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

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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

QUESTION:

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?

ANSWER:

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

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