Most shrubs prefer moderate moisture that drains away quickly, but there are quite a few shrubs that not only tolerate wet soil, they thrive in it. Many decorative shrubs grow naturally in wet swampy locations. Arrow-wood viburnum, winterberry holly, and swamp azaleas are three shrubs that thrive in wet locations and have decorative features for spring, summer and fall landscape interest.
Arrow-wood Viburnum (Viburnum dentatum), also known as southern arrow-wood and roughish arrow-wood, is tolerant of wet soil and can be found growing naturally along streams. It grows to between 3 and 9 feet tall and spreads up to 8 feet wide. Arrow-wood produces 2 to 4 inch clusters of tiny white flowers from May to early June and dark blue almost black 1/4-inch berries from August to November. The oval-shaped, toothy edged leaves are dark green throughout the summer with fall colors in shades of yellow, red or burgundy. Arrow-wood viburnum grows best in loamy soil with a neutral to acid pH and plenty of moisture, although it adapts easily to dry conditions as well.
Winterberry (Ilex verticillata) is a type of holly that grows naturally in swampy poorly drained locations. It is a good selection for areas that flood when it rains and also become very dry. These bushes generally grow to between 6 and 10 feet tall and have dark green leaves that give a purple-to-bronze fall color display. They produce small white flowers in late spring and early summer. Red-to-orange berries appear on female winterberry bushes in the fall and remain on the bush through mid-winter. Winterberry prefers a sunny or partially sunny location with acidic moist loamy soil, but adapts well to clay or sandy soils.
Swamp azaleas (Rhododendron viscosum), also known as clammy azaleas and cory azaleas, are found growing naturally in shrub wetlands. They are tolerant of wet soil. The average height of a swamp azalea is 5 feet, with a width up to 12 feet. They begin blooming in late spring, producing white and pink flowers that have a clove fragrance. The foliage is shiny green with an elongated shaped leaf measuring about 3 1/2 inches long by 1 1/2 inches wide. Fall leaf color varies in shades of orange, red or maroon. Swamp azaleas prefer a moist sandy peat type acidic soil in a partially shady location. All parts of rhododendron bushes are highly toxic if ingested by humans and animals.
- United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service Plant Fact Sheet: Southern Arrowwood
- Missouri Botanical Garden Kemper Center For Home Gardening: Ilex verticillata 'Nana' RED SPRITE Plant of Merit
- University of Texas at Austin Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center: Native Plant Database: Rhododendron viscosum (L.) Torr.
- Photo Credit holiday berries 1 image by Robert Young from Fotolia.com
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