What Kinds of Plants Grow Well in Moist Soil?

 What Kinds of Plants Grow Well in Moist Soil?

I live in the Great Lakes region of the USA and get along with moist, loamy soil and lots of rain during the growing season. I was able to develop a wholesome, lively garden every year by picking the proper trees and enhancing the soil.

Many plants have evolved adaptations to survive in swampy areas and thrive with constant moisture. Some of these plants have aerenchyma, which are air pockets within the plant's stem to send oxygen to the plant's roots. Other plants develop surface roots above the soil surface to obtain oxygen from the air.

Some wetlands-dwelling trees employ the technique of expanding more quickly than their capacity to do so. Unfortunately, this leads to short-lived trees that may not be ideal for your long-term landscaping goals. Silver maples, green ash, and American elm are short-lived and rejuvenate quickly, but they are not ideal additions to a home landscape.

The 11 best trees and shrubs for wetlands

When drainage is inadequate, constantly moist soil inhibits the normal oxygenation of plant roots, killing a large number of plants. Also, high water levels often lead to fungal infections of plants, especially if air circulation is poor.

Some plants have evolved adaptations to thrive in swampy areas and should be considered for any yard with standing water or consistently wet soil.

Trees ideal for wetlands feature wood that is resistant to rot and longevity. Hardy trees that thrive in damp conditions and have long lives and great health include black locust, bald cypress, and black tupelo. A hardy shrub species that survives on wild fruit and sorghum in wetlands. For the tropics, palm trees and water ash are excellent choices.

1. Birch River

Birch trees are great for wetlands and will thrive when the soil is moist. River birch is special because it has beautiful flaky bark and a multi-stemmed habit that makes it a very attractive choice for homeowners.

Tips for growing river birch

Choose a full sun, partial shade location for your tree.
Mulch areas where the soil may dry out to keep tree roots moist and cool.
River birch trees prefer slightly acidic soil with a pH of 5.0-6.5.

2. Weeping willow

With beautiful, weeping branches and a bright yellow-green color, weeping willows are a great addition to a wet garden, provided they have plenty of room to grow. These trees are large and require a large garden area, and should never be planted near a septic field.

Willows are trees with a fast growth habit, and will grow up to 2 feet (0.30 m) per year! Gardeners looking for miniature willows will do well to plant tricolor willows near ponds or in wetlands.

Tips for growing a weeping willow

Willows prefer full sun to partial shade locations.
Plant a weeping willow near ponds or other wet areas.
The weeping willow grows in loamy soils, acidic soils, and alkaline soils.
The average lifespan of a weeping willow is only 30 years, so plan to replace the tree after this period!

3. Bald Cypress

With the longest lifespan of any tree in the United States, the bald cypress is a conifer that sheds its needles each winter. While the bare branches may deter some gardeners from wanting to have this tree in their yard, the seasonal display of bright red complements the plant's seasonal nature.

Northern growers often choose non-native dawn redwood for landscaping, but native bald cypress is a much better choice.

Tips for growing bald cypress

Bald cypress prefers moist, acidic soil. Soil pH over 7.5 will harm the tree.
For best growth, start the tree in a soil mix that includes some sand.
This tree needs a lot of space, as it can reach 120 feet in height!
Bald cypress trees planted in areas of standing water will produce dramatic "knees" sticking out of the water, adding interest to the landscape.
There are many miniature dwarf cultivars for people with small garden spaces.

4. Black tupelo

Black tupelo is a great native tree for yards with moist soil. This tree has great fall color and provides berries for local songbirds. This tree produces tiny blooms, which are very advantageous to the neighbourhood bee population.

With a mature height of 30-50' and a moderate growth rate (1-2 feet per year), this tree fits well in most landscapes and makes an excellent specimen tree in the yard.

Tips for growing black tupelo

This tree prefers full sun to partial shade.
Plant black tupelo to attract songbirds and small mammals to your garden.
Plant in slightly acidic soil (pH 5.0-7.4).

5. Sweetgum (Liquidum)

A great addition to any northern landscape, the Sweetgum tree has star-shaped leaves that turn orange-red in fall. This is another native star that fits well in landscapes with poor drainage.

The tree produces spiky "gum balls" that fall to the ground in winter and early spring. These seed pods are worth considering for those who prefer a low cluttered tree! For a less messy option, opt for black tupelo as an alternative.

Tips for growing Sweetgum 

Grow in full sun to partial shade.
This tree grows well in moist soil or sandy soil.
It does not grow where water is constantly standing or where the soil is dry.
Plant in slightly acidic soil (pH 5.0-7.4).

6. Tricolor spotted willow

Tricolor willow is a pretty shrub that produces a gorgeous display of white, pink, and green leaves in the spring. With a fast growth rate and water-searching roots, it's a top shrub choice for any wet garden. This shrub also tolerates heavy pruning for growers who want to use it as a hedge.

As an added bonus, this shrub is deer-resistant and requires almost no maintenance once established.

Tricolor Spotted Willow Growing Tips

Spotted willow prefers at least six hours of direct sun per day.
This shrub grows in a variety of soil types but does not tolerate dry soil.
Don't plant near septic fields, where the roots seek water and spread.

7. Sweet Bay Magnolia

Covered in large white blossoms each spring, sweet bay magnolias are a stunning addition to landscapes with moist soils. This tree makes an excellent specimen tree and grows to an average height of 30 inches, making it ideal for small yards.

This tree will remain evergreen in hot weather. In cold weather, the tree loses its leaves. This native tree also attracts swallow butterflies and songbirds.

Tips for Growing Sweet Bay Magnolias

Sweet Bay Magnolia will tolerate intermittent flooding but should not be planted where standing water never recedes.
Prefers slightly acidic soil.
Plant in full sun to partial shade.

8. Coconut palm

Tall, swaying coconut palms are ideal trees for a tropical garden with still water. These trees require very little pruning, except for the removal of damaged branches. Since these trees bear fruit, it is not wise to plant them as falling coconuts will not be welcome.

Coconut Palm Growing Tips

Plant your coconut palm in full sun.
If the fronds turn yellow, add 1 tablespoon of Epsom salt to the soil.
Use an 8-8-8 fertilizer to help the palm tree thrive, adding 1.5 pounds of fertilizer per 100 square feet.

9. Palm mill

One of the hardiest palm trees available, the windmill palm can withstand temperatures as low as 5 degrees Fahrenheit (-15 degrees Celsius)! The mill palm is grown in Ireland and other cool places because of its relatively hardy nature. This palm can also tolerate alkaline soil, which is beneficial for those with a soil pH higher than 7.5.

Although it is not a native palm, it is not invasive and makes a great addition to a waterlogged garden.

Tips for growing windmill palms

Mill palms prefer shade to partial shade.
Do not grow in windy areas, as this will cause the leaves to break off.
Mill palms are salt tolerant when planted in areas close to the ocean.
Plant three palms together to create an attractive tropical garden.

10. Palm tree fan

The mangrove fan palm is a small, multi-stemmed palm that thrives in moist soil. Native to southern Asia, the tree does well in tropical gardens in USDA Zones 9-11. These small palms can be planted near a home or foundation without worrying about damaging roots.

The fronds on this palm are unique, in that each leaflet is separated into segments that spread out to form a fringe.

Tips for growing a mangrove fan

Plant in full sun.
These palms prefer high humidity and will not thrive in dry climates.
Although this palm needs moist soil, constant standing water can cause root rot.

11. Ash water

Also known as pop ash or swamp ash, this tree is actually a member of the olive family. It is native to the southeastern United States, can reach 30-50 feet in height, and can live to be over 100 years old. It has a multi-stemmed habit and tolerates standing water well.

Tips for growing water ash

Plant in full sun to partial shade.
This tree is susceptible to the emerald ash borer.
Do not place it near salt water or salt spray.
Requires acidic soil (pH 5.0–6.5).

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