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8 Trees, Shrubs, and Perennials that Grow in Wet AND Dry Conditions

Many people search for drought tolerant plants or species that will grow in wet conditions. With more drastic climate extremes, choosing plants that do well in a wider variety of soil, moisture, and temperature variants should fare better with less gardening effort.

Make species selections to plant that:

· fall not just within your plant hardiness zone, but extend a bit further cooler and warmer.

· tolerate moderate drought conditions as well as "wet feet" or higher humidity for a duration.

· are native to your region as much as possible.

For example, here in Gainesville, GA we are Zone 7, bordering on Zone 8. Selecting trees, shrubs, and perennials for your home that extend to at least zone 6-8 is a good idea, or at least a little warmer to zone 8.

Dr. James W. Porter, Distinguished Professor (emeritus) of Ecology and Marine Sciences at UGA announced at a Redbud Project talk on conservation last year that climate change research indicates Gainesville, GA will warm to the climate type of San Antonio, TX ( Zone 8b 15°F to 20°F - Zone 9a 20°F to 25°F ) withing the next few decades.

Trees and shrubs typically have longer lifespans. When planting, planning for today as well as the near future should reduce maintenance costs as your plants age in your home landscape. Plants that are more tolerant of a wider variety of conditions like pollution, deer, etc. are also a better bet for home gardens than finicky plants or plants with very limited in growing conditions.

Trying to force a plant to be what it is not genetically predisposed to be is very time consuming and can exhaust time as well as monetary resources. Therefore choosing trees for your region, light requirements, available space, soil texture and moisture, etc. is important to take into consideration when planting.

Trees and plants that are in conditions outside of their optimal range for extended periods of time will be more susceptible to stress, and in turn, diseases and pests.

The plants below have shown at least a moderate drought tolerance as well as withstanding fairly wet soils or higher humidity. Keep in mind newly planted trees, shrubs, and perennials will need supplemental watering during establishment in the landscape, and still need monitoring during extreme drought.

Trees of the Southeastern United States

Black Gum / Tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica)

A very attractive tree, often used as a specimen tree with beautiful fall foliage in many shades – yellow, orange, bright red, and purple. Performs best in moist, acidic soil, and adapts to climate extremes of wet conditions and drought. The small blue black fruits are favored by wildlife. It provides cavity and nesting sites for a variety of birds and mammals. Genus Nyssa is a host plant for 25 native Lepidoptera species. Bees use the nectar from the small flowers to make honey. The tree has few disease or insect problems, but does not tolerate alkaline soils. Use for re-establishing trees in erosion prone areas. Full Sun to Part Shade / Zone 4-9 / 60-80 ft. tall x 30 + ft. wide / Spring Blooming #erosioncontrol #wildlife #firetolerant

Nuttall Oak (Quercus texana)

Called the fastest growing of the Oaks, and is native to the Mississippi River Valley. A great urban tree well suited to many soil conditions. Tolerant to wet sites and also moderate drought. Minimal pruning needed with limbs resistant to breakage. Resistant to verticillium wilt. Prized by wildlife for dropping acorns later in the season when most other food sources are gone. Full Sun / Zone 6-8 / 60-120 ft. tall x 30-50 ft. wide / Non-Showy Blooming #fastgrowing #urbantree #shadetree #diseaseresistant

Swamp White Oak (Quercus bicolor)

Dark green leaves with silvery-white undersides turn yellow orange in autumn. Typically found in low-lying and swampy areas, yet works well in urban and compacted soil locations. Tolerant of dry sites and occasional drought, wet sites and occasional flooding, clay soil, and poor drainage. One of the easiest oaks to transplant and more tolerant of poor drainage than other oaks. Avoid hi pH soils. The ‘American Dream’ cultivar has good resistance to anthracnose and powdery mildew. Young trees develop a flaky, peeling bark that reveals an orange inner bark. Mature bark is a dark gray-brown with blocky ridges.

Full Sun / Zone 4-8 / 50-60 ft. tall x 50-60 ft. wide / Inconspicuous Blooms #yearroundinterest #birds #urbantree

Georgia Native Shrubs

Coppertina Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius 'Mindia')

A very tough plant ideal for difficult and exposed sites. Tolerant of dry sites and occasional drought, wet sites and occasional flooding, clay soil, and poor drainage. Coppery-orange foliage and light pink flowers with exfoliating bark give year round interest. Prune after blooming. Full Sun to Light Shade / Zone / 6-8 ft. tall x 6-8 ft. wide / Summer Blooming #flowering #yearroundinterest #nativeplant #winterinterest #bees #erosioncontrol

Eastern Sweetshrub (Calycanthus floridus)

This understory shrub prefers rich loams, but tolerates a wide range of soils and light conditions. Tolerant to deer and clay soil. Good for erosion control. Attracts bees, butterflies and numerous insects. Host plant for 2 native Lepidoptera species. Full Sun to Part Shade / Zone 4-9 / 6-10 ft. tall x 6-10 ft. wide / Spring to Summer Blooming #erosioncontrol #butterflies #bees #nativeplant #suckeringshrub #flowering

Possumhaw Viburnum (Viburnum nudum)

This multi-stem shrub prefers low woods, swamps, and bogs, but tolerates moderate drought and cold. The lustrous leaves are more smooth and glossy than most viburnums, changing from green to marron to dark red-purple in fall. Berries change from light pink to deep pink to blue/black as they ripen. For best cross-pollination and subsequent fruit display, plant shrubs in groups rather than by themselves. Attractive to birds and butterflies. The viburnum genus is a host plan for 97 native Lepidoptera species. Provides wildlife food, nesting, and cover. Full Sun to Part Shade / Zone 5-9 / 5-12 ft. tall x 5-12 ft. wide / Spring Blooming #nativeplant #birds #butterflies #lowland #ediblefruit #aromatic #flowering #lowmaintenance

Perennials and Ornamental Grasses

Pink Muhly Grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris)

An easy to grow clumping native ornamental grass tolerant of drought and flooding once established. This grass looks best en masse for optimal visual effect. Try planting in a row or in odd numbered groupings. Full Sun / Zone 7-11 / 3-5 ft. tall x 2-3 ft. wide / Fall Blooming #nativegrass #semievergreen #erosioncontrol #lowmaintenance #yearroundinterest #meadow #raingarden #nativeplant

Blazing Star (Liatris spicata)

One of the best garden performers, especially for tight spaces with its slender features. This purple perennial prefers moist organically rich soils, but will tolerate a range of more harsh growing conditions: salt, heat, humidity, poor or clay soil, drought, and is the most tolerant to moisture of its genus. Also deer resistant. No serious insect or disease problems. Taller spikes may need staking. Full or Part Sun / Zone 3-9 / 2-5 ft. tall x .75-2 ft. wide / Summer Blooming #lowmaintenance #pollinatorplant #nativeplant #wildflower #cutflower #showy #butterflies #bees #raingarden #birds #cottagegarden #prairie #flowering

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Tom Rabe
Tom Rabe
May 10

Excellent information regardingspecific recommendations as well asover arching principles for long term planning.

Retired Certified Arborist/ B.S. Forest Resource Management


Molly B.
Molly B.
May 04, 2023

I like this. It helped me identify a plant I saw in the state park.


Mar 04, 2021

this was not helpful at ALL I needed tiny

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