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What Plants Thrive in Wet Shaded Areas?

Azalea image by fabiomarc from

Two of the most troublesome spots for gardeners tend to be areas that hold water and those that are in the shade. Many times these areas are overlooked when they could be planted with condition-specific plants to make the area look like any other gardening plot. Plants that thrive in wet shaded areas include many gardening favorites. Shrubs, trees and plants can be arranged in numerous ways to make a wetland garden for the landscape.

Yellow Anise

The yellow anise tree (Illicium parviflorum) is an evergreen fragrant wetland plant that is drought tolerant. It grows 20 feet tall and 10 to 15 feet wide. The aromatic leaves are approximately 3.5 to 4 inches long. The green-yellow flowers are small, one-half to three-quarters inch wide, and bloom in the spring. Yellow anise is hardy in USDA Zones 8 through 10. Plant yellow anise in full shade for glossy green foliage, and sandy, wet and acidic soil. Propagate from cuttings or seed.

Pinxter Azalea

The Pinxter azalea shrub (Rhododendron canescens) is a fragrant wetland plant that is hardy in USDA Zones 6 through 9. The tubular flowers are aromatic and pink, 2 to 3 inches long. The 1- to 3-inch long leaves are somewhat hairy. The entire plant is 6 to 15 feet high and 6 to 15 feet wide. The best growing conditions are in partial to nearly full shade (it is also sun tolerant) and in moist acidic soil. Propagate the Pinxter azalea from cuttings or clump division.


Cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum) is an evergreen wetland plant that grows 12 feet high and is hardy in USDA Zones 10 through 12. The lance-like leaves are 2 feet long while the white or yellow blooms are on 2 feet long panicles. It requires filtered shade and a wet soil. Propagate the cardamom by rhizome division.

Sweet Pepperbush

The sweet pepperbush shrub (Clethra alnifolia) is a fragrant, easy to grow plant that attracts butterflies; it is hardy to USDA Zones 4 through 9. The leaves are deciduous and 2 to 3 inches long with white or pink clusters of summer flowers one-third inch wide. The entire shrub will grow 4 to 8 feet high.

Plant sweet pepperbush thrives in dappled shade but tolerates full sun or shade (it also tolerates sun) in moist, well-drained soil. Propagate by cuttings, seed or division.


The sweetspire shrub (Itea virginica) is a wetland shrub from the saxifrage family. It grows 8 feet high with 3 to 4 inch long deciduous leaves and white flowers in clusters. Planting should be in partial shade in a wet area. It is hardy in USDA hardiness zones of 6 through 10. Propagate via seed, cuttings, or the underground runners.

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