Whether you're planning an entire rain garden or a single water feature for your South Carolina landscape, using your state's native wetland plants and flowers will provide you hundreds of both beautiful and practical choices. South Carolina's wetlands are full of uniquely adapted trees, shrubs, bulb plants, vines and grasses. With a little planning, you'll find the right ones to add year-round color and interest to your garden.
Sea myrtle (baccharis halimifolia) is a 6- to 15-foot shrub growing in South Carolina's salt marshes and coastal areas. Its dense branches have silver-green foliage and late-summer to autumn clusters of small greenish-white flowers with nectar attractive to butterflies and bees. Sea myrtle's most interesting features, however, are the feathery silver spikes that female plants develop after flowering.
Started plants are available at nurseries. Tolerant of salt spray, sea myrtle likes part shade and wet, gravelly or fine soil with a close to neutral pH. It grows quickly, and is disease and pest-resistant. Sea myrtle's branches, however, break easily. Planted in groups, sea myrtle is useful for erosion control and as wildlife shelter.
Coastal Sweet Pepperbush
Coastal sweet pepperbush (clethra alnifolia) is a 6- to 12-foot shrub with a mounding habit. In July and August, its new branches bear 3- to 8-inch spikes of fragrant white or pink flowers with nectar attractive to hummingbirds and butterflies. The flowers produce brown seed capsules that remain on the bushes through the winter. Bronze leaves provide yellow or orange autumn color.
Growing along streams, in bogs and swamps and coastal areas, sweet pepperbush is highly pest and disease resistant. It needs wet soil but handles both sun and shade. It prefers acid soil and blooms more profusely with regular pruning. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower center recommends this salt spray-tolerant shrub for coastal gardens.
Found in South Carolina's fresh water marshes and cypress swamps, swamp lily (crinum americanum) grows in clumps. Its 2- to 3-foot stem rises from a base of 2- to 4-foot green leaves. Up to six fragrant lilies, usually pure white but sometimes with pink markings, top each stem. Contrasting purple stamens and anthers extend beyond the lilies' petals.
Flowers appear from June to November, making swamp lilies valuable additions to home water gardens. These plants aren't fussy about light and will bloom even in deep shade. They handle any sort of soil as long as it is wet, rich and acidic. Plants die back to water level in winter but begin greening again almost immediately.