Heirloom Expert: What to Plant in a Wet, Shady Spot?

All flowers have a preferred soil type where they can thrive.

Wheelbarrow and garden

Photo by Fotolia/oocoskun

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I have a partly sunny, wet spot that nothing will grow in. Should I get a bunch of fill dirt and try to raise it up? Will that help?

That’s one way to deal with the spot, but it might be easier to just look for plants which love those conditions. I like to tell gardeners to flip their brain around when it comes to an area they can’t stand. Sometimes that means not planting anything there or using the space for another purpose.

There are lots of plants which will thrive in wet shade, and they will draw you to the space. Trees like river birch, willows, and shrub dogwoods love those conditions. Siberian iris ‘Caesar’s Brother,’ hostas, astilbe, primrose, and lobelia will all enjoy the wet soil. Adding compost to the planting holes will help by giving the plants some nutrients. Compost holds water, but also drains well too.

– Doug Oster, contributing editor


Doug is the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Backyard Gardener and co-host of The Organic Gardeners radio program on KDKA.