Gardening in wet areas of the yard may seem challenging, but a variety of plants will thrive in saturated soil. Shrubs that grow wild in swamps, bogs and moist woods are suited to wet environments and can add rich foliage and colorful flowers to the garden. These water-loving shrubs also provide food and shelter for native wildlife.
Sambucus canadensis, commonly known as American elderberry, grows between 5 and 10 feet tall and 3 to 8 feet wide. Flat-topped clusters of small, five-petaled flowers with yellow stamens bloom in summer and pairs of leaves made up of toothed, dark green leaflets run up the canes. Dense clusters of purplish black, edible berries appear in summer, weighing down the branches of the shrub. If the fruits are harvested before the birds eat them, the berries can be boiled down to make wine or jelly. Typically found growing wild in moist woods and fields in zones 4 through 9, elderberry grows well in most soils and enjoys partial to full sun. Avoid planting this shrub near septic systems or drainage pipes because the invasive roots may grow into the pipes. Remove old or weak wood in the winter to encourage new growth and flowers.
Summersweet, or Clethra alnifolia, reaches between 3 and 10 feet tall and 4 to 6 feet wide. This erect, oval-shaped shrub produces dense foliage and long flower stalks bearing fragrant clusters of blooms in the summer. The flowers open from the bottom of the stalk to the top, turning from green to white as they mature. The young, bright green leaves turn dark green in summer and bright yellow in fall. Summersweet grows wild in swamps and wet woods and prefers soil rich in organic matter. It tolerates both sun and shade and grows best in hardiness zones 4 through 9.
The spreading branches of highbush blueberry, or Vaccinium corymbosum, grows up to 12 feet tall and wide. This shrub not only produces edible fruits but also provides year-round interest to the garden. In spring, highbush blueberry blooms with delicate, pinkish white, urn-shaped flowers with petals that roll back at the tips. Summer brings the bluish black berries, and the foliage turns burgundy, red or orange in fall. In winter, the multiple contorted branches of mature shrubs provide interest. Native to swamps and bogs, this blueberry bush requires moist, acidic, well-drained soil and light shade or full sun. It grows best in USDA hardiness zones 3 through 8 and enjoys a light application of balanced, organic fertilizer in the spring. If you wish to harvest the fruit, place a protective netting over the bushes to keep birds from eating the berries.