Southeast Regional Reports

Regional Picks: Plants for Wet Soil – South

Fine Gardening - Issue 136
plants for wet soil in south

Lots of gardeners deal with at least one area of their property that never seems to dry out. As horticulturist Joseph Henderson explains in his article Plants for Soggy Spots, lots of plants flounder in these kinds of conditions: “Without a steady supply of air, waterlogged roots begin to gasp and eventually rot, killing the foliage above.”

Thankfully, a soggy spot doesn’t require a complete garden overhaul; it just requires the right plants that thrive in consistently wet conditions. Below, you’ll find plants for wet areas in the South. To find even more plants for wet soil, check out Joseph’s article: Plants for Soggy Spots.


1. Giant Black-Eyed Susan

Giant Black-Eyed Susan
Photo: Bill Johnson

Name: Rudbeckia maxima

USDA Hardiness Zones: 4 to 8

Size: 6 feet tall and 2 feet wide

Conditions: Full sun to partial shade; moist soil

Native to wet areas in several southeastern states, giant black-eyed Susan deserves more use in ornamental gardens. The coarse-textured leaves are 6 to 8 inches long and form a mounding mass of incredible blue-gray foliage. In summer, stems up to 6 feet tall grow out of the base of the plant to display large daisylike flowers. This is a plant that’s sure to stop you in your tracks.


2. Dwarf Palmetto

Dwarf Palmetto
Photo: courtesy of Jack Scheper,

Name: Sabal minor

Zones: 7 to 10

Size: 5 to 8 feet tall and wide

Conditions: Full sun to partial shade; moist or well-drained soil

Palms generally need good drainage, but the dwarf palmetto is right at home in swampy areas along the Gulf Coast, where it is native. A trunkless species, the growing point stays near ground level while the fronds grow up in a fountainlike arrangement. The fan-shaped fronds provide wonderful texture. This plant is smaller in dry locations.


3. Little Henry® Virginia Sweetspire

Little Henry Virginia Sweetspire
Photo: Steve Aitken

Name: Itea virginica ‘Sprich’

Zones: 6 to 9

Size: 2 to 3 feet tall and wide

Conditions: Full sun to partial shade; moist soil

Virginia sweetspire is a deciduous shrub native to the southeastern United States, so it’s well suited to our moist low-lying areas. Little Henry® is a compact selection of ‘Henry’s Garnet’, a popular cultivar known for its attractive flower clusters and rich burgundy fall color. This small shrub shines in spring when numerous upright and drooping racemes of small white flowers appear, and again in autumn when the brilliant fall color puts on a show. Virginia sweetspire spreads slowly by underground stems, eventually forming a colony or thicket. It’s a great choice near ponds and for woodland gardens.


4. White Calla Lily

White Calla Lily
Photo: Danielle Sherry

Name: Zantedeschia aethiopica

Zones: 8 to 10

Size: 2 to 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide

Conditions: Partial shade; moist or well-drained soil

The common white calla lily grows from a tuber, which produces plants that are robust and tropical looking. The arrowhead-shaped, glossy green leaves grow on thick stalks, which originate at or near ground level. Elegant flowers are produced singly on 2- to 3-foot-tall stems in early spring. The white calla lily typically goes semi­dormant in summer, revives in fall, then continues growing during the cool season to bloom the following spring.

Dan Gill is a con­sumer horticulturist at the Louisiana State University Agricultural Center in Baton Rouge.

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