P - Perennial
soil is not the same as boggy soil.
If soil is boggy, then it is like that all
year round which means that plants that
like to permanently have their roots in
water can grow. Waterlogged soil is a
different matter and a much bigger challenge.
This is soil
that for part of the year is saturated,
possibly with some standing water,
but at other times it dries out to the point
where bog-lovers would shrivel up and die.
Such conditions are found fairly commonly,
particularly in newly built housing,
fortunately the extent is usually limited,
but often there's a "soggy corner".
This is where most plants that go in are
pulled out a few months later brown and
shrivelled above ground, wet and smelly
There isn't a great
deal of choice of plants due to the difficulty
of the conditions but there are sometimes
surprises of what will survive (please
contact us if you have experience of
any other plants that tolerate these conditions).
There is a fairly straightforward
long term answer in a lot of cases and that
is to dig in lots of organic matter and
also small gravel - pea shingle, and sharp
(not fine) sand. This won't of course
address major problems, but will frequently
help in that soggy corner or at least increase
the range of plants that will grow there.
Carex - sedges
Carex species are bog plants and so may
not take too kindly to the wet / dry nature
of waterlogged soils. One that I do know
that works is Carex buchananii
- red fox sedge. Brown / orange
leaves growing up like a fire-work coming
out of the ground to about 18" and
then tapering away to an indefinite curly
tip. Tolerates the wettest of soils. They
work very well contrasted against green
leaves, gravel or boulders. Maybe worth
trying other varieties.
Buy Carex / red fox sedge |
Buy Carex / sedge 2
Cornus varieties - Dogwoods
S / T
One of the best shrubs for waterlogged
areas for most gardens. Dogwoods are
often grown for their winter stem colour
which is red or yellow. There are also varieties
with attractive variegated leaves. Unfortunately
the best ones for stem colour have ordinary
green leaves and the best ones for leaf
colour have duller stem colour, so you pays
your money and takes your choice. White
flowers in spring as a bonus.
Dogwoods tolerate the
wettest soils. I've had them survive
happily when at planting the hole I had
dug filled completely with water when
I turned round to get the plant.
For leaf colour;
Cornus alba "Elegantissima",
white margined leaves, C. alba "Gouchaultii"
pink flushed yellow margined leaves,
C. alba "Spaethii",
broadly yellow margined leaves.
For stem colour;
C. alba "Sibirica",
plain green leaves, bright red winter shoots,
good autumn leaf colour. C. stolonifera
yellow-green winter shoots - these are also
two of the toughest dogwoods.
All types best treated
as coppice stools for best stem colour and
to stop them growing into a small tree.
Once established after 1-2 years, cut stems
back to within 6" of ground level in
Feb - March. In this way lots of new brighter
shoots and leaves are produced each year.
Buy Cornus / dogwoods
Lonicera - Honeysuckle
don't know of any really wet-tolerant
climbers, but have had honeysuckles survive
in some pretty awful situations. If the
soil smells - don't plant one. If in
doubt then take cuttings and try planting
one of these rather than buying a big healthy
plant in a 2-3L pot for about a tenner which
you may then watch die.
Buy Lonicera / honeysuckle |
Lonicera x purpusii
Populus - Poplars
Only for the largest of gardens, these
need to be about 40m (130ft) from any buildings
to prevent damage, and they're
all large trees anyway. If you've the
space P. alba, white poplar
70-130ft high and to 50ft wide, is attractive
with white undersides to the leaves. Looks
wonderful when the breeze rustles the leaves
and animates the whole tree.
Buy Populus / poplars
Pyracantha - Firethorn
old Pyracantha, one of the most useful shrubs
in the garden and can be quite stunning
in the autumn when heavily laden with berries.
Withstands a fair amount of wetness, but
less than most on this page.
Salix - Willows
Most species enjoy wet conditions, but
CAUTION, many of them grow into large
trees and are one of the worst culprits
for causing housing subsidence through their
root spread. Don't plant the large
types unless you have a very large garden,
and then plant well away (40m, 130ft) from
All have decorative catkins in the spring
and many have leaves lighter in colour underneath
that "shimmer" when blown about
by the wind.
Smaller safer version is S. caprea "pendula",
Kilmarnock willow, Height and spread
about 5-6ft, S. about 2ft
high and wide, often grafted onto a stem
4ft high. Note that these are both grafted
onto rootstocks which may produce suckers
that should be removed otherwise the whole
plant will revert to the rootstock variety
and outgrow the graft.
Buy Salix / willow
Tamarix ramosissima - Tamarisk
a likely candidate for wet soils at first
glance as it is often grown on well drained
sea-side soils. I discovered its wet-tolerance
when I planted it by mistake once (i.e.
I wouldn't have if I'd known) in
a dried out waterlogged soil in the summer.
By the next spring whereas some other plants
around had died, the Tamarix was doing well.
Withstands a fairly high degree of wetness,
but don't bother if the planting hole
fills with water as you're digging it.
Graceful shrub to small tree, wispy frothy
pink flowers produced in summer. Height
and spread to 15ft.
Buy Tamarix / tamarisk
Ones that might well work, but I
haven't tried so don't blame
me if they die! The problem is that
dry period rather than permanent wetness.
If experimenting try planting small
plants rather than large ones as small ones
tend to establish better and you may get more
success with something in a 9cm or 1L pot than
something that comes in a 2 or 3L pot or bigger.
(they're less expensive too if they fail).
- received by email:
- I have
a waterlogged area and
Creeping Jenny has
survived and spread.
Other plants for waterlogged soils (i.e. all
year round, not that dry out in summer)
more on clay soil