Plants to soak up water?

greengoblin72May 1, 2014

I wasnt sure what forum to post this in so I posted it in a few, Im sorry for any inconvenience.
I live with my parents, and theyve had their house for only a couple of years. Its located downhill from the neighbors, and for the past year, theyve had a lot of trouble with the excess rain pooling up in the backyard. There is a trench that was dug out by the previous owners, and it helps, but since it doesnt reach the street, it still pools up at the end of the trench. Weve lost 3.5 trees in these two years (2 from hurricane sandy, one from all the flooding and snow build up, one snapped off at the top half but it was already dead). What can we do to help ease all this flooding? The backyard turns into a marsh after a good rain. There are several places where the water pools up. I tried convincing them to let me create a french drain out of the trench but they are very nervous about installing anything or changing anything about the land. Is there anything else we can do? Are there types of plants that can we can plant to soak up most of this water? I think hostas would do that (right?) but those dont last long, we have a lot of deer. I read that elephant ears are good water� er.. suckers, but they would also need to dig the bulbs up before every winter. Any suggestions? We live in central new jersey, zone 6b-7a.

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dr.liz(7 NJ)

This sounds like an ideal location for a rain garden. There may be a forum here specifically for that, I'm not sure. I would highly recommend you contact Rutgers-they have lots of information about rain gardens and how to establish them.

I would also recommend the use of native plants for this type of problem. Willow would be one obvious choice to soak up almost unlimited amounts of water. I've never grown it, but I think it won't like actual standing water around its roots. However, it does like to grow next to water or in damp locations. Definitely stick to a native here-perhaps the pussy willow. You will also be providing a host plant for the larvae (caterpillars) of many native moths and butterflies, for instance the Viceroy. Buttonbush is another great plant for intermittently flooded locations. It will actually take standing water from time to time. It is a wonderful attractant for many adult butterflies, is fragrant, and ornamental. Pussy willow can probably be found locally, but buttonbush may take a little more looking. I know that Rare Find Nursery in Jackson carries it and they will either ship or you can pick up. But there are lots of other sources online-you can even buy it on eBay.

These are just a few suggestions, but there are many others from trees and shrubs to perennials and annuals. Protection from deer is always a consideration around here-almost a necessity. Just the fact of life, unfortunately.

HTH,
Liz

    Bookmark   May 9, 2014 at 8:58AM
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mzdee(6b)

Oh please don't do the willow tree. They are pretty but they have root system that won't quit and can be quite problematic. There is no plant that will get rid of the water. There are those that like "wet feet" but they won't touch your standing water issue. The yard needs to be graded. I had to have mine done with similar problems. I will need to have done again in a few years, but problem has been greatly minimized for about 5 years now. I use to have a small lake in my back yard before I got the grading done. It wasn't terribly expensive.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2014 at 11:06PM
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agardenstateof_mind

Mzdee is correct, you need to look into correcting the grading of the site. Rain gardens are very good for many reasons, but this is not a suitable site for one - rain gardens should be placed where the drainage is good, not where water is already pooling. Although plants can be good a sucking up water, I don't think there is anything that will be able to solve your problem. From what I've heard, French drains can clog up over time.

Do you know what kind of soil you have at the site? Is it clay, or is there (could there be) a clay hardpan that is interfering with proper water infiltration? If there is compacted clay, either near the surface or below, breaking that up may help.

Check online for how to do a percolation (or "perc") test. One set of directions is linked below.

Here is a link that might be useful: Missouri Botanical Garden - Perc Test

    Bookmark   June 22, 2014 at 8:52PM
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