Horticulture Magazine

30 Plants That Love Wet & Waterlogged Soil

waterlogged soil in a garden

For nearly every plant you’ll see instructions like “ensure soil is moist but well-drained” or “this plant requires good drainage.”

And it figures: the roots of most plants don’t thrive in overly wet conditions.

They get damp and soggy, and this is a breeding ground for all sorts of problems.

Left in this condition too long and the roots begin to rot; leave this unchecked for too long and the whole plant can die off.

rot on the roots of a strawberry plant
Rot can kill a plant

But what if you live somewhere that gets a lot of rain? Or if part of your garden is prone to puddles and pooled water? Should you just abandon hope and give up your dreams of a vibrant garden?

We’re pleased to tell you that the answer to this question is a firm “no!”

There are plenty of plants that will do well in wet soils.

We’ve rounded up thirty options that you can grow in your waterlogged garden without fear of damaging or killing them off.

How To Tell If You Have Wet Soil

white bench sat in a large waterlogged garden

The first step we recommend is to check whether you actually have wet or waterlogged soil.

For new gardeners who aren’t familiar with what different soil types feel like, this step is a great way to ensure you choose plants that are suitable for your garden.

Thankfully this test is simple, although you will need to do a bit of digging. Here’s how to do it –

  • Dig a hole to 60cm deep.
  • Leave it for 24 hours, taking care to cover it over to prevent any rain getting in
  • Check to see whether water has pooled in the bottom at the end of this period

If water has pooled you have a high water table, meaning soil conditions will always be wet.

If no water is pooled you can do another test to check your drainage: simply fill the hole with water and another 24 hours, taking care again to cover the hole.

If you’ve still got water in the hole at the end, drainage is poor.

Equipped with this knowledge you can choose the right plants for your garden.

Now you know how to check your soil, here are thirty plants well suited to growth in wet or poorly drained conditions, including some chosen by Penn State Extension and The University of Maine.

1) Japanese Water Iris ‘Rose Queen’

a bog garden with water iris flowers
  • BOTANICAL NAME: Iris ensata ‘Rose Queen’
  • PLANT TYPE: PERENNIAL
  • HARDINESS RATING: H6
  • PREFERRED SOIL: ACIDIC; LOAM
  • PREFERRED ASPECT: ANY
  • RHS AWARD OF GARDEN MERIT

This iris has delicate pink-white petals that get gradually darker approaching the centre, before a bold yellow streak.

The distinctive petal shape and formation is a pleasure to behold, and this plant is a great first choice for any wet garden.

Ideal growing conditions for this iris are full sun or partial shade, in any aspect except north-facing.

Loamy, poorly drained soil is preferred (as you’d expect in this article!) and the plant is very hardy – suited to all but the most unusually severe British winter.

Take care when handling this plant as ingesting it may cause discomfort: it’s advised to wear gloves and wash your hands to minimise the risk of this happening.

2) Arum Lily

arum lily
  • BOTANICAL NAME: Zantedeschia aethiopica
  • PLANT TYPE: AQUATIC PERENNIAL
  • HARDINESS RATING: H4
  • PREFERRED SOIL: CLAY / LOAM
  • PREFERRED ASPECT: SHELTERED

The arum lily is also known as the altar, calla, trumpet, Egyptian, or African lily.

Or, if you want to be really formal, Zantedeschia aethiopica.

Whatever you want to call it though, the characteristic swirling white petal with its yellow interior is a beautiful addition to any garden.

In clay or loam soil with poor drainage, this flower will thrive.

Choose a spot that also has full sun or partial shade, and a west- or south-facing aspect.

As with the iris we recommend gloves when handling this plant.

3) Goat’s Beard

goat's beard plant
  • BOTANICAL NAME: Aruncus dioicus
  • PLANT TYPE: PERENNIAL
  • HARDINESS RATING: H6
  • PREFERRED SOIL: CLAY / LOAM
  • PREFERRED ASPECT: ANY
  • RHS AWARD OF GARDEN MERIT

Sometimes you find a plant whose name and appearance align perfectly.

For us, the wispy white fronds at the end of each green stalk looks exactly like the wispy white whiskers on your average farmyard goat.

So if that’s an aesthetic you’re going for, you’re in luck. And if not, this plant has enough to offer visually that you’re in luck anyway.

Goat’s beard likes poorly drained clay or loam, and needs full or partial sun. Avoid a north-facing aspect.

You don’t need to worry about wearing gloves while handling this hardy plant, as there’s no risk of discomfort or irritation from handling it.

4) Largest Masterwort

an Astrantia maxima flower in focus
  • BOTANICAL NAME: Astrantia maxima
  • PLANT TYPE: PERENNIAL
  • HARDINESS RATING: H7
  • PREFERRED SOIL: ANY
  • PREFERRED ASPECT: ANY (INCLUDING FULL SHADE)
  • RHS AWARD OF GARDEN MERIT

From afar each clump of small pink flowers looks like a flower of its own, making this plant rewarding for the curious observer.

We also like this one for its wild, rustic appeal.

It’s a plant that doesn’t have much deliberate cultivation behind it, but which has held its own and persevered for generations.

The name evokes old-timey English gardens, and incorporating masterwort into your waterlogged floral display will add a streak of undeniable character.

Not fussy in terms of sunlight, exposure, or soil type, this plant shouldn’t be too much trouble to grow.

It can even tolerate moist but well-drained soil, making it a good option for an area of your garden prone to be changeable.

5) Slipperwort

orange flowers of bush slipperwort
  • BOTANICAL NAME: Calceolaria integrifolia
  • PLANT TYPE: SHRUB
  • HARDINESS RATING: H2
  • PREFERRED SOIL: ACIDIC
  • PREFERRED ASPECT: ANY
  • RHS AWARD OF GARDEN MERIT

Here’s another name that brings to mind bygone days, in cottage gardens tucked far away from the hustle and bustle of the 21st century.

This small and bushy shrub boasts rich green leaves and a dazzling bouquet of yellow flowers.

Although it’s an evergreen this plant only has a hardiness rating of H2 meaning it will struggle in winter.

Expect a short summer bloom, though, and you won’t be disappointed.

A wet spot with or without drainage will be favourite for this plant.

Choose somewhere with full sun or partial shade, in a south- or east-facing aspect and avoid chalky soil.

6) Lily Of The Valley

white cups and green foliage of lily of the valley
  • BOTANICAL NAME: Convallaria majalis
  • PLANT TYPE: PERENNIAL
  • HARDINESS RATING: H7
  • PREFERRED SOIL: CLAY / LOAM
  • PREFERRED ASPECT: FULL OR PART SHADE
  • RHS AWARD OF GARDEN MERIT

This is a very famous plant, and for good reason.

You may see it referred to by a range of names including May lily, mugget, mayflower, lady’s tears and more.

This is testament to widespread appreciation and an indication that the plant was popular enough to be named in many regions.

The white bonnet-shaped flowers are delicate and gentle, and will stand out against other bold flowers thanks to their unusual appearance.

Lily of the valley will look great either on its own or as part of a display with other plants in this list.

To grow, find a spot in full or partial shade, facing any direction except south.

Look for clay or loam soil, and ensure good levels of moisture.

7) Chinese Astilbe

purple wispy chinese astilbe blooms
  • BOTANICAL NAME: Astilbe chinensis
  • PLANT TYPE: PERENNIAL
  • HARDINESS RATING: H7
  • PREFERRED SOIL: LOAM
  • PREFERRED ASPECT: FULL SUN OR PART SHADE

If you like wispy fronds like the goat’s beard, then the Chinese astilbe is another good choice for your garden.

This plant has striking light pink fronds that stand proudly above the ground, making this plant great for the back rows of wet ground floral displays.

The astilbe will do best in poorly drained loamy soil, in a location with full sun or partial shade.

Avoid a north-facing aspect if possible.

Find the right spot and you’ll be rewarded with a stunning pink bloom in summer.

8) Pickerel Weed

Pickerel weed next to a pond with goldfish
  • BOTANICAL NAME: Pontederia cordata
  • PLANT TYPE: AQUATIC PERENNIAL
  • HARDINESS RATING: H5
  • PREFERRED SOIL: CLAY / LOAM
  • PREFERRED ASPECT: FULL SUN
  • RHS AWARD OF GARDEN MERIT

Fear not: though this plant has weed in the name, it’s not going to overrun your garden and cause you problems!

In fact, pickerelweed – full name pontederia cordata – is perfectly suited to marginal aquatic conditions (read: it likes growing at the edge of water).

To the untrained eye the purple-blue fronds at the end of each stalk look a little like lavender, but the overall aesthetic of this plant is very different.

Combined with the pinks and whites and purples in this list, a little bit of blue in your garden’s palette will pack a lot of punch.

Look for a spot in clay or loam soil near the edge of water.

This plant thrives in full sunlight, and will do best in a south- or west-facing exposure.

9) Canna Lily

water droplets on a yellow canna lily flower
  • BOTANICAL NAME: CANNA
  • PLANT TYPE: PERENNIAL
  • HARDINESS RATING: TYPICALLY H3
  • PREFERRED SOIL: ANY
  • PREFERRED ASPECT: FULL SUN; SHELTERED
  • RHS AWARD OF GARDEN MERIT

10) Slender Club Rush

slender club rush plant in boggy ground
  • BOTANICAL NAME: Isolepis cernua
  • PLANT TYPE: ORNAMENTAL GRASS
  • HARDINESS RATING: H6
  • PREFERRED SOIL: BOGGY
  • PREFERRED ASPECT: ANY

11) Bulley’s Primrose

many small orange flowers of Primula bulleyana
  • BOTANICAL NAME: Primula bulleyana
  • PLANT TYPE: PERENNIAL
  • HARDINESS RATING: H7
  • PREFERRED SOIL: SLIGHTLY ACIDIC; LOAM
  • PREFERRED ASPECT: ANY
  • RHS AWARD OF GARDEN MERIT

12) Forget-Me-Not

light blue flowers of Myosotis
  • BOTANICAL NAME: Myosotis sylvatica
  • PLANT TYPE: PERENNIAL
  • HARDINESS RATING: H6
  • PREFERRED SOIL: ANY
  • PREFERRED ASPECT: PART SHADE
  • RHS AWARD OF GARDEN MERIT

13) Bleeding Heart

hanging pink and white flowers of Lamprocapnos spectabilis
  • BOTANICAL NAME: Lamprocapnos spectabilis
  • PLANT TYPE: PERENNIAL
  • HARDINESS RATING: H6
  • PREFERRED SOIL: ALKALINE
  • PREFERRED ASPECT: PART SHADE; SHELTERED
  • RHS AWARD OF GARDEN MERIT

14) Autumn Ox-Eye

white daisy-shaped flowers of Leucanthemella serotina in clay soil
  • BOTANICAL NAME: Leucanthemella serotina
  • PLANT TYPE: PERENNIAL
  • HARDINESS RATING: H7
  • PREFERRED SOIL: ANY
  • PREFERRED ASPECT: ANY
  • RHS AWARD OF GARDEN MERIT

15) Rodgersia ‘Elegans’

Rodgersia pinnata 'Elegans'
  • BOTANICAL NAME: Rodgersia pinnata ‘Elegans’
  • PLANT TYPE: PERENNIAL
  • HARDINESS RATING: H6
  • PREFERRED SOIL: CLAY / LOAM
  • PREFERRED ASPECT: ANY
  • RHS AWARD OF GARDEN MERIT

16) Pitcher Plant

pitcher plant in waterlogged ground
  • BOTANICAL NAME: Sarracenia leucophylla
  • PLANT TYPE: CARNIVOROUS
  • HARDINESS RATING: H5
  • PREFERRED SOIL: ACIDIC
  • PREFERRED ASPECT: FULL SUN; SHELTERED
  • RHS AWARD OF GARDEN MERIT

17) Scarlet Monkey Flower

Mimulus cardinalis
  • BOTANICAL NAME: Mimulus cardinalis
  • PLANT TYPE: ANNUAL / PERENNIAL
  • HARDINESS RATING: H4
  • PREFERRED SOIL: ANY
  • PREFERRED ASPECT: ANY
  • RHS AWARD OF GARDEN MERIT

18) Leopard Plant ‘Gregynog Gold’

Ligularia 'Gregynog Gold' with slim, long, yellow petals
  • BOTANICAL NAME: Ligularia ‘Gregynog Gold’
  • PLANT TYPE: PERENNIAL
  • HARDINESS RATING: H6
  • PREFERRED SOIL: CLAY / LOAM
  • PREFERRED ASPECT: FULL SUN; SHELTERED
  • RHS AWARD OF GARDEN MERIT

19) Tibetan Cowslip

yellow flowering Tibetan Cowslip in boggy soil
  • BOTANICAL NAME: Primula florindae
  • PLANT TYPE: PERENNIAL
  • HARDINESS RATING: H7
  • PREFERRED SOIL: SLIGHTLY ACIDIC; LOAM
  • PREFERRED ASPECT: ANY
  • RHS AWARD OF GARDEN MERIT

20) Sycamore

Acer pseudoplatanus tree with distinctively shaped foliage
  • BOTANICAL NAME: Acer pseudoplatanus
  • PLANT TYPE: TREE
  • HARDINESS RATING: H7
  • PREFERRED SOIL: ANY
  • PREFERRED ASPECT: ANY

21) Black Alder

a large alder tree shaped by wind
  • BOTANICAL NAME: Alnus glutinosa
  • PLANT TYPE: TREE
  • HARDINESS RATING: H7
  • PREFERRED SOIL: ANY
  • PREFERRED ASPECT: FULL SUN

22) Siberian Dogwood

red branches of Siberian Dogwood in wet soil
  • BOTANICAL NAME: Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’
  • PLANT TYPE: SHRUB
  • HARDINESS RATING: H7
  • PREFERRED SOIL: SLIGHTLY ACIDIC
  • PREFERRED ASPECT: ANY
  • RHS AWARD OF GARDEN MERIT

23) Cohosh Bugbane

white flowering Cohosh Bugbane bush
  • BOTANICAL NAME: Actaea racemosa
  • PLANT TYPE: PERENNIAL
  • HARDINESS RATING: H7
  • PREFERRED SOIL: CLAY / LOAM
  • PREFERRED ASPECT: PART SHADE; SHELTERED
  • RHS AWARD OF GARDEN MERIT

24) Globeflower ‘Orange Princess’

magnified flowers of Globeflower 'Orange Princess'
  • BOTANICAL NAME: Trollius × cultorum ‘Orange Princess’
  • PLANT TYPE: PERENNIAL
  • HARDINESS RATING: H7
  • PREFERRED SOIL: CLAY / LOAM
  • PREFERRED ASPECT: ANY
  • RHS AWARD OF GARDEN MERIT

25) Creeping Spearwort

small yellow flowers of Creeping Spearwort
  • BOTANICAL NAME: Ranunculus flammula
  • PLANT TYPE: AQUATIC PERENNIAL
  • HARDINESS RATING: H7
  • PREFERRED SOIL: ANY
  • PREFERRED ASPECT: ANY

26) Bowles’s Golden Sedge

Carex riparia 'Bowles's Golden' ornamental grasses in an open garden area
  • BOTANICAL NAME: Carex riparia ‘Bowles’s Golden’
  • PLANT TYPE: AQUATIC PERENNIAL
  • HARDINESS RATING: H6
  • PREFERRED SOIL: CLAY / LOAM
  • PREFERRED ASPECT: ANY
  • RHS AWARD OF GARDEN MERIT

27) Lady Of The Meadow

umbel flowering Filipendula ulmaria with water in the background
  • BOTANICAL NAME: Filipendula ulmaria
  • PLANT TYPE: PERENNIAL
  • HARDINESS RATING: H6
  • PREFERRED SOIL: CLAY / LOAM
  • PREFERRED ASPECT: ANY

28) London Plane

London plane tree
  • BOTANICAL NAME: Platanus × hispanica
  • PLANT TYPE: TREE
  • HARDINESS RATING: H6
  • PREFERRED SOIL: ANY
  • PREFERRED ASPECT: FULL SUN
  • RHS AWARD OF GARDEN MERIT

29) Riverside Windflower

white flowers of Anemone rivularis
  • BOTANICAL NAME: Anemone rivularis
  • PLANT TYPE: PERENNIAL
  • HARDINESS RATING: H5
  • PREFERRED SOIL: CLAY / LOAM
  • PREFERRED ASPECT: ANY

30) Japanese Primrose ‘Apple Blossom’

pink upright flowers of Primula japonica 'Apple Blossom' on boggy ground
  • BOTANICAL NAME: Primula japonica ‘Apple Blossom’
  • PLANT TYPE: PERENNIAL
  • HARDINESS RATING: H6
  • PREFERRED SOIL: ACIDIC; LOAM
  • PREFERRED ASPECT: SHELTERED

Waterlogged Gardens Need Love Too

Hopefully after reading this list you feel renewed hope that your wet and waterlogged garden can be made to thrive.

While these aren’t the plants you’ll see on most lists of best plants for British gardens, each one has a distinct aesthetic and stands ready to make a stunning visual contribution to your garden.

We looked for a selection of shapes and sizes to give you a few options, but remember this list is far from exhaustive.

There are hundreds of plants that will do well in soggy soil, and if you keep hunting we’re sure you’ll find the perfect combination to set your garden popping.

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