Best Plants that Soak Up Water for a Wet Backyard

Wet backyards can be a big problem, especially if you live in an area that gets a lot of rain. But landscaping does help – including what you grow in your yard. Here’s the best plants that soak up water for a wet backyard.

What might seem like a small inconvenience can easily turn into a big problem. Water can damage your home, and pooling water ruins grass and pathways. Standing water is also a breeding ground for mosquitoes, something no one wants to encourage! 

Too much water in your garden can also have an effect on your plants. Some varieties are sensitive to moisture and rot easily when watered too often. Since you can’t control the weather, you’ll need to stick with hardy alternatives that grow well in wet areas.

Plants aren’t just great for landscaping and soaking up water, though – they also encourage biodiversity in your yard, which is more environmentally friendly. 

What are Growing Zones?

Throughout this article you’ll see mention of growing zones. These are used throughout North America (Canada and the US) to determine, generally, where plants will grow well. It goes by average minimum temperature. 

Zones range from 1 (the coldest) through 11 (warmest) and most places fall within zones 2-9. Use a plant hardiness zone map to find out what zone you live in. 

Best Plants that Soak Up Water for a Wet Backyard

Lily of the Valley Plant

lily of the valley flower

One of my favorite flowers, lily of the valley, is a very hardy perennial plant that grows in almost any North American environment. They especially like to grow in moist soil, which is perfect for your wet backyard.

Once growing, lily of the valley spreads its roots around underneath the ground. This will help them spread quickly and absorb water. You should plant the bulbs in the fall so that they can come up the following spring.


  • Hardy plant that likes wet soil
  • Grows well in shaded areas
  • Perennial (comes up every year)
  • Zones 2 through 7


  • Spreads easily and quickly
  • Must be planted in fall to grow the following spring

Indian Grass

meadow of indian grass

In Manitoba we call something like this prairie grass and I grow quite a bit in my backyard. It’s basically a type of straw-like grass that grows fast and tall. Much taller than typical breeds of grass that people have in their yards. 

This ornamental grass is great for lining flower beds or creating a more intimate backyard garden. Because of how it grows, it sucks up a lot of moisture to stay healthy. Just be careful; ornamental grasses have a tendency to spread easily in your yard.


  • Easy to grow (zones 2-9)
  • Comes up every year
  • Absorbs a lot of water


  • Sometimes difficult to contain
  • Grows tall, so you’ll want to consider how you place it especially inside flower beds

Primrose Plant

Primrose Plant with white and yellow flowers

Primrose flowers are great additions to your garden because they’re a popular food for butterflies and other pollinators. You can also get them in a variety of beautiful colours! They’re easy to grow and will come up every spring – even multiplying each year.

They like damp soil and are a great option for plants that soak up water for a wet backyard. Just make sure you plant them in the shade – primrose flowers don’t love hot summers. 


  • Will come up each year and even multiply
  • Grow in zones 4 to 8
  • Very pretty and comes in an array of colours


  • Don’t tolerate hot summers very well
  • Can’t grow well in most of Canada

Blue Elderberry Shrub

Blue Elderberry Shrub

I love blue elderberry because it can grow in almost any North American climate. These shrubs are extremely hardy and grow very well in wet soil. They’ll also help draw up some of that water so your backyard is less wet overall.

One thing to keep in mind with these shrubs is that they do take up a fair amount of space in your garden. It’s called a shrub, but blue elderberry can grow as tall as 30 feet. The berries are great for animals, particularly birds, but they can cause stomach problems for people if they’re eaten while under ripe. 


  • Small tree that grows well in moist environments
  • Hardy and can be planted in most areas
  • Encourages birds to visit your yard
  • Fruit can be eaten when ripe
  • Best in zones 4 to 8, but can survive in zone 3 too


  • Can be dangerous for children
  • Grows large, not great for a small yard
  • Will take a long time to grow unless you purchase a shrub that’s already grown large

American Cranberry Bush

American Cranberry Bush with ripe berries

Another shrub for your yard, the American cranberry adds colour and foliage to your yard – and it loves water. It grows about 15 feet tall, but tends to bulk outward as well. Once fully grown, American cranberry bushes are great for providing privacy.

The cranberries on this shrub aren’t toxic to people or animals, but they don’t taste great eaten raw.


  • Grows in zones 2-7
  • Safe for kids and pets
  • Good for privacy


  • Takes up a lot of space in your yard
  • Shrubs take several years to grow to full size

Black Chokeberry Shrub

Black Chokeberry Shrub

Other types of chokeberry also soak up water for a wet backyard, but the black variety has more versatility. It grows between 3 and 12 feet tall and you’ll want to give this shrub plenty of sunlight if your yard is particularly wet.

Unlike the chokecherry that has a toxic pit (all cherry pits release cyanide when chewed and digested), chokeberries are safe to eat, although the flavour is very astringent. That means that they’re another safe berry bush for your backyard if there’s concern for kids and pets.


  • Fruit is safe to eat
  • Does very well in wet areas, sometimes these are found in swamps naturally
  • Leaves change colours to red in the fall
  • Zones 3-8


  • Like all shrubs, they need more space than smaller plants
  • Too much moisture and not enough sun can cause these trees to rot

Atlantic White Cedar Tree

Snow covered cedar tree

Atlantic white cedars are evergreen coniferous trees, meaning they don’t lose their leaves in the winter time. They typically grow in wetlands, which means they are especially good choices for a very wet yard.

They have high water requirements, especially when they’re first taking root, so these are an ideal choice if you’re trying to soak up excess water in a wet backyard.


  • Very easy to maintain
  • Grows especially well in wet environments and acidic soil
  • Hardiness zones 3-8


  • Trees take years to grow, especially if you start from a small sapling
  • Roots don’t penetrate very deep, which could affect the rest of your landscaping

Red Maple Tree

Red Maple Tree leaves

Maples are a pretty addition to your yard because of the beautiful colours they turn during the autumn months. They’re also great at absorbing excess water – a single red maple absorbs up to 5 gallons of water per week!

Red maples grow well in wet, acidic soil. The biggest draw back, like any tree, is that it takes several years for them to reach maturity. In fact, they only start flowering after about 8 years! 


  • Absorbs a lot of water
  • Pretty tree option
  • Provides a lot of shade
  • Grows almost anywhere (zones 3 to 9)


  • Takes a long time to reach maturity
  • Needs a lot of space – not initially, but a fully grown red maple 40-70 feet tall with a spread of 30-50 feet

More Plants That Soak Up Water for a Wet Backyard

Puddle in the back yard

Flowers and small plants:

  • Japanese iris (although they need water to stay in order to survive
  • Violets (most varieties will be fine)
  • Daylilies (they love regular watering)
  • Golden club (they do best in warmer climates)
  • Bee balm (they like alkaline soil, which is different than most of the other plants on this list)
  • Swamp milkweed (prefers clay soil, but if your garden soil is always moist they’ll thrive there too)
  • Swamp hibiscus (very good for absorbing water)
  • Bigleaf hydrangea  (need full sun)

Shrubs and bushes

  • Common winterberry (type of holly, berries are toxic to pets and people though)
  • Red elderberry (similar to blue elderberry, needs a lot of water)
  • French rose (needs good drainage so the roots don’t rot, but all roses like soil that is moist)
  • Spicebush (typically grows in wetlands)
  • Summersweet (small, pretty, and late-blooming – doesn’t like to get too dry)
  • Button bush (loves moisture)
  • Inkberry (very hardy but dangerous for dogs)


  • River birch (tolerates wet but prefers moist soil)
  • Ash (commonly found near swamps and prefer wet soil)
  • Weeping willow (roots are very good at sucking up excess water)
  • Bald cypress (can absorb almost 8000 gallons of water each year!)
  • Black gum (likes moist over wet soil but very hardy in extreme weather)
  • Oriental arborvitae (fast growing and easy to care for)

Best Plants that Soak Up Water for a Wet Backyard – Conclusion

Hopefully you found these plants that soak up water for a wet backyard helpful. If your yard is really wet, it’s a good idea to mix a few different types of plants for the best results. Flowers and ornamental grasses can give some immediate relief, where shrubs and trees can solve drainage problems over the long term. 


Everett hates writing bios but loves writing other things. He's really into geek culture, travelling, and books. When not raising 5 kids, you'll probably find him blogging over at or wasting way too much time on Twitter (@EvvyWrites).