10 Plants for Poorly-Drained Soils

10 Plants for Poorly-Drained Soils

Sometimes, despite our best efforts to improve soil health and drainage, problem areas persist in the landscape. Poor drainage is a common problem that has many origins. Compaction, clay subsoils and slopes can create problem areas where all the compost in the world cannot improve drainage. But we can still grow thriving gardens through careful plant section. Just like our gardens, not all natural habitats are well-drained and nature has supplied us with a plethora of plants that don’t mind wet feet.

1. ‘Eversheen’ EverColor® Carex. These grass-like plants are exceptionally tough, thriving in soggy soils that make other plants cringe. Carex also tolerates drought. The perfect plant for difficult areas of the garden where soil moisture varies throughout the season.

2. ‘Black Ripple’ Colocasia. Commonly called elephant ear or taro, these tropical beauties love moisture. Grow them in bogs or submerged in a container in the water garden. Colocasia also grows in garden soil, as long as it receives plenty of irrigation. 

3. Joy of Living® Celebration™ Daylily. Another plant that tolerates both drought and floods, daylilies are perfect for rain gardens, low areas, and other wet places. Plants can survive submerged for weeks, but do need to dry out eventually. Daylily roots absorb and store water, put them to work managing landscape run-off.

4. Miss Lemon™ Abelia. An adaptable landscape shrub, abelia grows in a variety of soils and lighting conditions. Plants tolerate occasional saturation, but not constantly water-logged soils. Use them in locations where water collects, but dries between rainfall events.

5. Cleopatra™ Liriope. A workhorse in the garden, liriope stabilizes soil against erosion, survives saturated or bone-dry soils, and even tolerates salt spray. A low-maintenance groundcover for even the most challenging locations.

6. Miss Scarlett® Illicium. Native to wet soils in ravines, marshy areas, and stream banks, Illicium beautifies problem areas with glossy evergreen foliage and brilliant red blooms. Thriving in wet soils, this low maintenance shrub is perfect for naturalizing or stabilizing slopes along drainage ways.

7. ‘Ellen Bosanquet’ Crinum Lily. These Southern Belles take everything Mother Nature can throw at them and more. It is rare to find a bulb that doesn’t rot in wet soils, but as the Grumpy Gardener says, “You can’t kill a crinum”.

8. ‘Panama Red’ Hibiscus. Plant this stunning red-leaved tropical for exotic flair in the garden. ‘Panama Red’ requires moist soils, but cannot sit in water. Try planting on small mounds to ensure healthy roots.

9. Heirloom Snowflake. Growing naturally in marshes and wet meadows, snowflake prefers moist or wet soils. Tuck it along pond edges and stream banks, or plant it in a bog garden. For optimal spring growth and blooming, keep soils consistently moist.

10. ‘Poquito’ Banana. Bananas need a lot of water as those giant leaves are constantly losing moisture to evaporation. Short of planting a banana in standing water, it is hard to give the plant too much water in summer. However, wet soils in winter can be problematic. Poorly drained areas will work as long as they don’t stay consistently wet.

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