Easy-Growing Plants That Love Water

Got a wet spot in your yard? Turn it into an eye-catching garden with plants that thrive in moist soil.

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Calla Lily

Beautiful blooms of calla lily (Zantedeschia) are a cut flower favorite that thrives in a boggy environment. Many gardeners tuck calla lily into a spot beside a pond or stream. Plants can grow in up to 1 foot of water. In cold regions, dig bulbs and store dry indoors through winter. Look for varieties that open flowers in many hues, including vibrant yellow, deep red, white and pastel shades. Plants grow 2 to 3 feet tall by 2 feet wide. Hardy in Zones 9-10.

‘Mars Madness’ Hibiscus

Pump up the color in your late summer to fall garden with the stunning blooms of ‘Mars Madness’ hibiscus. Flowers open from midsummer through early fall, unfurling to a whopping 6 to 8 inches wide—as big as a dinner plate! Leaves serve copper highlights and a deer-resistant constitution. Perennial hibiscus is easy to grow, requiring little care in exchange for their flower power. Plants grow to shrub size, reaching 4 to 4.5 feet tall by 6 to 6.5 feet wide. Hardy in Zones 4-9.

Sugar Shack Buttonbush

This native plant has it all: fragrance, fascinating flowers, red fruit, pretty fall color and winter interest. Sugar Shack Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis ‘SMCOSS’) reduces the large native to a size that fits most yards. Flowers appear through summer and attract all kinds of pollinators, including butterflies, bees and hummingbirds. Several butterfly species lay eggs on buttonbush, so don’t be surprised if you spot caterpillars munching leaves. Plants grow to shrub size, reaching 3 to 4 feet tall and wide. Hardy in Zones 4-10.

Tropicanna Canna

Give a boggy spot a splash of vivid color with a trio of cannas: Tropicanna, Tropicanna Gold and Tropicanna Black. These cannas unfurl striking leaves that boast a variety of vibrant tropical colors and patterns. Luxuriously large flowers accent the calypso colored leaves for an exotic show. Plants grow 4 to 6 feet tall. Hardy in Zones 7-11. Lift rhizomes in colder zones to store over the winter.

Louisiana Iris

A true water-loving plant, Louisiana iris grows in up to 4 inches of water. ‘Black Gamecock’ is a variety that opens 4- to 6-inch blooms with deep-purple petals marked with a brilliant gold stripe. It’s an award-winning variety that’s ultra-easy to grow. Plants multiply rapidly in ideal growing conditions. Despite the name, Louisiana iris is hardy as far north as Maine. Look for varieties with flowers in many hues, including purple and blue shades, red, white, yellow and brown. Plants grow 24 to 36 inches tall by 24 inches wide. Hardy in Zones 4-10.

Chinese Globeflower

Add bright gold to stream or pondside plantings with Chinese globeflower (Trollius ‘Golden Queen’). Blooms open 2 to 3 inches across from late spring into midsummer on plants that grow 24 to 36 inches tall by 18 to 24 inches wide. Include this beauty in a cutting garden — its flowers make a great addition to bouquets. Chinese globeflower is a slow grower and takes one to two years to become fully established in the garden. Hardy in Zones 3-7.

Dwarf Egyptian Papyrus

King Tut dwarf Egyptian papyrus (Cyperus papyrus) adds a touch of the tropics — and Dr. Seuss-like fun — to any garden. Grow it in a pot, planting bed, water garden or stream-side planting. It loves moisture, but take care not to submerge the crown or growing point. Keep it in water just a few inches deep. Papyrus grows quickly, and the more moisture that’s available, the faster it grows. Plants reach 18 to 30 inches tall and 24 to 36 inches wide. Hardy in Zones 9-11. In cold zones, overwinter plants in pots indoors through winter.

Variegated Burnet

Popular in Japan, ‘Little Angel’ burnet (Sanguisorba officinalis var. microcephala ‘Little Angel’) is a new plant to Western gardens. It’s a terrific groundcover that’s rabbit resistant. Oval, rosy-red flowers appear in mid- to late summer. Red flowers contrast prettily with variegated white-edged green leaves. Burnet adapts to boggy or moist soil, and also does well in containers and makes a striking hanging basket. Plants grow 8 to 10 inches tall by 10 to 12 inches wide. Hardy in Zones 4-8.

Little Henry Itea

Multi-season interest abounds in sweetspire (Itea virginica), and Little Henry is no exception. This native shrub is versatile, growing in full sun to full shade. In early summer, sweetly fragrant flowers cover the plant. As autumn unfolds, leaves sparkle with red and orange hues. Best fall color occurs on plants in full sun. Blooms attract butterflies and other pollinators to the point that bushes literally buzz with activity. Deer-resistant plants grow 24 to 36 inches tall and wide. Hardy in Zones 5-9.

Joe Pye Weed

Add color to your garden from midsummer to early fall with the towering blooms of joe pye weed (Eutrochium purpureum). This native plant boasts a low-maintenance personality, resists rabbits, and adapts to heavy clay or boggy soil with ease. Give it a spot in full sun to part shade. It makes a great back-of-the-border plant or rain garden player. Flowers attract pollinators like crazy, including bees, butterflies and beneficial insects. Cut plants back by one-third in early summer to promote branching and more flowers. Plants grow 5 to 7 feet tall and 2 to 4 feet wide. Hardy in Zones 4-9.

‘Bronze Peacock’ Rodgersia

‘Bronze Peacock’ Rodgersia pinnata unfurls striking leaves in a part shade location with wet soil. Rodgersia is celebrated for its large, sculptural leaves. Count on these plants to make a strong architectural statement in any garden. Pink flowers appear on spikes in summer. Plants grow 20 to 24 inches tall by 24 to 28 inches wide. Hardy in Zones 5-8.

‘Bowles Golden’ Sedge

Get the look of an ornamental grass with ‘Bowles Golden’ sedge (Carex elata). This grassy plant pumps out gold leaves that bring a soft glow to part-shade bog gardens. Sedge can grow in water 2 to 3 inches deep and does best in acidic soil. Most importantly, it needs constant moisture to thrive. ‘Bowles’ Golden’ carex looks great planted with blue hosta or dark leaf heuchera. Plants grow 24 to 36 inches tall and wide. Hardy in Zones 5-8.

Swamp Milkweed

Welcome monarch butterflies with swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), a native plant that offers nectar for adult butterflies and leaves for caterpillars. Swamp milkweed grows best in full sun and thrives in boggy or moist soil. Flowers appear mid- to late summer and beckon loads of pollinators — bees, beneficial insects and hummingbirds. Give plants a spot in full sun. This low-maintenance plant makes a good choice for rain gardens, butterfly gardens or cottage borders. Deer-resistant plants grow 4 to 6 feet tall and 2 to 3 feet wide. Hardy in Zones 3-8.

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