Creating a bog garden in a wet or dry area of a garden

Making and planting a Bog garden
Making and planting a Bog garden

A bog garden is one of two things;

  1. Garden style choice, Bog gardens are so easy to create in an area that is constantly wet.  Providing the soil in your bog garden does not dry out for longer than say a month every year, but is not permanently flooded, bog plants will thrive. it is also possible to create a bog garden in a dry part of your garden using a liner, just follow the construction tips on this page.
  2.  Got a Soggy, boggy waterlogged garden where normal plants just won't grow. You have probably arrived here from my garden drainage page, looking for ways to utilise and plant up a soggy waterlogged bit of garden.

If you have an area in your garden that is permanently wet or waterlogged, turning a wet soggy problem into an attractive and colourful area is fairly simple, plant bog plants that will thrive in wet soggy soil conditions. 
If the area is permanently flooded, it will need to be partly drained by diverting the water into a drain or soak away.
Can I also Build and plant a bog garden in a dry area of my garden? 
Yes even if the area is mainly dry building a bog garden in a area that dries out for longer than say a month every year is possible it just takes a bit more planning and work, bog plants wont thrive in dry soil. Scroll down for instructions to create a bog garden in a dry area.
In this article I'm covering constructing both types of bog gardens in dry and wet areas. 
  • Constantly wet but not flooded is ideal.
  • Making a bog garden in a dry area using a liner also works.

How to make a bog garden in a permanently wet area.

Providing the area where you are going to plant bog plants isn't flooded, stagnant or smelly, it's really easy to select bog plants and create a bog garden, most plants are the marginals you see around the edges of garden ponds and I have listed a few lower down on this page

Planting plan, 
The same rules apply, as for planting  flower borders. Plants look better in groups with the taller plants at the back, low growing in the middle with the ground cover plants in the front. .
Select plants to tolerate sun or shade, when selecting plants check tolerance to shade and position the bog plants appropriately.

Hard Landscaping, can be as simple or as complex as you want,  Simple is probably best, let the plants be the main focus. Timber Bridges can look good and add interest.  Stepping stones placed through the bog area will make it easier to plant and maintain your bog garden without getting covered in mud. The stepping stones will also help to stop the wet soil getting compacted by footprints.

If you are going to include a paved area for seating bear in mind the bog area will attract natts on warm evenings, but on the plus side the bog plants will also attract more welcome wildlife to sit and watch.
A bog garden will never solve your water-logging or permanently soggy soil, but it will make the boggy area look better and usable..

Can I Build and plant a bog garden in a dry area of my garden

Yes you can create a bog garden in a dry area,  Even if your garden is on well drained sandy soil or clay that is wet in winter, but dries out and cracks up in summer, you can construct a bog area in a dry garden by following these simple construction tips..
Dig out an area to about 12" deep and as wide and long as you want it to be,

It might be a good ideal to build a sensibly sized area at first, bearing in mind you are going to have to purchase bog plants to fill it and they are not cheap to buy. You will also need to keep it wet and if you are on a water meter it all adds up. You can always enlarge it by simply adding liner the following season and by then you will have mature plants that can be divided up.

Line the area with pond liner,

Any old liner will do, as you are going to pierce it anyway. Pierce a few holes into the base, Don't pierce the sides as you will want to keep the moisture within the area you have dug out to save water and keep the area around the bog garden dry.

Fill the area with a mix of topsoil and compost.
Mix the soil you have dug out with garden compost, rotted leaves or any green matter and shovel the soil back over the liner, filling the area to just under the top of the pond liner. 

Best types of soil to grow bog plants
  • Sandy soil lacks the nutrients for plants to thrive and will need green matter mixed in,
  • Clay soil needs less, it's already rich in the nutrients plants need.

If you are building your bog garden as part of a fish pond, overflowing the pond when topping up will keep the area damp and wash nutrients from the pond into the bog. 

Caring for bog plants.

When the bog plants start to grow in spring, feed them by adding more compost or other green matter to the surface, don't dig it in, the worms will take it down into the ground.

If the garden is part off or next to a pond with fish, over flowing the water will take some of the waste from the fish into the bog garden soil, best of both world, filtering the pond and feeding the bog plants.

Sandy soil will need a lot more compost added than clay. Not sure what type of soil in your garden, visit my "what type of soil" page.

Over a large area of boggy soil, it is a good idea to place stepping stones through the area to be able to walk over to plant and maintain your bog garden without getting covered in mud and compacting the boggy soil.

Planting bog plants in containers

A bog garden can also be created in a container, any type of planter that will hold water, plants, and soil will do.

Sleepers lined with old pond liner and filled with soil, look good and constructed to form a seat on top, have the added benefit of raised beds, if a bad back makes bending over difficult, constructing a raised bed is covered on this page of my website

 raised beds.  

Fill and water the raised bed or container and maintain the mini bog garden in just the same way as described above.

List of Plants to grow in a Bog garden

The flowering season for bog plants is short, but a mix of early and late flowering plants takes the season through from May till September


 Bog plants can be planted in wet, waterlogged, damp and soggy areas, bringing interest and colour to parts of your garden, where less damp tolerant plants can't be grown.


The flowering season is quite short, but a mix of early and late flowering bog plants will take the season through from May till September and the range of foliage, shapes and colours and sizes, growing from just a few inches tall to over 6ft, more than make up for the short season.


Favourite bog garden plants.

One of my favourite  moisture loving plants are Hostas, they come in an wide range of colours, from blue through emerald green to yellow. Try to include some with variegated leaves.

Hostas grow to between 18 inches and 3 feet  tall with flowering spikes of bell-shaped blooms in July and August. Slugs and snails love them though, which could be a problem in a wet garden.

Irises are another of my favourites in my bog garden, I have the native Yellow Flag planted beside my wildlife pond, but some of the cultivated versions such as the striking white and gold flowered orchroleuca can add colour to a grey damp area, another irises I like is Purple Glory.

Lobelias with their  showy flowering heads are popular too, because these tall plants with their typically pink or red flowers stand will stand out even in a busy planting plan. 

'Queen Victoria' is one of the largest hosta varieties, with tall upright beetroot coloured foliage and bright red flowers.  Most Lobelia, are not very hardy and depending where you live, may need protecting from frosts.

Primula Candelabra Hybrids - stems with several whorls of flowers in many different colours from mid May into July.

Astilbe chinensis var. taquetii grows about 3½" high, with fluffy rich pink erect plumes of flowers in July & August. 

Iris sibirica are popular irises for wet areas, available in a wide variety of colours with  intricately marked flowers growing around 3-4ft High. 

Ligularia dentata a large perennial with golden orange daisies in mid to late summer. 

Persicaria bistorta is a easy plant for any soggy spot, produces several stiff spikes of clear pink flowers for most of the summer.


More unusual plants for a bog garden 

I try to stick to traditional bog plants but if you want to try something different in your bog garden planting plan and have a lot of space, try these,  Ostrich Feather Fern (Matteuccia), Giant Rhubarb (Gunnera) and Ornamental Rhubarb (Rheum) 


The Ostrich-Feather Fern looks very delicate and adds a tropical look to the bog garden, with its tall feathery fronds growing up to 3ft, with a spread of less than half that, making for a very upright plant.

The Giant rhubarb plant,  is one of those 'once seen, never forgotten' plants, with its massive, rhubarb-like leaves stretching out 5ft and growing up to  8ft. This bog plant needs a lot of space, so it's definitely not one for a small bog garden.

Smaller varieties include:

G. scabra which grows to a height of around 6ft.

G. magellanica grows to about  2 inch tall

Gunnera, Ornamental Rhubarb (Rheum) is worth considering Its less fussy about its growing environment, tolerating shade and slightly drier conditions.


Other plants I have tried and worth considering for your bog garden include: 

'Candelabra primulas', especially Primula pulverulenta.

Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia), for ground-cover.