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Plants That Live Near Water

By Jacob J. Wright ; Updated September 21, 2017
A variety of plants that prosper in soggy soils grow near ponds, lakes or wetland marshes.
pond image by palms from Fotolia.com

While waterlilies, lotus, duckweed or cattails may be seen growing in or on the edges of a lake or pond, many other plants tend to grow upland in soils that can still be fairly moist. These plants act as indicators of wet soils, or reveal areas where groundwater is close to the surface. Grow these plants in poorly raining or soggy areas in your regular garden or use them along freshwater bodies just a few feet from the shore.

Cardinal Flower

Native to North America, this perennial wildflower grows from a rhizome root and forms an upright clump of leaves that range in color from medium green to bronze-red. In late summer, this sun-loving plant displays upright spikes of tubular flowers that are intensely and vividly red. Cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis) grows about 3 feet tall.


Purple loosestrife in flower.
loosestrife on a meadow image by Maria Brzostowska from Fotolia.com

Purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) is considered a noxious wetland perennial weed in much of the United States and Canada. This native of Eurasia grows 4 feet tall with stiff, upright stems and fuzzy leaves. From late summer to fall's frost, it displays bright, alluring flower spikes of violet-red to violet-pink that attract butterflies and bees.


Primose blossoms.
primula image by Igor Pashin from Fotolia.com

In late spring to early summer, many species of primroses produce upright stems with candelabra-like flowers. Many of the species native to eastern Asia naturally grow alongside forest streams in moist to wet soils, and grow 1 to 2 feet tall. Seeds are scattered after the blooming season so new plants germinate downstream. Some species of primroses include: Primula alpicola, Primula bulleyana, Primula rosea, Primula pulverulenta, Primula prolifera and Primula japonica.


The flared trunks of cypress trees.
cypress swamp image by William Knapp from Fotolia.com

Two North American species of deciduous conifer trees often grow in wetlands, either in submerged soils or just above the water line. Bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) and pond cypress (Taxodium ascendens) both can slowly grow to heights of 60 feet or more.


Cottonwoods naturally grow in groves along streams.
Fall colors of the cottonwoods image by Jeffrey Banke from Fotolia.com

Across the prairies of the American Midwest the cottonwood tree (Populus deltoides) escaped being damaged by fire because it grows in the river ravines on the wet soil banks. When pioneers traveled west, they would look for cottonwood trees on the horizon, indicating that a stream, pond or lake was near. Cottonwood trees are long-lived and reach mature heights of 60 to 100 feet.


About the Author


Jacob J. Wright became a full-time writer in 2008, with articles appearing on various websites. He has worked professionally at gardens in Colorado, Florida, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. Wright holds a graduate diploma in environmental horticulture from the University of Melbourne, Australia, and a Master of Science in public horticulture from the University of Delaware.