The Q&A Archives: Property is sopping wet!

Question: I live in Old Bridge, NJ and for the most part my property holds a tremendous amount of water (mostly clay instead of soil in Old Bridge!) What 'flowering' plants/shrubs can I plant that will bloom throughout the spring and summer? All that seems to do well are grasses, punks, etc. I'm desperate to add some color to my property. Thanks!

Answer: It is difficult to find shrubs that tolerate wet or soggy soils, but here are two suggestions:
A great deciduous native shrub for moist to wet soils is Clethra alnifolia, often called summersweet. This plant thrives in partial to full shade. Mature shrubs can reach 3 feet to 8 feet high and wide depending on cultivar. For smaller yards, cultivars like 'Compacta' and 'Hummingbird' are excellent choices and reach only 3 feet high and 3 feet wide.

'Ruby Spice' is a spectacular cultivar of Clethra alnifolia that can reach a height and width of between 6 feet and 8 feet. 'Ruby Spice' produces long-lasting rose-colored flowers that fill the yard with a magnificent fragrance.

'Rosea' and 'Pink Spires' are two other great cultivars with rose-colored fragrant flowers. Common types of Clethra alnifolia tend to have white fragrant flowers and most cultivars of the species have dark green, attractive leaves throughout the season.

The flowers of summersweet can last from 4 to 6 weeks during the summer, adding beauty and a sweet, pleasant fragrance to any garden.

Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica) is one tough native plant that thrives in full sun to heavy shade in wet to dry soils. It produces dark green leaves up to 4 inches long that display spectacular red to purple fall color. As its name implies, sweetspire flowers are fragrant and appear from June to July in our area. This plant reaches a height and width of between 3 feet and 5 feet. One great cultivar is 'Henry's Garnet,' which has brilliant purplish fall color and grows 5 feet high and 5 feet wide.

Virginia sweetspire is extremely easy to grow under a variety of tough conditions and provides many fine attributes.

Good luck with your landscape!

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