I have a bog area, now what? please help ;)

nunlefMarch 16, 2012


We bought a house last summer that has about 1/2 acre that is wet(ish) year round. There is a small stream that flows even through the heat of summer, and a spring that surfaces at one edge (it runs most of the time, but just a trickle).

This area cannot be mowed easily because our tractor gets stuck, and it is in the far corner of our property (a 5 acre square). The only trees at that corner are along an old fenceline, I have no IDs, but I'm guessing they are whatever likes to get natually planted from birds sitting on a country fence ;)

We are looking at putting in 3 weeping willows, of course. and that's pretty much it. We do have cattails growing there, and watercress - all of that is natural in the area. PH runs about 7-7.2 and there isn't any significant agricultral runoff to worry about.

I would love any suggestions for this area. I tend to like low maintaince gardens that fell natural and casual. We already have a formal garden planned around the house, so we just want somewhere to sit with the kids and watch cars (or tractors, as the case may be here) go by.

Oh, all plants need to be kid safe and dog safe, deer resistant isn't a primary concern, but would be nice.

Thanks so much,


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ColesvilleEd(9 / Silicon Valley)

I have a similar situation, on retirement property on the Greenbrier River. There's a spring and a watercourse (seems a little more flow than what you describe) and not much growing just mud and water. Once heard that Japanese Iris could be grown in such conditions, that's my only thought so far. A spring house would be nice.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2012 at 9:55PM
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You say you have cattails growing in that muddy area naturally already. Bingo. That's a natural bog garden. That's where we begin. (By the way, I would love to have cattails growing in my bog garden - all I have right now are these long clumping grasses.)

If it were me, I'd grow more cattails there. As you say, they're native, they've proven they like the conditions there, they're free, and they're already started. You can always rip them out later. I'd encourage and allow those existing cattails to spread as much as possible. I would transplant some to bare spots where you know they will grow. I'd remove weeds that competed with them. Cattails can't grow when the water gets a couple feet deep, and they won't grow on dry ground, so I would try to partially fill in any deep water areas, and dig out some of the dirt from any overly dry areas, to make the most amount of space with good conditions for the cattails.

Another alternative is to remove the cattails and see what else naturally grows there. If you like it, encourage it, and weed out any competitors.

Another alternative is to buy plants and plant them there. This costs money and requires careful research. If you pick the wrong types of plants, they won't grow, and your money and time will be wasted. I would look for native bog plants that grow alongside cattails in your area. Some of these may be for sale in nurseries and some may not. Some you can probably transplant from wild areas if you do this carefully and responsibly. There are also some garden plants that will thrive in a bog setting. For example, Elephant Ears and Wandering Jew seem to love my bog garden (unfortunately for them I don't let them stay). I'd research bog plants on the Internet, try to find a few that seem like they will work in your area, and then try them. If they don't thrive, keep trying until you find something that does. If all else fails, you can always go back to those wild cattails!

    Bookmark   April 21, 2012 at 6:17PM
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How about milkweed? Or, day lilies? They remind me of favorite bog areas when I was a kid.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2012 at 1:42AM
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ridgetop01(z5 CNY)

Iris pseudacorus grows effortlessly in a wet bottomland area on our property and the yellow flowers, which will bloom in the next few weeks here, are lovely. It is non-native, however, and so Louisiana iris might be a better choice, since they are native. Acorus graminus (sweetflag) is another native that likes the edges of the wetland, or shallow water.

Enjoy this interesting gardening area!

Here is a link that might be useful: Native wetland plants

    Bookmark   May 23, 2012 at 1:47PM
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jcalhoun(8b Mobile County AL)

Take a look at swamp milkweed, pitcher plants, black gum trees, dahoon hollies, cyrillas, cypress trees, sweet bay magnolia, and Virginia wildflowers.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2012 at 1:50PM
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Please be careful what you do plant. Many of our natural wetland are full of invasive plants. These get transferred to other wetlands by streams running through them, birds, and as hitchhikers in a variety of ways.

Your state has a lovely document on wetlands in VA. You could look at that and go from there.

There are many lovely native wetland plants that you could go with. For example, halberd leaved rose mallow (Hibiscus laeve), swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), blue flag iris (Iris versicolor), and Cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis). There is probably a native plant society somewhere near you. Many have plant sales where you can find these species.

Good luck,

Here is a link that might be useful: Virginia Wetlands

    Bookmark   October 4, 2012 at 6:43PM
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I've read the yellow irises are not native. Plant the native blue ones if you do add irises.

I don't think day lilies are native.

Swamp Milkweed is native and good for butterflies.

Cardinal Flower is attractive, self seeds, and attracts hummingbirds.

Hibiscus laevis and Hibiscus mochusco both have big flowers and like wetland.

If it's a natural setting where your property abuts wild land, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE landscape with NATIVES ONLY.

Checkout ionxchange or prarriemoon on the web for plants.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2013 at 4:49PM
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What about cranberries? It's native, has flowers and fruit, likes bogs, and you can buy a bag of cranberries with seeds in them in the grocery store.

Speckled alder is a native US nitrogen fixer that I like the idea of, but it is a bit scrubby looking.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2013 at 1:41PM
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I have a couple cranberry high bush seeds! No bogs here! lol

    Bookmark   April 2, 2014 at 5:45PM
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When you say "native," do you mean native to only VA - or native to the US? Because I have - and certainly would in a half acre in-ground bog - sarracenia from North Carolina. Once they were established - one growing season - they would take care of themselves just like they do in the peat bogs of North Carolina.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2014 at 9:13AM
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Technically bogs have an acid pH, so what you have is a different type of wetland, a marsh, even though it is commonly referred to as "boggy". This would not matter except that true bog plants like pitcher plant (Sarracenia) and cranberry (Vaccinium) need acid (low pH) to grow well. You will want to look up suggestions of plants you get here (including mine since my soil is more acid than yours) since some plants require a certain pH and some are quite flexible.

As others have suggested, watch that you don't plant invasives since you have a stream that flows through which would carry seeds. (Iris pseudoacorus is on the invasive list in many states.)
Some suggestions of east coast natives that are happy in wet soils:
Winterberry holly (Ilex vertcillata) is not evergreen and has bright red berries in fall and winter. Need at least one male for several females.
Clethra has late summer pink or white flowers and nice yellow fall foliage
Swamp rose (Rosa palustris) has single pink flowers in early summer
Pussy willow, some of which are native and some of which aren't, but are not usually on the invasive list, I don't think.
Button bush has white round balls of flowers (think Sputnik) that the butterflies like in summer
Red-twigged dogwood has selections with variegated foliage or plain green, and bright red winter twigs as long as the old wood is cut out every couple of years.

Herbaceous plants:
Clematis virginiana won't grow in standing water during the growing season, but is a native white-flowered clematis that grows on our stream floodplain where it is occasionally flooded for short periods and never gets really dry, and so might work well near the edge of your wetland. It will grow well up into shrubs or trees with low branches, so I would plant it just outside of the 10 year width of one of your large shrubs. It has summer flowers and pretty fuzzy white seed heads.
Irises such as blue flag and Louisiana are good suggestions as is Cardinal flower, Lobelia cardinalis. Another Lobelia that will do well in damp areas ( though not in standing water like cardinal flower) is great blue lobelia, Lobelia siphilatica.
Marsh marigold is a very early bright yellow bloomer (with the daffodils around here) that will be happy in slow moving water a couple inches deep or even average garden soil, though the plant will go dormant in dry summers.

In general, since you will view this area from a bit of a distance I would plan on planting most of these plants in groups. Many can be started from seeds or cuttings once you have one plant. You may need to dig or cut back cattails until other plants are able to get large enough to compete.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2014 at 10:19AM
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