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updated: 6/24/2013 12:09 PM

Art in the garden: Some plants thrive in moist soils

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  • The bright yellow flowers of marsh marigolds brighten a moist area.

      The bright yellow flowers of marsh marigolds brighten a moist area.

By Diana Stoll
The Planterís Palette

Well-drained soil is critical for healthy plant growth of many plants, and quite often gardeners grieve over the loss of plants planted in poorly drained areas of their landscapes.

While moist or boggy soil can mean the death or decline of many plants, others tolerate, or even thrive, in a damp or soggy site.

Marsh marigolds are adaptable native wildflowers that grow in sun to part shade and prefer soil that never dries out -- they even thrive in standing water. In April and early May, marsh marigolds boast rich, bright yellow buttercup flowers. Their foliage is shiny, rounded, and dark green. They grow between 8 and 18 inches tall.

Some types of iris are also moisture lovers. Yellow flag iris is adaptable -- happily growing in standing water or tolerating drier soils. Plant it alongside a stream in full sun where it will form large clumps of reed-like, sword-shaped foliage. Lovely yellow flowers with brown veining appear in May and June.

The Japanese iris is an excellent choice for areas that are wet during spring rains and then dry out later in the season. The flowers, blooming in June and July, may be single or double in various shades of blue, pink, purple, yellow or white. It grows in sun to part shade and prefers rich, acidic soil. Add lots of organic matter and soil sulfur when planting.

Trollius, commonly called globeflower, likes deep, fertile, moist soil and will grow in sun to part shade. In spring to early summer, showy buttercup-like flowers appear in shades ranging from lemon yellow to golden orange over pretty, dark green foliage.

For a bold accent in the landscape, consider Queen-of-the-Prairie, or Filipendula rubra. It forms a shrub-like presence 4 to 6 feet tall topped with pink, fluffy flower plumes in July and August. A North American native, it prefers moist to soggy organic soil in a spot with sun to part shade.

Obedient plant is another North American native that grows best in moist to wet meadows or at the woodland's edge. Obedient plants bloom midsummer to early fall. Its snapdragon-like flowers can be lilac, white or rosy pink. Butterflies love it, too!

Bee balm, or Monarda, is a vigorous grower for moist areas. They range in height from 2 to 4 feet and sport bright, shaggy heads of flowers in July and August in shades or red, purple and pink. You'll enjoy the butterflies, bees and hummingbirds that bee balm attract to your perennial border or wildflower garden in sun to light shade.

Turtlehead (Chelone) is also a North American native with a preference for moist to wet soils. From mid summer to fall, flower spikes resembling snapdragons are borne on stiff stems. Depending on the variety, flowers may be purple, rose pink or white. Turtlehead prefers part shade and is a good choice for the border or waterside.

Don't give up on that swampy spot in your landscape. Just choose suitable plants and turn the once drab to lush and beautiful!

• Diana Stoll is a horticulturist and the garden center manager at The Planter's Palette, 28W571 Roosevelt Road, Winfield. Call (630) 293-1040 or visit

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