As I write this article from my office on the North Shore of Kauai, I am watching an early morning rain squall blow in. It will probably rain for 10-15 minutes, averaging a few tenths of an inch of water. Doesn’t sound like a lot, but when you add up the numerous rain squalls we get each day (many in the evening while we are sleeping), those tenths become inches!
According to NOAA (based on data collected from 1981-2010), Kilauea, on the North Shore of Kauai, receives an average of 68.6 inches of rainfall a year, with rain falling 247 days a year. That means it rains 68% of days in a year, averaging .19 tenths per day!
With so much rainfall in Hawaii, our gardens are able stay lush and happy with little (water) input from us. However, most yards have areas that just stay soggy 99% of the time. These soggy areas may be where your rain gutters flow into the yard, or a low level area on your property due to the natural terrain. Just like people, the majority of plants (even tropicals), do not like soggy wet feet 24/7. This can make it difficult to grow anything in that mud-pit area of your yard. However, we have some advice for you to solve this soggy issue!
Here are our top 5 favorite moisture loving plants:
Red Lipstick Palm (aka Red Sealing Wax Palm, Cyrtostachys renda).
This beauty stands out from the crowd with its brilliant red stalks and lush green leaves. It originates from Southwest Asia (Thailand, Malaysia, Sumatra, and Borneo in Indonesia) and its native environment is lowland peat swamp forests. Thus, it is hardy to frequent flooding and can grow near or in standing water! It can tolerate full sun or shade, but needs humid conditions and a lot of water to thrive. So if you have an area where your gutters empty copious amounts of rainfall, or a low-lying bank next to a pond, that would be a perfect spot for your Lipstick Palm!
Growing to 12 feet tall, the Licuala spinosa palm is a clumping palm with circular, divided fan palm leaves. Called the Mangrove Palm by some, it originates from Southwest Asia and its native habitat is wet coastal areas and riverbanks. It is known as the Spiny Licuala because of pointed spikes along its leafstalks, but don’t let the spiky exterior deter you — this palm can grow in part shade but is happiest in a full sun location with poor drainage, is cold-hardy (able to handle several degrees of frost), and can also handle considerable coastal salt exposure! Very few tropical palms can say the same, the Licuala spinosa truly is unique!
Colocasia, or Taro
Edible types of Colocasia are grown throughout the South Pacific, where the Taro (Kalo in Hawaiian) root tuber is eaten like potato or made into Poi, and the edible leaves are used in steamed dishes such as Laulau. Kalo are commercially grown in irrigated terraces such as those seen in the scenic Hanalei Valley. There are also many ornamental varieties of Colocasia, and like their edible cousins that can grow in boggy soil or even standing water. At Seascapes, we grow a lovely selection of colorful ornamental Colocasia, including Mojito, Black Coral, Black Ruffle, and many more.
Red Ginger (Alpinia purpurata)
A cut flower staple, Red Ginger is also a wonderful low-maintenance plant to use in your landscape. Not only will it handle dry full-sun locations, it will also thrive in wet and low-light areas. Other Alpinia species, such as Pink Ginger and Shell Ginger are also hardy of moist soil. You will notice different growth habits in your Alpinia depending on where you plant it, and the more water it gets the faster (and larger) it will grow!
‘Ae’ae (Bacopa monnieri)
In the wild, Bacopa can be found growing in bogs and around ponds, and it has become a popular aquarium plant due to its ability to grow in water. Bacopa will grow in full sun to part shade, grows fast, and tolerates light foot traffic so can be planted along pathways or around step stones in your landscape. It has cute white flowers and is also a medicinal herb, so the uses of this water loving plant are endless! Try it in an area that floods from rainfall, or a moist shady spot where other groundcovers haven’t done well.
As you can see, some plants can grow and even thrive in very wet spots! You can turn that overlooked soggy spot into a beautiful mini-oasis! Stop by the nursery to see these plants and even others that will love all the moisture that mother nature can provide. Happy gardening!