Deciduous Shrubs for Moist or Wet Areas

(News article for February 11, 2023)

I recently addressed evergreen shrubs for relatively wet sites. If you’d like a deciduous plant, you have options, too. This week, I’ll discuss deciduous shrubs.

The Virginia willow or sweetspire (Itea virginica) is one such plant. The cultivar Henry’s Garnet was named a Louisiana Super Plant for 2017. While the native species may grow to 8 feet or taller, ‘Henry’s Garnet’ grows to about 3 to 5 feet tall and provides nice fall color. This plant produces elongated clusters (racemes) of white flowers in the spring. It spreads by underground stems and is semi-evergreen in some areas of southern Louisiana.

American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) was also given Super Plant status. It’s more commonly found on well-drained sites but can tolerate moist soil conditions. American beautyberry is most recognizable during late summer when it produces clusters of purple berries along its stems. (We occasionally see plants that produce white fruit instead, and there is at least one with pink-fruited form.) Although it’s sometimes called French mulberry, American beautyberry is native to the southeastern US. It’s sometimes seen growing along the edges of woodlands but produces more berries when grown in full sun than in shade. It can grow to 6 feet tall and wide.

A plant that’s somewhat new to me is buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis). This one looks pretty nondescript when it isn’t in flower, but I find the round flower heads entertaining. These white flower clusters, which appear in the summer, remind me of small versions of the rubber string ball toys that I played with as a kid. Buttonbush can grow to about 25 feet tall but more often grows to roughly 10 feet. While some mentioned plants are also adaptable to more well-drained sites, this one needs moist conditions and, like bald cypress, can even grow in standing water.

While some hollies suited to moist sites are evergreen, there are deciduous ones, also. The name winterberry is sometimes used for both Ilex decidua and I. verticillata, as red berries often remain on them through the winter. I. decidua is also called possumhaw or just “deciduous holly” and is more widespread in the wild in Louisiana.

Let me know if you have questions.

Contact Mary Helen Ferguson.

plant with white flowersVirginia willow in flower (April). (Photo by M.H. Ferguson)

plant with round white flowersButtonbush flowers (June). (Photo by M.H. Ferguson)

plant with red berries'Winter Red' common winterberry (Ilex verticillata). (Photo: John Ruter, University of Georgia,

3/8/2023 3:58:37 PM
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