Answer: Here are a few suggestions for plants that will tolerate seasonal wet feet:
Black chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa) shrub bears white flowers in May with dark green foliage. The foliage of these native plants (Eastern North America) morphs to red (and sometimes to purple) in the fall. Reaching a height of 3-5' and spreading out to 3-5', the plant tolerates the soil in wet areas better than most, making it a "living solution" to drainage problems.
The berries produced by black chokeberry grow in clusters and are a blackish-purple. Although not edible for humans, the bitter-tasting berries remain on the shrub into early winter and serve as an emergency food source for birds. Arrowwood viburnum shrubs provide another example of a white-flowered specimen with bluish berries and excellent fall foliage that is suitable to wet areas.
Winterberry hollies (Ilex verticillata) are native plants in Eastern Canada and the Eastern half of the U.S. Other common names for Ilex verticillata are "black alder," "false alder" and "fever bush." In nature winterberry shrubs typically call wet areas home, so homeowners who have wet areas on their landscapes can take advantage of this shrub's native predisposition and use it to solve drainage problems in locations where little else would survive. Winterberry holly prefers acidic soils. It can be grown in partial shade or full sun. Height and width will vary greatly, depending on growing conditions, but a rough average is about 9' x 9'. The berries of this shrub attract songbirds such as the bluebird and game birds such as quail. Winterberry holly is dioecious, so buy at least one male plant and surround it with the females that will bear the plant's beautiful red berries. Winterberry is a deciduous shrub.
Inkberry (Ilex glabra), a native plant in Eastern North America, is a more typical holly: it is evergreen. Reaching 6'-10' tall, it bears a black berry that gives this shrub its name. Clump-forming with shiny leaves, inkberry holly prefers full sun to partial shade, with an acidic soil.
Red osier dogwood (Cornus sericea) produces white blooms in flat clusters in May that are followed by white fruit. But these wetland plants are prized mainly for its bark, which ranges in color from red to burgundy. Its height is 6'-10', its spread 5'-10'. A patch of fiery red osier dogwood against a backdrop of pristine snow makes for an unforgettable winter scene. These wetland plants are indigenous to 31 states in the northern U.S., including Alaska.
Meadowsweet shrubs (Spiraea latifolia) are wetland plants indigenous to 18 states in northeastern U.S., ranging from Maine to Minnesota and as far south as North Carolina. Meadowsweet tolerates all soil types except heavy clay soils. Its white floral spikes waft pleasing aromas from June to September. These 4' wetland plants are members of the rose family.
Hope these suggestions help you choose just the right plant for your landscape.
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