En Español

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Friday - March 21, 2014

From: Cincinnati, OH
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Butterfly Gardens, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Natives for wet soil in Cincinnati OH
Answered by: Larry Larson


I live in Cincinnati and the soil in my back yard is wet (soggy) all year round. There are moss and grass growing in the yard. The area is shaded in the afternoon but receives sun earlier in the day. The soil is clayish and brown/red but there are a few centimeters of organic matter on top. I want to plant native perennials (herbaceous and shrubs) that will survive the wet conditions. Also I would like to plant wildflowers to provide food for bees and butterflies. Could you give me some plant recommendations?


We have a great tool ready to help you with giving suggestions for this type of thing.  One of the options on the “Explore Plants” list on the right side of the webpage is “Recommended Species”.  If you select the collection for Ohio, that gives you a list of 146 native plants which are native to your state.  You can also sort the list for certain characteristics by choosing them in the “Narrow your selection” option on the right hand side.

  Thinking Wildflowers might be a good demonstration – I selected “Herbs” and “Wet-saturated” as the Soil Moisture.  This returned eight wildflowers that really ought to do well in your back yard:
Actaea pachypoda (White baneberry)
Claytonia caroliniana (Carolina springbeauty)
Eutrochium fistulosum (Joe-pye weed)   [Birds, Butterflies, Pollenators]
Lobelia cardinalis (Cardinal flower)     [Birds, Hummingbirds, Bees]
Lobelia siphilitica (Great blue lobelia)  
Monarda didyma (Scarlet beebalm)   [Hummingbirds, Butterflies, Bees]
Penstemon digitalis (Mississippi penstemon)  [Hummingbirds, Bumblebees]
Silphium perfoliatum (Cup plant)   [Butterflies, Hummingbirds]

I noted where several of these are also listed as good butterfly or bee attractants within the plant record.  Similar efforts can give you suggestions for shrubs, trees or groundcovers – and you can get more options if you think a plant which is good at thriving in soils that are merely moist may apply to your yard.    


From the Image Gallery

Common boneset
Eupatorium perfoliatum

Cardinal flower
Lobelia cardinalis

Scarlet beebalm
Monarda didyma

Mississippi penstemon
Penstemon digitalis

Cup plant
Silphium perfoliatum

Great blue lobelia
Lobelia siphilitica

More Butterfly Gardens Questions

Native plants for East Texas school gardens
May 19, 2008 - I am a teacher in San Augustine, Texas (which is in the Eastern Pineywoods region). I have started an outdoor classroom/schoolyard habitat at our school. We are in the process of planning our plant ...
view the full question and answer

Groundcover and Butterfly attractants for LaRue Texas
May 02, 2012 - LaRue, TX - Would like a native low growing plant as a groundcover. I would like it for six+ hours of sun, drought tolerant, and ones that butterflies might enjoy, while deer won't. Some winter int...
view the full question and answer

Information on Betonyleaf thoroughwort
September 04, 2008 - I purchased Conoclinium betonicifolium (Betonyleaf thoroughwort) at the spring 2008 LBJ WC plant sale. I've not been able to find much information on the plant in the typical places, including the...
view the full question and answer

Butterfly gardening in Quitman, TX
February 11, 2009 - We want to establish a butterfly garden in our back yard. What plants should we establish to attract the butterfly for food and host planting?
view the full question and answer

What would replace non-native orange tree leaves in butterfly hatchery?
July 17, 2009 - I have a very small orange tree that currently has dozens of caterpillars on it that look like bird droppings. I think I have narrowed them down to a swallowtail butterfly. I would love to let them ma...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center