Wet feet can spell death to many shrubs. The roots develop a serious fungal disease called root rot that is hard to detect until it is too late because it begins under the ground. Shrubs that like wet feet grow naturally in bogs, swamps and along the banks of the rivers and streams. The shrubs grew up with wet feet and like it that way.
Swamp azalea (Rhododendron viscosum) is also known as clammy azalea and Cory azalea and is a member of the heath family. The shrub is deciduous and grows to a 5 feet tall and 12 feet wide. The plant produces green leaves that are 1-1/2 to 3-1/2 inches long, grow in clusters a the ends of the branches and turn to orange or maroon in the fall. The white-lavender flowers have a sweet scent, grow up to 1-3/4 inches long and bloom in May, June, July and August. Plant swamp azalea in partial shade and wet soil. All parts of the plant are toxic, and possibly fatal, to humans and animals. Swamp azalea is hardy in USDA Zones 4 through 9.
Titi (Cyrilla racemiflora) is also known as leatherwood and he-huckleberry. The plant grows from 7 to 30 feet tall with shiny-green leaves that grow from 1 to 3 inches long and remain on the plant for as long as two years in the warmer areas. In the colder ones, the leaves turn red or orange before dropping off in the fall. The small, fragrant white or cream flowers grow in long clusters in late spring and early summer. Plant titi in full sun and a wet soil. The plant is hardy in USDA Zones 6 through 11. Bees will come for the nectar and turn it into honey.
Drooping leucothoe (Leucothoe fontanesiana) is also knows as doghobble and is a member of the heath family. The shrub grows from 3 to 5 feet tall and about the same in width with weeping branches. The plant produces lance-shaped leaves and white, fragrant pitcher-shaped flowers that bloom in mid-spring. Drooping leucothoe will not stand up to dry soil or intense heat and needs to be planted in full or partial sun and a soil that is constantly moist to wet. The plant is hardy in USDA Zones 5 through 8.
Sweetbay magnolia (Magnolia virginiana) grows up to 20 feet tall and 15 feet wide in the north and at least twice as large in the south. The medium to dark-green leaves are a silver-green on the bottom and grow up to 6 inches long.
Cream-colored flowers appear in late May and June and give way to fruit that starts out green, turns to chartreuse and then splits open to display red-orange seeds. Plant sweetbay magnolia in full sun or partial shade and a rich, moist to wet soil. The shrub is hardy in USDA Zones 5 through 9 and is a native of the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf Coasts.
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