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Wet areas in the landscape are usually problem areas. While there are several solutions to wet ground, each solution involves its own problems and a good deal of work. The area could be filled, however this creates yet another problem area in the landscape. Another option is to drain the area and plant trees or shrubs. The creation of a water garden is another solution; ideas for this may be gleaned from a study of local natural bogs or wet areas and the observation of plant associations and site differences.

When growing a water garden, it is important to place the plants at sites where they will achieve optimal growth. Trees and larger shrubs growing in mineral soils should be placed along the banks or upon islands within the moist area. Herbaceous species and smaller shrubs grow best in an organic mat or soil. Proper soil reaction (PH), nutrient and light requirements should be understood and observed. The amount, depth and movement of the wet area is also important.

Air drainage is directly related to plant hardiness. Wet spots are low and are sinks for cold air, thus perennial plants known to be intolerable of cold weather should not be planted in these areas. Wild plants taken from the same habitats will already have adapted to these conditions and are better choices.

The following list recommends trees and shrubs for planting on wet sites:


Acer rubrum Red maple A. saccharinum Silver maple Ainus spp. Alder Amelanchier spp. Serviceberry Betula nigra River birch B. papyrifera Paper birch Celtis laevigata Sugar hackberry Larix laricina Tamarack Liquidambar styraciflua Sweet gum Nyssa sylvatica Sour gum (tupelo) Picea glauca White spruce Platanus acerifolia London plane tree P. occidentalis Sycamore Populus spp. Poplar (aspen) Quercus bicolor Swamp white oak Q. Macrocarpa Bur oak Q. palustris Pin oak Salix spp. Willow Taxodium distichum Bald cypress Thuja occidentalis American arvorvitae Viburnum prunifolium Black haw


Alnus incana Hoary alder Aronia arbutifolia Chokecherry Calycanthus floridus Sweetshrub Cephalanthus Button-bush occidentalis Chionanthus virginicus Fringetree Clethra alnifolia Summersweet Cornus alba 'Siberica' Siberian dogwood C. racemosa Gray dogwood C. stolonifera Redosier dogwood Crataefus crus-galli Hawthorn (cockspur) Gaylussacia spp. Huckleberry Ilex glabra Inkberry L. verticillata Winterberry Lindera benzoin Spicebush Magnolia virginiana Sweetbay magnolia Potentilla fruticosa Shrubby cinquefoil Rhamnus frangula Alder buckthorn Salix spp. Willow Sambucus canadensis American elderberry Spiraea alba Steeplebush Symphoricarpus spp. Coralberry Vaccinium spp. Blueberry Viburnum cassinoides Witherod V. dentatum Arrowwood V. lentago Nannyberry V. trilobum Cranberry viburnum

The following list recommends herbaceous species best suited for wet sites:

Anemonella spp. Rue anemone Arundo donax Giant reed Asclepias incarnata Swamp milkweed Thelypteris palustris March fern Aster spp. Aster Astilbe spp. Astilbe Caltha palustris Marsh marigold Campanula aparinoides Marsh bluebell Carex spp. Sedge Gentianopsis crinita Fringed gentian Hibiscus moscheutos Rose mallow Hydrocotyle spp. Water pennywort Hypericum spp. St. Johns-wort Impatiens biflora Touch-me-Not Iris spp. Iris Liatris spicata Blazing-star Lilium canadensis Canada lily L. superbum Turkscap lily Lobelia cardinalis Cardinal flower Mentha pulegium Pennyroyal Myosotis scorpioides Forget-me-Not Nuphar spp. Cow lily Onoclea sensibilis Sensitive fern Osmunda cinnamomea Cinnamon fern O. regalis Royal fern Pontederia cordata Pickerel weed Primula japonica Japanese primrose Ranunculus spp. Buttercup Sagittaria latifolia Arrowhead Saururus cernuus Swamp lily Scirpus spp. Bulrush Thalictrum spp. Meadow-rue Tofieldia glutinosa False asphodel Trollius spp. Globeflower Typha latifolia Cat-tail Vericona spp. Ironweed Viola app. Violet Zigadenus glaucus White camass


Working with Wet Areas in landscaping.

by Harold Davidson Department of Horticulture; Michigan State University

Visuals associated with this text.

Visual title - Visual size Visual title - Visual size
Carex morrowii - 88K Onoclea sensibilis - 62K
Osmunda cinnamomea - 64K
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