Everett’s California Fuchhia is an example of a plant that doesn't like to have wet feet, meaning roots sitting in water. Photo: Wikimedia CommonsEverett’s California Fuchhia is an example of a plant that doesn't like to have wet feet, meaning roots sitting in water. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Plants With Wet Feet and Dry Feet

Plants and people have similar likes and dislikes when it comes to their feet.  

Of course, plants don’t literally have the kind of feet that take them on a stroll, but a plant’s roots are often referred to as “feet.” Just like most people enjoy a walk along the beach or wading in a pool on a hot day, plants like – and need – water on their roots to thrive.  

And just like people don’t like soggy feet in wet socks, plants don’t generally thrive with their roots in standing water. Horticulturists refer to plant roots in soggy soil as “wet feet.” Conversely, plants that can thrive without much water on their roots are said to have “dry feet.”

Excessive moisture at the roots can cause rot and other diseases; very few plants grow in wet areas. While that isn’t a common problem in the arid Southwest, plants can end up in standing water in poorly drained (or over-irrigated) areas of landscaping.  

That means it’s important to match landscaping plants to the environment of their feet.  

Five recommended plants compatible with wet feet 

The California Native Iris (Iris douglasiaria) is a plant that doesn't mind having "wet feet," or damp roots. Photo: Wikimedia Commons wet feet

The California Native Iris (Iris douglasiaria) is a plant that doesn’t mind having “wet feet,” or damp roots. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

  • Coyote Mint (Mondarella villosa) 
  • California Gray Rush (Junous patens) 
  • Joaquin Sunflower (Bidena laevis) 
  • Deer Grass (Muhlenbergia rigens) 
  • California Native Iris (Iris douglasiaria) 

Five recommended plants incompatible with wet feet  

Everett’s California Fuchhia is an example of a plant that doesn't like to have wet feet, meaning roots sitting in water. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Everett’s California Fuchhia is an example of a plant that doesn’t like to have wet feet, meaning roots sitting in water. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

  • Bluff California Lilac (Ceanothus maritmus) 
  • Everett’s California Fuschia (Epilobium canum) 
  • Sunset Manzanita (Arctostaphylos Sunset) 
  • Hairy Awn Muhly (Muhlerbergia capillans) 
  • Blonde Ambition Blue Grama (Boutelous gracilis)

Get advice from the local garden center or horticulturalists familiar with your area for other good choices.   

 

This article was inspired by the 71-page Sustainable Landscapes Program guidebook available at SustainableLandscapesSD.org. The Water Authority and its partners also offer other great resources for landscaping upgrades, including free WaterSmart classes at WaterSmartSD.org.