Some trees, such as bald cypress and water oak, develop extensive root systems that allow for the absorption of large quantities of water. These trees are fine for sites with wet soil. If your yard contains wet spots only certain times of the year, select trees that grow in a variety of soil conditions and climates, according to the Weekend Gardener online source. Trees that adapt to moist soils survive when their roots remain wet for extended periods of time and during stretches when wet spots turn dry.
Red maple trees occupy habitats that range from wet bottomlands to mountain ridges. They prove highly adaptable to a wide array of growing conditions, especially poorly drained soils. For this reason, red maples remain the most frequently planted landscape trees. The trees reach manageable 40 to 60 foot heights at maturity. The leaves develop brilliant color in fall and winged fruit, often called helicopters, in spring.
River birch trees occur in swamps and along riverbanks from Massachusetts to Minnesota, and south from Florida to Texas. River birches are clump formers, meaning their trunks are short and divide near their bases, but they grow an average 50 to 60 feet overall. These trees form gray to cinnamon-brown colored bark that peels in paper-thin layers. The Iowa State Extension says river birches require moist, acidic soil. Their foliage develops an unhealthy yellow-green color in alkaline soils.
Southern magnolia trees range from Virginia to North Carolina down to Florida and Texas. These trees inhabit coastal swamps but serve as a popular ornamental planting inland. The Southern magnolia grows 40 to 80 feet tall and takes a conical shape. The leaves develop a dark green, leathery surface with rust-colored undersides. The white summer blooms produce a lemon fragrance. Magnolia trees prefer sun to partial shade and well-drained soil, but they demonstrate a high tolerance for moist soils.
Weeping willow trees thrive in wetlands throughout the United States. The trees attain 40 to 70 foot heights and develop a round cascading habit. The weeping willow needs space, as the roots frequently seek underground water sources, including sewer lines and septic tank drains. Weeping willows do best near quiet bodies of water, where the soil remains largely undisturbed. They adapt to sites with full sun or light shade. They survive in a variety of soils, even alkaline, but do best in moist soils.
- Weekend Gardener: Tips and Trees for Wet Soil Areas
- The University of Tennessee Extension: Trees for Poorly Drained Soil in the Landscape
- "The Illustrated Book Of Trees: the Comprehensive Field Guide to More Than 250 Trees of Eastern North America"; Grim, William Carey; 2002
- Iowa State University Extension: Trees and Shrubs for Wet Soils
- North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension Service: Magnolia grandiflora