The Q&A Archives: What Shrubs Can Tolerate Lots Of Water?

Question: What type of shrub would I plant in an area that gets a lot of run off from everyone's yard. It's always damp, if not wet. Need something pretty that grows fast and tolerate.

Answer: You actually have quite a few options for wet spots.
Chokecherry, Aronia, is available with red or black berries, both forms are quite adaptable to wet soils. The fruit is persistent through the winter, and fall color is very nice for both species. Habit is not always full, sometimes leggy.

Buttonbush, Cephalanthus occidentalis, does best with constantly wet feet. A nice shrub with no outstanding characteristics except for it's interesting round, white, buttonball flowers in August.

Tatarian Dogwood, Cornus alba, forms a nice full rounded shrub. White flowers in spring, white fruit in summer. 8-10' in height. One variety, 'Argenteomarginata', is variegated, and another, 'Sibirica' has red stems.

Several hollies and their hybrids are worth considering:
Inkberry, Ilex glabra, is a native broadleaf evergreen with black berries in the fall. Likes acid, wet soil.
Common winterberry, Ilex verticillata, needs both male and female to produce the showy red fruit it is known for. Needs full sun.

Spicebush, Lindera benzoin, also needs male and female plants to produce red fruit in fall. It's yellow spice-scented flowers are a real harbinger of spring in April. Takes partial shade to full sun. Great for naturalizing.

Alabama Snow-Wreath, Neviusia alabamensis, is lovely in bloom and requires moist soils in sun or shade. Grows 3-6 feet.

Many willows, of course, love water:
Pussy willow, Salix caprea, grows 15-25 feet tall and prefers full sun and wet soil.
Rosemary willow, Salix elaeagnos or rosmarinifolia, is perfect for streambeds where a softer foliage effect is wanted.
Purpleosier Willow, Salix purpurea, has blue-green leaves, with a "Pendula" form that is weeping.

Elderberry, Sambucus canadensis, is a great choice for both you and the birds who love the berries in late summer. The fragrant flowers in early summer make this a wonderful choice. Likes full sun.

Dusty Zenobia, Zenobia pulverulenta, is another native often found along stream banks. Plants tend to colonize. Gray-green foliage often persists into winter. White flowers in late spring. Gold fall color. 3 feet high and wide.

Using a variety of these shrubs would give you a handsome naturalized planting. Some of these may be difficult to find locally. Consider doing a web search for nurseries that have them. Good luck!

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