Shrubs That Tolerate Wet Soil


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 Azalea

  • 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.

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