Working with Poor Soil Drainage

Yellow primrose
  • 1-80 hours
  • Beginner
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Many gardeners do not realize there is an abundance of plants which thrive in areas with poor soil drainage where many plants would perish. There are many great options for planting bushes, flowers, vegetables or ground cover to help with poor soil drainage.

Bushes that do Well

Bog Rosemary

This creeping evergreen shrub must be planted in soggy areas of your yard. This bush spreads fairly rapidly; quickly populating a swampy area and preventing erosion with its root growth. Once established, bog rosemary requires little care and is susceptible to few pests and diseases.

Marsh Marigold

In nature, the marsh marigold can be observed living along river banks and in the wettest areas of a marsh. This blossoming bush generates attractive bright yellow flowers which contrasts beautifully against the large and striking foliage.

Species of Flower that Thrive

purple irises


The word Iris accurately describes a genus which encompasses up to 300 species of flowers. These easily recognizable flowers produce blossoms whose colors span the entire spectrum of color. Irises grow from creeping rhizomes; a rhizome is an underground stem which sends out roots and shoots, which means rhizomes are responsible for underground and above ground growth.


The word Primula accurately describes a genus which includes up to 500 species of flowers. Commonly referred to as a “primrose,” Primulas are technically a low lying and flowering herb. Producing blossoms in the spring, Primula blossoms can be colored white, red, pink, yellow, purple or orange depending upon the specific species of Primula. This is a wonderful plant to grow in areas with poor drainage because the roots of the plant will not rot in the presence of standing water.

Vegetable Plants that Survive


Many gardeners are unaware of the fact that lettuce requires poorly drained soil in order to grow large. Dry conditions cue the plant to begin to seed which ends the growth season and may even dry out the lettuce leaves. Lettuce is best planted in slightly sandy soil; therefore, you may consider supplementing your poorly drained soil with sand.


Some species of peas are adapted to surviving in marsh like conditions and in areas where soil drainage is poor. However, since peas are best grown using a trellis and or fence it is not the best plant to plant in an extremely wet area. If your soil cannot hold a trellis in place, then you should refrain from sowing peas.

Species of Ground Cover to Plant

moss in a landscape


Most species of moss thrive in poorly drained, moist soil. This explains why it is often observed clinging to the moist bark of old trees or shingles on an old roof. Moss spreads fairly quickly and will populate an area of poorly drained soil with ease. Plant moss where it can be allowed to spread.

Mazus Reptans

This herbaceous perennial is an excellent blooming ground cover which does not exceed ¼ of a foot in height even at full maturity. This plant is well suited to live in moist or rocky soil and rewards its gardener with numerous multi-colored blossoms.