cornus Alba - Red Twig Dogwood
Cornus amomum  - Silky Dogwood
Cornus sericeas - Red Osier Dogwood
Cornus sericea 'Flaviramea’  -
Yellow twig Dogwood
Cornus sericea ssp. occidentalis  -
Western Dogwood

Cornus sericea Flaviramea' Yellowtwig DogwoodYellowtwig Dogwood
Photo Credit: StenSten Porse/Wikimedia Commons




Elderberry Family

Sambucus cerulea -  Blue Elderberry
Sambucus nigra ssp. canadensis
American Elderberry
Sambucus racemosa  - Red Elderberry

Sambucus nigra ssp canadensi American Elderberry            Black Elderberry
Photo Credit: Karduelis/Wikimedia Commons




Holly Family     

Ilex cassine - Dahoon Holly
Ilex glabra - Inkberry
Ilex verticillata - Winterberry
Ilex vomitoria - Yaupon Holly
Ilex decidua - Possumhaw

Ilex verticullata Winterberry Winterberry
Photocredit: ehoneycutt_2008/Photobucket



Honeysuckle Family

Lonicera caerulea  - Sweetberry Honeysuckle
Lonicera involucrata   Black twinberry
Lonicera involucrata var. ledebourii –
Twinberry Honeysuckle

Lonicera involucrata  Black twinberry

Black Twinberry
Photo Credit: Jerry Friedman/ Wikimedia Commons



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Spiraea Family /Ninebark Family*

Spiraea alba – White Meadowsweet
Spiraea x vanhouttei - Bridal Wreath Spiraea
Spiraea tomentosa - Hardhack
   *Physocarpus capitatus - Pacific ninebark
   *Physocarpus opulifolius - Common Ninebark 

Spiraea alba White Meadowsweet

Photo Credit: Andre Karwath/Wikimedia Commons



Rhododendron Family

Rhododendron – Sweet Azalea
Rhododendron atlanticum – Coastal Azalea
Rhododendron canadense -Rhodora
Rhododendron macrophyllum   Pacific Rhododendron
Rhododendron vaseyi (pinkshell azalea)
Rhododendron viscosum - Swamp azalea

Rhododendron macrophyllum  Pacific rhododendron

Pacific Rhododendron
Photo Credit: Robert Dunning/Wikipedia Commons


Rose Family

Rosa carolina - Carolina Rose                              
Rosa palustris - Swamp Rose
Rosa virginiana – Virginia Rose
Rosa californica - California Wildrose
Rosa nutkana - Nootka Rose
Rosa woodsii Woods' Rose
Rosa gymnocarpa - Bald-hip rose
Rosa pisocarpa - Swamp rose
Rosa palustrus - Swamp Rose
Rosa blanda - Meadow Rose

Rosa woodsii Woods' Rose

Woods’ Rose
Photo Credit: © Stan Shebs / Wikimedia Commons


Viburnum Family

Viburnum acerifolium - Mapleleaf Viburnum       
Viburnum alnifolium - Hobblebush
Viburnum cassinoides - Witherod Viburnum
Vibernum dentatum - Arrowwood Viburnum 
Viburnum lentago - Nannyberry
Viburnum opulus - Cranberry Viburnum
Viburnum trilobum - Cranberry Shrub


Willow Family

Salix exigua - Sand Bar Willow   
Salix hookeriana - Hooker's willow
Salix Humilis - Prairie Willow
Salix laevigata  - Red Willow
Salix lucida (lasiandra) - Pacific willow
Salix nigra -  Black Willow
Salix purpurea –Purple Osier willow
Salix scouleriana - Scouler's willow
Salix sitchensis  -Sitka willow

Salix purpurea Purple Osier WillowPurple Osier Willow
Photo Credit: Álvaro Izuzquiza/Wikimedia Commons



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Where to buy Native Moisture Loving Plants

National Nursery Directory

California Native Plant Link Exchange
Cooperative Extension Service, The University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences
Native Plant Resources for the Pacific Northwest
Purdue University Cooperative Extension     
State of Maine Department Environemental Protection

US Army Corps of Engineers

National Wetlands Inventory- 1996 National List of Vascular Plant Species That Occur in Wetlands
Recognizing Wetlands  

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