The best plants for wet soils

Here in this sunburnt country, we're usually discussing plants that can cope with drought :
swapping tips on getting through the dry season,
planting succulent and waterwise borders,
introducing crafty water-saving measures into the garden.

In this La Niña cycle, many of us are now struggling with the climactic opposite - how to garden in wet soil.

There's been some huge falls of rain and severe flooding this autumn for many of us. Our thoughts are with you if you have been impacted by the weather.

If you live in an area where rainfall records get smashed; or your land has a low-lying spot by a creek; or there's a patch of lawn that always seems to have a persistent puddle or two after a storm - here's our three-step help to keep your garden looking good!


1. Improve The Drainage

more organic matter

Improving the drainage of your soil - how fast rainwater flows down into the soil - will increase the range of plants that you can grow.

The best way to get freer-draining soil is to increase the amount of organic matter you put on it :

  • garden compost
  • cane straw
  • spent mushroom compost
  • lawn clippings

Spread them generously onto the surface and lightly fork them in, to help to improve the texture of soils. 


2. Garden Wisely

Our Australian Plants Online nursery is on the Sunshine Coast, which (being subtropical and coastal) gets more than its fair share of heavy rainstorms and high humidity.

We successfully grown many west coast and south coast natives, which require free draining soil and dry air, by planting them at the top of open slopes.


planting on a slopeplanting on a slope

The plants get breezes and air movement around them, and any excess water drains quickly away into culverts and French drains at the base of each slope.


You can see our nursery woolly bush plantings here - when they went in, and two years later looking lush and healthy.


If your garden is on the flat, creating some raised beds will give you an area to grow fussier plants.

Planting trees and shrubs into small mounds will create local drainage (just as planting into shallow depressions will direct scarce rainwater to a plant in arid regions.)


3. Plant To Suit The Soil

Choosing plants which can tolerate or enjoy rich moist soil will make your gardening life easier. Better to work with Mother Nature than fight against her!

Most Aussie natives prefer, or even demand, very open free-draining soil, where water can move quickly through and not sit around the roots.

Happily, a wide range of native plants have evolved to cope with seasonal flooding , richer soils, and extremes of Australian weather and climate. 


native plants for regularly wet soils

Native Plants To Suit Regularly Wet Soils

These native plants below will grow in moist soils, areas that almost never completely dry out, even bog gardens.
They are ideal for the banks of ponds, moist shady borders, and low-lying garden areas where rainfall drains.

Most are resilient enough to make it through dry spells as well, which makes them invaluable garden plants if your water availability is unpredictable.

Above: bird's nest fern - Asplenium australasicum, redback ginger - Alpinia caerulea, common rush - Juncus , swamp lily - Crinum
Plant with : swamp banksia - Banksia robur, willow bottlebrush - Callistemon salignus, dog rose - Bauera, swamp wattle - Acacia retinodes, native violet - Viola hederaceae, Cape York ginger - Curcuma Aussie Gem


native plants for wet and dry soils

Native Plants To Suit Wet & Dry Soils

These natives will cope with soggy soils, and with drier spells in warmer weather. Almost all are remarkably drought tolerant, but where they get regular moisture, they grow fast, and lush. 

Above : blueberry ash - Elaeocarpus Prima Donna, roundleaf correa - Correa nummulariifolia, club rush - Ficinia nodosa, QLD brush box - Lophostemon
Plant with : swamp fountain grass - Pennisetum alopecuroides, tussock grass - Poa labillardierei, weeping tea tree - Leptospermum madidum, cousin it - Casuarina, cottonwood - Hibiscus tiliaceus rubra, twiggy myrtle - Baeckea Clarence River


callistemon and melaleuca for wet soils

Native Callistemon & Melaleuca For Wet Soils

Callistemons - bottlebrush - are excellent at coping with wet conditions. In the wild many plants grow alongside the creeks and waterholes, where they adapt to seasonal flooding and dry spells with equal ease.

They're good for clay soils too for the same reason - unlike many natives which demand perfect drainage, bottlebrush can cope with wet or dry.

Melaleuca - paperbark and honey myrtle -  are also ripper trees and shrubs for damp areas. You'll often see them at the coast where they are dried out by sea breezes and drenched by storms.

Melaleuca will grow in dry soil and occasionally wet soil; Snowflake and Snowstorm cope with more wet and cold, but all are resilient in difficult conditions.

Above : Callistemon Candy Pink, pink tips - Callistemon salignus, Melaleuca Snowflake, Callistemon Great Balls of Fire
Plant with : Callistemon Genoa Glory, Pink Champagne, Endeavour, Hannah Ray, Green John, Prolific; and Melaleuca Mini Quini, apricot honey myrtle - M. fulgens


non-native plants for wet soils

Exotic Plants To Suit Wet Soil

Of course Australia isn't the only country with extremes of weather, and excess rainfall to deal with. There's many non-native plants that really thrive in moister conditions, like these flowering beauties.

Above: bachelor's buttons - Kerria, oyster plant - Acanthus, may bush - Spiraea, mophead hydrangea
Plant with : hibiscus, sweet flag - Acorus, carex, blueberry, NZ flax - Phormium


trees for wet soils

Trees can be useful plants to balance a high water table or help soak up a soggy spot in the garden. These will tolerate (or even relish) a wetter soil from time to time.

Above : sticky wattle - Acacia howittii, silver birch - Betula, sweet gum - Liquidambar, magnolia Little Gem
Plant with : willow bottlebrush - Callistemon salignus, red bottlebrush - Callistemon Prolific, cottonwood - Hibiscus tiliaceus rubra, QLD brush box - Lophostemon


You can see all the current plants in stock that enjoy wet soil here.

With all this choice, you're bound to find plants that will suit your climate, and thrive in their new conditions - from year-round moisture to seasonal flooding.

Happy wet-weather gardening!