Not Exactly Xeric: Plants for Wet Spots

Colorado gardening is all about saving water. Classes offer advice on how to group plants in your landscape according to their need for supplemental irrigation. Garden centers highlight species that tolerate drought. This year, Colorado Springs has placed restrictions on how we water our yards, and how often we are allowed to do so. We’re forever being told how to use less water in our gardens.

But there’s one part of our backyard that defies all the prevailing wisdom. It’s wet. It’s soggy. In the spring and during wetter summers, an entire hillside of rainfall drains through this spot. And if there’s no rain and we have to water our lawn? No matter how careful we are to avoid runoff, this one area still stays wet.

After killing a few perennials—and even a couple of fairly expensive shrubs—I find myself hunting down plants that prefer poorly drained soil. Who could have foreseen such a thing?

It hasn’t been easy. Lists abound of plants that like wet soil, but most are full of species that do best in more benign climates—those with adequate snow cover, higher humidity, and gentler breezes. Many require shade, or their broad leaves would be shredded every time it hails. No wonder Colorado nurseries don’t carry them.

To make things more difficult, what happens if we have an extra dry summer and we’re placed on water restrictions? Our bluegrass lawn will go dormant, but the plants I select for their tolerance of wet feet are unlikely to survive drought. I’m willing to lose a few fast-growing perennials, but not the shrubs.

Taking all this into consideration, I have assembled a short list of possibilities—the photos you see on this page. All are hardy to at least zone 5, and many to zones 3 or 4. All take full sun. With the possible exception of Forget-me-not, none are invasive (why is why I omitted mint!). What’s more, I’ve actually seen each of these plants growing in Colorado, so I know it’s possible. Be aware that this isn’t an exhaustive list; I merely included those I like the best.

I can’t make a final decision until I see what’s available at the local nurseries. (I could try to order online, but I’m hoping for shrubs in larger containers than what are normally shipped.) Maybe a couple of years from now, I’ll post an update on how beautiful my wet spot looks!


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