Plants Good for Flooding and Wet Areas (By Zone)

Plants Good for Flooding and Wet Areas (By Zone)

Just like most living things, your plants, shrubs and trees can only handle so much water.

If a flash flood hits your garden occasionally, your plants should rebound. But if your garden keeps flooding when it rains or is often affected by major floods, that’s a problem.

Learn how to fix that, and moving forward, replace damaged plants, trees and shrubs in your garden with plants that thrive in wet soil.

Garden Flooding Problems and Solutions–Plants, Trees and Shrubs that Grow in Wet Soil

How can I tell if a flood did damage to the trees, plants or shrubs in my garden?

Plants that sit in saturated soil, called waterlogged soil, will drown after a week because their roots can’t access oxygen–only water.

If you see water pooling in your yard, poke deep holes in the ground when the water begins to drain. Try not to step on the waterlogged areas much when they’re wet, or you’ll worsen the problem.

Then, monitor your trees’ health for the next few months to see if there’s any long-term damage. Keep your eye on oaks, hickories, lindens and some maples. They're more likely to have problems since they’re not used into flood conditions.

Look for the following signs of tree trouble after a flood:

Ready to add flood tolerant trees and shrubs to your garden?

Always pick plants in your gardening zone to set yourself up for success. Trees and shrubs in your zone are most likely to thrive in your area’s climate and weather. Click to discover your gardening zone.


And plant new trees and shrubs in fall or spring–not summer and winter.

Flood-Tolerant Trees for Wet Areas (Zones 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)

 Pictured: Bald cypress tree, ideal for zones 4-10

  • Colorado blue spruce (zones 2-10): A beautiful, silvery evergreen with moderate flood and drought tolerance
  • Swamp white oak (zones 3- 8): A medium-sized shade tree that thrives in wet, acidic soil
  • Thornless honeylocust (zones 3-9): A fast-growing shade tree that’s easy to care for and moderately flood and drought tolerant
  • Hackberry (zones 3-9): A tough tree that thrives almost anywhere and can tolerate some flooding and drought 
  • Bald cypress (zones 4-10): A sleek, pyramid-shaped conifer that loses needles in the winter, thrives in swamps and can tolerate flooding

Flood-Tolerant Shrubs for Wet Areas (Zones 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)

Pictured: Winterberry bush, ideal for zones 3-9

  • Redosier dogwood (zones 2-7): A fast-growing, hardy shrub with beautiful red stems that prefers moist soil
  • Bayberry (zones 3-7): A fragrant shrub that smells floral and fruity and is very flood tolerant
  • Winterberry (zones 3-9): A shrub with bright green leaves and red berries that thrives in both wet and dry soil conditions; very tolerant of seasonal flooding
  • Swamp azalea (zones 4-8): A spicy-smelling shrub with sweet flowers that tolerates flooding but cannot grow when roots are submerged in water for long periods of time
  • Sweetspire or Virginia willow (zones 5-10): A shrub with beautiful fall color and white blooms; tolerates flooding if planted in shade

Unsure if your plant can tolerate flooding? Comment below, and we’ll help!

  • The Tree Doctor May 10, 2018 >Hi Linda, There are many species of willow, but most are very tolerant of moist soils and flooding. Permanent water levels above ground can still cause possible decline effects. I would be patient with your plant, giving it some more time to possibly leaf out. Changing conditions can often delay leaf out while the plant adapts. Hopefully, this helps! Here if you have any more questions, Linda.
  • Linda Lee May 10, 2018 >I have a pond whose water level has been corrected to a higher level by about a foot. Prior to the correction, a wild willow bush/shrub rooted in one corner of the pond. It has thrived for several years but now the pond water level covers the base of the shrub. It is mid-May here in northern PA and I expected to see new leaf growth on the willow by now, but I don't see any. There are leaf nubs, but they don't seem to be developing. Will the willow die off because its root base is saturated?
  • The Tree Doctor April 13, 2017 >Hi there, D! A native alder shrub, like speckled alder, would do well at the site. Though, it doesn't quite fit everything you're looking for. Hope this helps!
  • D Schafer March 30, 2017 >Looking for full-looking shrub (preferably evergreen) up to 5 feet in height that will do well in zone 3, along a lake where it is in wet soil that is frequently soggy since it is only about 1 foot above lake level.
  • Jerrie Pearson March 17, 2017 >I live on the edge of a bayou that floods part of my back yard when we have hard or a lot of rain. On the other side of the bayou is a huge flat field. I would like to plant a wind break along the my bank side of the bayou. What would you recommend? I have considered the Giant Thuja and the Eastern Red Cedar. Thanks!
  • The Tree Doctor February 10, 2017 >Hi there, Jewel. Really good question! Cutting above-ground tree roots without harming the tree is tricky. You generally want to avoid pruning roots more than 2 inches wide. Here's a bit more about removing above-ground tree roots, like the ones in your yard: You may want to consider covering them, instead of cutting them: Here to help if you have any other questions, Jewel!
  • Jewel Nagle February 10, 2017 >We have exposed tree roots running out in the yard maybe 8 feet from the tree and its hard to mow will it hurt ot shave them down to ground level?
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