Question: I see many articles about dealing with dry shade but that’s not quite the problem I have. Can you tell me any plants that will grow in wet shade?
Answer: When you have a specific challenging conditions in your gardening site—such as wet shade—it helps to match those conditions up to a nearby natural area and investigate the plants that inhabit it. “Wet shade” can be akin to a swamp, riverbank, lake shore and other naturally damp areas. You might check with the local chapter of your state’s native plant society to learn what plants thrive in such areas near you. Wildflower.org, the website of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, can also be very helpful because its plant listings are quite specific about not just what state the plant comes from, but what kind of natural landscape it typically occurs in.
That said, here are a few plants generally successful in wet to damp shade:
Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia)
Shrubby dogwoods (Cornus spp.)
Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica)
Elderberries (Sambucus spp.)
Chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia)
Spicebush (Calycanthus spp.)
Serviceberry (Amelanchier spp.)
Bee balm (Monarda didyma)
Cardnial flower (Lobelia cardinalis)
Piqsqueak (Bergenia cordifolia)
Sedges (Carex spp.) and certain ornamental grasses
Find advice on making the most of shade in The Shady Border, a Brooklyn Botanic Garden All-Region Guide.
Southern shade gardeners: check out Southern Shade, a guide to selecting plants that will thrive despite the extremes of your climate.
Barabara Ellis offers 20 detailed plans for shade gardens in Shady Retreats.
Get great advice and a good look at the shade garden of well-known British gardener Beth Chatto in The Shade Garden.