Shrubs That Like Damp Soil

Sometimes our garden landscapes yield a troublesome spot where the soil remains forever wet and causes a planted shrub to rot to its death. Selecting shrubs that tolerate and prosper in damp soils allows you to continue gardening without worry of problems. Choose a species hardy to your climate for continual growth.


Both the red chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia) and black chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa) prosper in damp soil conditions, also producing berries that persist into winter since they do not taste good to hungry birds.

Hazel Alder

Hazel alder (Alnus serrulata) is a large deciduous shrub that produces purple and orange-colored catkin flowers in early spring.


Enjoy the fragrant flowers of summersweet (Clethra alnifolia) in the late summer.

Red Dogwoods

Three species of shrub dogwoods, all having colorful stems to display in winter, are good in damp soils. Try Tatarian dogwood (Cornus alba), bloodtwig dogwood (Cornus sanguinea) or red osier dogwood (Cornus sericea).


Numerous species of holly tolerate damp soils. Evergreen holly choices include inkberry (Ilex glabra), American holly (Ilex opaca), dahoon (Ilex cassine) and yaupon (Ilex vomitoria). Winterberry (Ilex verticillata) loses its foliage in winter, revealing twigs lined in berries.

Virginia Sweetspire

Naturally growing along the shaded banks of streams, Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica) bears white blossoms in spring.

Anise Trees

Evergreen with fragrant flowers and anise-scented stems and leaves, anise trees tolerate damp soils, too. Grow the shrubby Florida anise tree (Illicium floridanum) or yellow anise (Illicium parviflorum).


With broadleaf evergreen foliage, doghobbles (Leucothoe spp.) grow well in damp soil conditions.


Three azaleas tolerate wet acidic soils well. Plant any of coast azalea (Rhododendron atlanticum), pinxter-bloom azalea (Rhododendron periclymenoides) or swamp azalea (Rhododendron viscosum).


Smaller-sized willows remain shrubs in the wet-soiled garden setting. Five selections worth naming: pussy or goat willow (Salix caprea), rosemary willow (Salix elaeagnos), rosegold pussy willow (Saliz gracilistyla), purpleosier willow (Salix purpurea) and the Japanese fantail willow (Salix sachalinensis).


Clustering or short-trunked small shrub-like palms add a flair of the exotic tropics. Needle palm (Rhapidophyllum hystrix), scrub palmetto (Sabal etonia), and dwarf palmetto (Sabal minor) tolerate moist ground.


Lovely white flower clusters are followed by dark purple berries on elderberry (Sambucus canadensis). Don't consume the foliage or twigs of these shrubs, since they will cause a painful stomach ache.

Keywords: soggy soils, flood-tolerant shrubs, gardening in wet soils

About this Author

James Burghardt has written for "The Public Garden," "Docent Educator," non-profit newsletters and for horticultural databases, becoming a full-time writer in 2008. He holds a Master of Science in public horticulture from the University of Delaware and studied horticulture and biology in Australia at Murdoch University and the University of Melbourne.