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Damp soil? Here are seven plants with wet feet!

So you have soggy soil and everything you plant seems to sink in the mud or drown? Why fight Mother Nature when you can go with the flow? Instead of trying to force unsuitable plants to adapt to your damp conditions, pick plants that love getting their feet wet!

In the previous Plant Man column, I discussed plants that should be on your list if you have soil or weather conditions that is on the dry side. If you missed that one you can find it archived under the Plant Man heading at my Web site www.landsteward.org

Today we’re at the other end of the moisture scale: looking at plants that are singin’ in the rain!

Sedges and rushes You might not find Moses in your bulrushes, but if you’re familiar with the story, you remember that rushes can be found beside water so you know they like the environment. Sedges are similar to grasses but there’s a simple way to tell the difference: the stem of a grass is flat or round while the sedge stem is more triangular. Bulrushes are distinguished from other sedges by their substantial height and can make a spectacular statement adjacent to your water feature.

Weeping willow (Salix babylonica
There are few sights more tranquil than a graceful weeping willow with its many long, thin branches hanging to the ground in pendulous curtains, ruffled by a gentle breeze. The babylonica is very adaptable and thrives in moist soil as well as in its traditional location, beside lakes and rivers. It grows quickly to a mature height of around 50 ft with a matching spread.

Red Twig dogwood (Cornus sericea)
One of the few plants that remain colorful in the winter, due to the distinctive deep red branches, this dogwood also boasts delightful white blossoms in May and glowing red berries in the fall. It has high moisture needs, so the Red Twig could be a good choice for a location with consistently moist soil. Mass several as a shrub border in a residential landscape or utilize its soil-retention properties as bank cover. Red Twig grows quite quickly to a modest and manageable height of 3 ft to 6 ft.

Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum)
You might have seen this majestic beauty alongside water hazards and lakes at golf courses and country clubs. You might also have cursed it when the little white ball ricocheted off the trunk to plop into the water. But keep the Bald Cypress in mind if you have a moderately wet area in need of a stately enhancement. It should mature between 50 and 75 ft and is fairly tolerant of salt and alkali soils.

Peve Minaret
This is the little cousin of the Bald Cypress. With its lush fern-like foliage (turning to yellow-orange in the fall) and its dwarf habit, the Peve Minaret is a real attention-getter. Because it thrives in regular to wet soils, it would be a good choice near a pond or as a foundation plant or as an unusual hedge. It’s an adaptable and low-maintenance dwarf tree (rising to around 8 ft at most) that isn’t easy to find but worth the search. Send me an e-mail at [email protected] if you’re having trouble locating a source.

River Birch (Betula nigra)
This birch seems to adapt very well to urban and suburban environments. It is aptly named, doing well in “riparian (wet) zones” but also able to hang on through modest droughts. I love the texture of the peeling, flaky, cinnamon-brown bark. At maturity, it should reach 50 to 70 feet in height.

Lily of the Kings (Iris pseudacorus)
This really is an Iris of wet places... frequently found edging small ponds and streams or growing marshy areas. It is sometimes called Yellow Flag and is reputed to be inspiration for the fleur-de-lis heraldic symbol of French royalty. Some gardeners plant Lily of the Kings in a container of rich potting soil and place it directly into a shallow pond.

Wet soil... dry soil... there are trees and shrubs that look great, if you pick the ones that are best suited to your environment.

The Plant Man is here to help. Send questions about trees, shrubs and landscaping to [email protected]. For resources and additional information, or to subscribe to Steve’s free weekly e-mailed newsletter, go to www.landsteward.org