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.

Suitable plants

For plants suited to different soil conditions, browse our RHS Plant Selector. Trees tolerant of wet soils specifically include;

Conifers

  • Abies alba (European silver fir) – height 30m (100ft)
  • Abies procera (syn. A. nobilis, noble fir) AGM – height 30m (100ft)
  • Metasequoia glyptostroboides (dawn redwood) AGM – height 30m (100ft)
  • Taxodium distichum (swamp cypress) AGM – for acid or neutral soils. Height 30m (100ft)
  • Thuja occidentalis (American arbor-vitae) – height 20m (70ft)

Links

AGM Plants
RHS Plant Finder

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