Small to medium tree or shrub recommendations for wet spot - Portland, OR area.

Asked January 26, 2013, 4:43 PM EST


We recently had a plum tree removed in the corner of our yard. The are is at the bottom of sloped area. The arborist indicated the soil appeared to be poorly drained.
We had an exceptionally high rainfall this past year. This area also has an easement for public works access - there is a manhole located in the area which requires periodic service. This plum suckered badly and was a pain to maintain. The broad canopy was very attractive and provided light shade.

I would like to plant another plant in this spot which tolerates wet feet but does not have an extensive root system. I am concerned this could possibly pose a problem to the drain. system

I would like a plant which grows upright and could have a narrow or medium size canopy. The planting area is in a corner spot. A brick wall which runs along the area and screens our private yard from a main road. THe neighbor in back has a cedar fence as a divider in back. The brick wall and cedar fence intersect to form the corner spot where I need to plant.

Desired plant function: provide screening from the main road and neighbors.
I would like something with attractive foliage which provides screening and possibly offers wildlife protection. Berries or flowers would be a plus.
Max desired height estimate is 20 feet.

Washington County Oregon

1 Response

Thank you for your question to Ask An Expert about what to plant in your wet, corner location. You may want to address your drainage problem before deciding what to plant. There are small tree options that like moist soil, but anything you plant will be happier if you improve the drainage. I'm not sure where the manhole you refer to is located and whether it might affect your options for improved drainage. But a couple of options are to build a berm before you plant or to install a French drain. You may want to consider hiring a qualified professional, such as a landscape architect, to prepare a plan for either the berm and/or French drain. They will be able to evaluate the site and make sure that underground utilities, surface and ground water flow, and mature trees are not adversely affected by the grading changes created by the berm.

Once you've considered the drainage issues you can decide what to plant. You might want to consider native plants - there are several small, multi-trunked native trees that like moist soil and also provide small fruits and berries to attract birds. You could combine these small trees with other native shrubs and flowers that would provide wildlife habitat as well as a lovely privacy border. Although we are not strictly talking about a rain garden, you may find some good ideas from the metro raingarden guide. See especially the last section with sample garden layouts.

The Oregon Rain Garden Guide

Also check out this list of native trees from the Oregon State University Landscape Plants website. Look for the trees that are 20-30 ft tall.

Hope this helps and let us know if you have any additional questions.