Shrubs For Shady, Wet Yards: Shrubs That Like Shade And Wet Soil

(Image credit: Count-Ace)

Most plants prefer a site with good sun and well-draining soil. That may make gardeners with a shady, wet garden tear their hair out. But wait! There are shrubs that like wet soil and tolerate light shade, even if they aren’t exactly shade loving shrubs. And we are going to tell you all about them. 

Shrubs for Shade and Wet Soil

If your backyard has more shade than sun and has consistently wet soil, you won’t be able to plant traditional garden favorites like roses or hydrangeas or oak trees. But that doesn’t mean you can’t plant anything. 

There are some trees and some shrubs that will appreciate light shade and moist soil. You just need to take the time to find them. We’ll give you a hint: native plants are your best bet.

Small Shrubs for Wet Shade

Some plants thrive in nature in wetlands, and this is the place to look for plants that like wet soil. One to consider is indigo bush (Amorpha fruticosa), a native that grows along marshland edging and along stream backs. Many branching, it grows to 15 feet (5m.) tall with gray green foliage. It grows showy flowers in June, upright spikes of deep purple blossoms with orange stamen. And it is perfectly happy in light shade.

Another good option when it comes to shrubs for wet areas: the American elderberry (Sambucus canadensis). This native bush grows to 10 feet (3.3m.) high and produces flat-topped clusters of pearly white flowers in June. The blossoms give way to berry-like fruit that start out green but turn purple-black as they mature. They work well in preserves and wines, and any you don’t get around to eating, the birds are happy to polish off.

Dogwood Shrubs for Wet Areas

Different species of native dogwood prefer moist soils and streambanks. One is the silky dogwood (Cornus amomum), a rounded shrub growing to 6 feet (2 m.) or more in wet prairies and along woodland edges. Silky dogwood flowers appear in spring, flat-topped clusters of ivory blossoms, followed by blue fruit. It likes sun but will grow in partial shade. 

Many people are familiar with redosier dogwood (Cornus sericea), loved for the red shade of its new twigs. It is also an American native and grows to 10 feet (3.3m.) tall. These dogwoods grow best in moist soil in full sun or partial shade. For extra color, pick a cultivar like “Cardinal” with bright, cherry red stems, or “Flaviramea” with yellow stems. “Silver and Gold” has green leaves with creamy white margins and yellow stems.

Teo Spengler

Teo Spengler has been gardening for 30 years. She is a docent at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Her passion is trees, 250 of which she has planted on her land in France.