How many times have you seen in a plant description the phrases “resents wet feet”? or “likes moist but well-drained soil”? Plant roots need oxygen and the water prevents them from getting it so many plants can’t tolerate a lot of water. Unfortunately, there always seem to be some areas of the garden that are wet. Most are not wet all the time but have periods when they can not absorb all the water than pours down on them. Poor drainage is a challenging problem and sometimes native plants are the best solution. Take a look at the wet bottom lands around your area and you will see that there are some very attractive ones that do well. 

Here are five easy to grow herbaceous native plants that can grow in moist soils. Some can even tolerate occasional flooding.

Blue Vervain (Verbena hastata)
A native of damp thickets and wet meadows, blue vervain also does well with average moisture. The purple-blue spikes of flowers open from the bottom up and last for weeks. The plant will bloom a second time if it is deadheaded and will self-seed if you don’t pick the flowers. The flowers provide nectar for butterflies and the larva of buckeye butterflies use it as a host plant.

    Height: 3-5’
    Bloom Time: Mid to late summer
    Light: Full sun to partial sun
    Hardiness: Zones 3-9

Bonset (Eupatorium perfoliatum)
Large clusters of small white flowers bloom for weeks from summer to autumn above course, hairy, crinkly leaves. And all that time butterflies visit for nectar. Although boneset prefers moist soil it will grow in drier soil as long as it has abundant sun light. Bonset is tall but has strong stems and does not flop.

    Height: 2-5’
    Bloom Time: Mid-summer to autumn
    Light: Full sun
    Hardiness: Zones 3-8

Bottle Gentian (Gentiana andrewsii)
For color and shape, the unique flowers of bottle gentian can’t be beat. The deep blue flowers never actually open and so they retain the bottle shape that gives the plant its name. The flowers are pollinated by bumblebees that have to find their way into the flowers to do their work. A great plant for the front of the garden near a wet spot such as under a downspout but it will also grow in average soil moisture.

    Height: 1-2’
    Bloom Time: Late summer into fall
    Light: Full sun to filtered sun
    Hardiness: Zones 3-6

Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis)
The bright scarlet red tubular flowers of cardinal flower are showy and give pizzazz to any garden. The tall spikes of flowers open from bottom to top and attract hummingbirds as well as swallowtail butterflies. Plants tolerate various light conditions but will die if they dry out.

    Height: 2-4’
    Bloom Time: Mid to late summer
    Light: Full sun to partial shade
    Hardiness: Zones 5-9

Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnate)
Rounded clusters of small pink and white flowers that emit a vanilla fragrance attract many different butterflies to sample their nectar. The plant is also the host for larval monarch and queen butterflies. Although swamp milkweed prefers moist conditions it also grows well in average soil.

    Height: 2-4’
    Bloom Time: Summer
    Light: Full sun
    Hardiness: Zones 2-9

These plants are just five from a large number of native plants that like moist or damp soils. There are many more herbaceous perennials as well as trees and shrubs that thrive in poorly drained soil. All of these grow in most of the United States.

Native Plant Pointer

By Karen