Trees for wet soils

There are many trees which will grow successfully in soils which are permanently moist, but few will survive long spells of flooding or waterlogged conditions, especially in summer. The ones listed here are more tolerant than most.

Introduction

Air and water are needed for plant roots to support healthy growth. Saturated soils will have insufficient oxygen for healthy root function and may lead to root decay. Fortunately there are some trees which don’t seem to mind having wet feet.

Practical considerations

Preparation for planting

Before planting trees in wet conditions, you may need to improve drainage. On soils prone to wet conditions in winter and drought in summer, such as heavy clays, improve the soil by incorporating bulky organic matter. This should be done over as large an area as possible. Artificial drainage will be necessary if severe waterlogging or flooding is a problem.

Planting

Improve drainage at the base of the planting hole by forking through any compacted soil. Fork through the sides of the planting hole or break down the sides into the planting hole when backfilling. This avoids creating a planting 'bucket' or sump which fills with water; a problem that can lead to poor establishment or the death of the tree. On heavy soils prone to winter wet, protect the finer surface feeding roots by planting trees on a slightly raised mound to improve drainage around the root system and carry out the planting in early spring.

Suitable plants

For plants suited to different soil conditions, browse our RHS Plant Selector.

(*) suitable for acid soils
(e) evergreen
(^) tolerant of wet soils but better suited to moisture retentive well-drained soil
AGM - The RHS Award of Garden Merit

Trees tolerant of wet soil 

Acer griseum AGM, A. japonicum, A. palmatum, A. rubrum
Aesulus pavia '
Atrosanguineus' AGM
Alnus glutinosa, A. incana 'Aurea', A.× spaethii 
Amelanchier
including Amelanchier lamarckii AGM
Betula nigra (river birch), B. pendula cultivars
Crataegus laevigata
Fagus sylvatica
AGM
Frangula alnus (alder buckthorn)
Gleditsia triacanthos f. inermis 'Sunburst'
Ligustrum japonicum, L. lucidum (e) 
Liquidambar styraciflua (*)
Magnolia (most) (*) (^)
Mespilus germanica (medlar) (^)
Nyssa sylvatica (tupelo) AGM, N. aquatica (*)
Paulownia tomentosa AGM (^)
Populus alba, P. tremula (poplar)
Prunus (most)
Pterocarya fraxinifolia
Pyrus communis
(common pear), P. calleryana 'Chanticleer',
P. salicifolia
var. orientalis 'Pendula' AGM
Quercus palustris (pin oak), Q. robur
Salix
(willow) including S. alba var. vitellina 'Britzensis' AGM,
S. babylonica
var. pekinensis 'Tortuosa',
S. daphnoides, S. gracilistyla
'Melanostachys' AGM,
S. × sepulcralis var. chrysocoma AGM,
S. × sepulcralis 'Erythroflexuosa' AGM
Sambucus nigra, S. racemosa
Sorbus aucuparia
(mountain ash)
Tilia (lime)
Zelkova serrata AGM, Z. × verschaffeltii

Conifers tolerant of wet soils

Abies alba (silver fir), A. koreana AGM (Korean fir), Abies procera (noble fir) (*) (^)
Chamaecyparis lawsoniana, C. obtusa, C. pisifera (*) (^)
Ginkgo biloba AGM (^)
Metasequoia glyptostroboides (dawn redwood) AGM,
M. glyptostroboides Goldrush = 'Golden Oji' AGM (^)
Picea abies, P. glauca, P. omorika AGM, P. orientalis AGM, P. pungens (*) (^)
Pinus sylvestris
Pseudotsuga menziesii
AGM 
Taxodium distichum (swamp cypress) AGM (*)
Thuja occidentalis (white cedar), T. plicata (western red cedar) 
Thujopsis dolobrata (^)
Tsuga canadensis (Eastern hemlock), T. heterophylla AGM

Links

AGM Plants
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