In celebration of World Wetlands Day, celebrated on February 2nd, we will continue our exploration of the world of bog gardening. In one of my previous blogs, Introducing the Bog, we learned that bogs are poorly drained areas, rich in accumulated plant material, and often found near an open body of water. They are essential habitats for many interesting plants and animals. Have you ever thought of creating a bog garden?

Bogs in the Landscape

If you live near a river, creek, pond, or lake, you may already have an ideal location to have a bog garden in your landscape. Living near these bodies of water, the water table may be close to the surface, or you may already have a place in your landscape that is overly wet for most of the year. This would be the perfect place to install a bog garden. The key is that the area must be wet for most or all the year. Many interesting plants can be planted in this area.  Below are some of the interesting and commonly available.
Button Bush (Cephalanthus occidentalis)
Buttonbush flower



Buttonbush has a unique flower that it produces throught out the summer.
This large bush is an ideal plant for any wet areas in the landscape and can also be used as a freshwater shoreline plant. Without maintenance, it can grow up to ten feet tall and 6-8 feet wide and has dark green leaves. The flower on this plant is the star of the show, forming a large white ball with what looks like white spikes all around it (the stamen). It flowers all summer long and is a great pollinator plant. There are few pest problems with the buttonbush. However, some sources state that some of our most showy moths will use button bush as a host plant.  
Blue Flag Iris



A Florida native the Blue Flag Iris can actually grow in standing water.
Blue Flag (Iris virginica)
This native iris can naturally be found in marshy environments in Florida and grows well in standing water. They grow in clumps, and their flat 1-2-foot-tall leaves are great backdrops to other flowering plants. Blue flags bloom in the spring, but the flowers are typically short-lived. They may need to be thinned out every few years to ensure they stay healthy.
Yellow flowers of the Golden Canna



The bright yellow flowers of the canna provide a great complement to plants like the Blue Flag Iris.
Golden Canna (Canna flaccida)
Golden cannas are native plants that are great for bog gardens and freshwater shoreline plantings.  They are two feet tall and six inches wide.   True to its name, the flowers are golden yellow, although some cultivars and hybrids can have other colors such as pink, red, and striped.    Cannas grow via rhizomes (underground stems) and may need thinning after a few years.  They will die back after a hard freeze.  Publications state that cannas can potentially be phytoremediators for ponds and lakes.  This means they are an excellent plant for removing nitrogen and phosphorus from the water, which is a major cause of algae blooms.
Monarch Butterfly resting on pink milkweed flower



Asclepias incarnata thrives in the wet environment of a bog.
Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)
This, along with the aquatic milkweed (Asclepias perennis), is another plant that will do well in a bog garden . The swamp milkweed has pink flowers; if planted in the right place, it can reach five feet tall. The aquatic milkweed has white flowers and is only grows two feet tall. Both do their best in full sun. Swamp milkweed will bloom all summer and fall, whereas the aquatic milkweed blooms from spring to late summer. Of course, both are larval hosts to Monarch and Queen Butterflies.
The carnivorous sundew.



If you live on a lake or pond you may not have noticed these little carnivorous plants.
Carnivorous Plants
While the other plants listed are individuals, this is a grouping of several different plants.  Florida is home to various carnivorous plants, which includes the American Pitcher Plants (Sarracenia sp.), Sundews, and bladderworts.  American Pitcher plants have tall vase-like leaves that insects fall into.  The bottom of the vase (pitcher) is digestive enzymes that break down the insect.  Sundews are typically small plants that have flat leaves with bristles.  At the end of each bristle, there is usually a drop of a sticky fluid that attracts unsuspecting gnats and flies.  When one lands, the leaf curls up, and the insect is dissolved and absorbed into the leaf.  Bladderworts are aquatic plants, mostly found in lakes and ponds, which have little bags throughout.  When a larva or other tiny insect swims by, it triggers the “bladder,” which sucks it in and dissolves.  Three key factors needed to grow these plants are wet soil, low nutrients, and full sun.  It is important not to fertilize near carnivorous plants as this burns the roots and kills the plant. Many other plants that are not listed here would make excellent additions to a bog garden, such as pickerelweed, river oats, duck potato, and an assortment of rushes.   These will be topics for future blogs as some may not be suited for an in-ground area as they can spread and become a nuisance. Bog Gardens are a fantastic way to utilize areas of a yard that stay too wet for prolonged periods.  The plants that thrive in these areas need little maintenance, full sun, and constantly wet soil.  For people who do not have these conditions, the next bog blog will be on creating a bog in a pot. For more information about the plants listed above, visit the links below.
  1. UF/IFAS Gardening Solutions: Blue Flag Iris
  2. UF/IFAS Gardening Solutions: Buttonbush
  3. Xerces Society Planting for Pollinators: Buttonbush
  4. UF/IFAS Gardening Solutions: Cannas
  5. UF/IFAS Gardening Solutions: Milkweed
  6. UF/IFAS Gardening Solutions: Carnivorous Plants
by Julio Perez
Source: UF/IFAS Pest Alert Note: All images and contents are the property of UF/IFAS.
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