Water LOVING Plant Suggestions Under 3'

aloha2009September 29, 2012

Yes, yes, I know this goes counter intuitive to everything a conscientiousness person does in Colorado to conserve water but I have a really swampy area in my yard. Between my neighbor who over waters, and the slope of the land there is often a small amount of standing water in the area.

Are there any plants that you just love but shy away from that you'd plant if water was no object? Or perhaps you just go for it anyway indulging yourself in a real beauty.

Also important, are there any plants that are typically planted in Colorado that would just hate it in a continuously wet area?

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Most plants in Colorado hate a continuously wet area.

Willows love continuous moisture. You'll see them growing along streams.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2012 at 1:03PM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

How much sun ya gettin', Aloha? How big is the area? Is it HEAVY clay, if so, are you willing to add a lot of peat and/or other organics?


    Bookmark   September 29, 2012 at 1:25PM
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I should have been more clear.

It's on the north side but gets sun all day since it's between 2 houses. The area is about 30' x 5'. The soil is extremely good since the previous owner brought in tons of great soil but hardly planted anything.

The area is right next to a patio so great smells and beautiful plants would be wonderful. I've considered incorporating a vegetable garden tomatoes as a possibility. With it being next the the patio and in prime viewing area, it's got to be in a way that looks at least ok.

This isn't the greatest pic of the area, but the area will be along the grass area of the neighbor. I just took it, since we just had patios laid yesterday. You can see how their yard slopes into our yard, so whenever they water (and believe they water a lot), it drains into our yard. That coupled with our house has a walkout basement, all the rain water from up above comes down to this area. We desperately need some plants to soak up some of this excess moisture.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2012 at 2:05PM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

I don't get it! The picture! Is that the neighbor's yard with the big gray box by the house? Are you talking about the "little strip" immediately off the patio? That doesn't look 5' wide! Or the bare dirt on the far left side of the pic that looks like it's down a step?

I'll need to think about it some more and look some things up, so I'll try to get back later on tonite, but Siberian Iris, Iris sibirica, LOVE water. (And I love them, but mine are totally failing in heavy clay and too dry soil!) There are also a couple Iris that can be grown as water plants--in ponds! I think I. missouriensis is one of them, but I'll need to check!

Is the soil staying wet in winter too--or are you willing to keep it wet if necessary?


P.S. You live on a lake? That looks like the house where I "crashed" when I was commuting to SFO! It was on a canal off of the Bay!

    Bookmark   September 29, 2012 at 2:42PM
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Skybird, yes the neighbor has the box. As I said it's a bad angle but yes it's about 5' (gets a tad smaller but grows wider). Precisely, the area starts by the bucket.

Not familiar with the Siberian Iris, I googled the image and they sound like they could work.

Since the back yard was completely unfinished, we almost never went back there so I don't know if it was wet in the winter too. I imagine with the slope of the land, it was at least moist.

My DH & I went out looking for plants at the nursery and came across a weigela. I'm hoping they might be able to make it. I suppose it's worth trying. I'm hoping if I get enough plants in there it will suck up the excess water.

I have used the area though on more then one occasion to stage a plant when I didn't have the time to plant it in it's forever spot. I didn't have to worry about making sure it got enough water.

Yes, we're on a lake.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2012 at 10:30PM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

Hi Aloha,

Ok, I've checked some things out and here are some possibilities!

Iris sibirica, Siberian iris
Iris missouriensis (water plant)
Iris louisiana (water plant)
Iris pseudoacorus (water plant)
Iris versicolor (water plant)
Iris ensata (a/k/a I. kaempferi) - Japanese Iris - Some varieties can have flowers up to 12" across!

Physostegia - obedient plant

Monarda - bee balm - invasive and VERY susceptible to mildew!

Asclepias incarnata, swamp milkweed - butterfly weed - spreads!

Hibiscus moscheutos - 'Disco Belle' is about 4' - others taller!

Mint - You don't really want to do that, do you?!!

Liatris spicata - gayfeather - blazing star - bottlebrush flower

Myosotis palustris, water Forget-me-not

Valeriana officinalis - but IMO the flowers on this one STINK!

Galium odoratum - invasive - foliage smells like "fresh mown hay!"


Primula vialii - I love this one, don't have one yet!
Primula bullesiana
Primula cockburniana
Primula japonica

And even the regular Primula (P. vulgaris) would be ok if it's not actually standing water. Primula are generally shade plants, but would be fine in the sun if kept wet enough.

And that's why I was asking about the moisture in winter! There are some "shade" perennials that should do fine in the sun as long as they're kept wet enough--and for most of them that would mean not letting them dry out too much over winter too!

Trollius, a favorite of mine, should be ok with ENOUGH moisture

Bergenia cordifolia - shade plant should do fine in sun with enough moisture--but it's evergreen so it would definitely need to be kept WET in winter too - leaves turn pretty red to orange in fall with the right temps!

Astilbe should do fine in sun IF enough water--and would definitely need to be kept wet in winter too, at least if you ever want it to bloom. Very few people out here ever get it to bloom, and that appears to be mostly because it's not kept wet enough, in summer OR winter! Keep it swimming and it should love you!

And here's the real kicker!!!

How about some daylilies! Yep! They can apparently be grown in very wet soil! I knew that when I was at Paulino's, but I never actually recommended them to anybody for wet areas--it just seems too counterintuitive!!! But I have to say, especially this summer, when I keep mine wet they seem to perk up and really love it! One--this one at least!--sure would expect the tuberous roots to rot if kept wet, but apparently they don't!

There are also several grasses that can be grown in wet conditions. Most of them are prohibitively invasive but there are a couple "nice" ones you might want to consider.

Miscanthus - different varieties in heights from about 3" to 6" or more. I love Miscanthus but don't have space for one, but 5' wide would be just about right!

Panicum virgatum - switch grass - can even be grown in boggy conditions! I have P.v. 'Heavy Metal', and I love it. Steely blue foliage with "wispy" seed heads. My only problem is that it's set against the fence which makes the seed heads blend in too much to be able to see them much!

There's Chasmanthium, northern sea oats, too, but I've not grown that one and don't know if it spreads a lot or not!

One caveat! A lot of the water loving plants spread a lot--or are downright invasive! I've marked a couple of them above, but I'm not sure about some of them--and some of them that behave themselves with "normal" garden watering, might decide to live high on the hog if they get as much water as they want, like the Physostegia possibly.

And many of the things that are sold as hardy water plants will do just fine in wet soil without standing water--and some do well in normal garden conditions--but, again, many of the "water plants" are VERY invasive!

I can list some more things if you really want, I've left out some of the very worst of the thugs, and some of the less common things. Not sure I want to list some of them even if you ask for them! I think you might know where I live---and I don't want to have to put bars on my windows and sleep with a gun under my pillow!!! ;-)

I don't do bushes, so maybe somebody else can help you with info about the weigela!

When I was checking a few things out, I ran into the site below, and it has some great info. I think there are a few things on there that don't do COLD tho, so check them out well if it's something you're looking at! (Cannas like water, but need to be stored inside over winter!)

AND-stay away from the Lythrum and the Lysimachia in that list! Or--if you decide to get them---remember!!! I told you NOT TO! And the Houttuynia too!!!

Also ran into this when I was checking out one of the Iris! Copy & paste! It has some great Iris info, and if you go to the bottom you can click on Japanese Iris and/or Siberian Iris to see some of the GREAT possibilities!


Gotta go! Let me know if I can answer any questions about any of these---perennials, not the bushes!


Here is a link that might be useful: Plants for wet and boggy soils! - pdf

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 1:41AM
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Skybird, I am overwhelmed with your knowledge, and VERY thankful for your generosity of all the time you took to gather all that information and then post it. It's so much easier find xeriscape plants that will work in our climate, but not ones that love water. All this information will keep me busy for quite awhile, looking at sizes, colors, etc and what to place. Even if the plants are small I'll try and get my plant selections in a pic to show what I ultimately go with.

Somehow I missed your posting on 10/1 or I would have thanked you before.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2012 at 11:57PM
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So foolishly, this summer I thought perhaps our neighbor wasn't going to over water their lawn like they have done in the past. The spring and into summer their lawn was actually starting to brown on occasion. Apparently their sprinkler system was not working properly for quite awhile and they were having it get fixed. Once fixed (and after we decided on some plants that weren't "swamp" lovers) the deluge of water has been coming steady TWICE a day, EVERY DAY rain or shine!

I had put some purple iris my daughter had given me that I needed to transplant out of another area so I figured irisis can take a lot of abuse but they don't like to be drowned! I got some CL iris that I had left in a box for 6 weeks and once planted they are doing quite well and seem to handle my abuse well (I hang my head in shame) while the "swamp" area iris, look like I need to pull them out or they may not make it much longer.

I have catmint that I threw over there even prior to this thread and it's looking horrible, though in other areas of the yard it's looks healthy. These things are literally drowning. I've got some red yarrow and it is doing quite well, which seem peculiar being it's drought tolerant.

I'll have to venture out this winter to see how wet it gets from the snow run off. The neighbor has talked seriously that they move in the year or so, so I hate to start relying on the constantly moist conditions and then find myself needing to water more or buy new plants.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2013 at 8:21AM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

Oh, girl! If you want Iris in there, go to the link below and pick something out! There are lots of Iris that LOVE water--and will also do well with "regular" (non-xeric) watering. Check out the different ones on the first page and then go to the Japanese Iris link all the way down on the bottom--they have HUGE flowers and are spectacular, and then go to the Siberian Iris page, also on the bottom. With sun and wet soil any of these should do very well for you! Wish I had those conditions.

Have more thoughts but just don't have the time right now, but do definitely check out all those Iris!


Here is a link that might be useful: Moisture loving Iris

    Bookmark   August 19, 2013 at 11:55AM
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