Posted: January 30, 2024

As a Massachusetts homeowner, you probably love your home landscape. It gives you a chance to get outside and enjoy the great weather or spend time with family and friends in an outdoor setting. 

But you might find you have a section of your yard that tends to get a bit soggy. 

Maybe rainwater pools there or you have poor drainage. Maybe you are always telling visitors to avoid that area or find you’re always dragging mud in on your shoes when you venture to that spot. 

These locations in your yard can feel like troublesome places that you have to avoid or figure out how to manage. And while you might think they aren’t suitable for trees of any sort, there are actually some that can thrive in wetter conditions and possibly even soak up some of that excess water depending on your landscape. 

Let’s talk about how to manage excess water in your landscape, trees that absorb a lot of water and best plants for water runoff in Massachusetts. 

How to Manage Excess Water in Your Landscape in Massachusetts

Don’t settle for a soggy yard. There are actually a number of ways you can deal with low spots in your home landscape that tend to collect excess water or rainfall. 

You can start with some drainage solutions. A french drain, for instance, helps collect water and redirect it to a different location. This involves using a perforated pipe directing water downhill away from the soggy area to either a street drain or the back of your property or a naturally low-lying section.

You can also try leaning into the situation by creating a water-absorbing landscaping solution, such as a rain garden, or planting water-absorbing trees. 

Rain Gardens

You might be wondering, “What is a rain garden?” and “How can it be a part of my water-absorbing landscaping?”

For a rain garden, you create a shallow basin where water naturally collects and add native plants that tolerate periods of excess water to collect and filter incoming water. 

Since Cape Cod soils are sandy, rainwater percolates into the groundwater fairly easily. This groundwater is the area’s drinking water, meaning filtration is important to keep it clean. A Cape Cod rain garden, therefore, is a great solution for filtering water in the area. 

Rain gardens also collect water from downspouts and direct or capture runoff from hard nearby surfaces like driveways, in addition to addressing your puddling areas. 

Trees That Absorb a Lot of Water in Massachusetts

Some areas of your yard may hold water more than others. It could be the result of location, like the bottom of a slope, or poor drainage, or an area near a creek with flooding tendencies. 

Usually these spots have soft, moist ground, and certain root systems will not do well in these growing conditions because they struggle to breathe. But there are a few tree species that have roots that can grow with less air and thrive in soggy soils. 

Adding these trees that soak up excess water can even help the surrounding area. When it comes to the best plants to absorb water in Massachusetts, you want to focus on tree species that can adapt to lowland and riparian forests, like these:

  • Bald cypress, Taxodium distichum – This unique conifer can grow to 50 feet tall and has a canopy that stretches 25 feet in diameter, making it a great addition to medium-sized yards. This tree that absorbs a lot of water has soft, short, light-green needles that turn a rich, rusty color before dropping in fall. It prefers moist, sunny locations. Great for retention or detention ponds that sometimes fill with water, the bald cypress sucks up excess water like a straw. It can also take the heat of summer. Since bald cypress do send up “knees” they should not be planted in an area where those knees will interfere with mowing or foot traffic.
  • Black gum, Nyssa sylvatica – The medium-sized, deciduous black gum tree grows in a pleasing rounded shape with a nice, straight trunk. Dark, glossy green leaves shift to brillant shades of red, orange, yellow, and purple in the fall. Tiny flowers in spring give way to small, dark blue fruits that attract birds. Growing to 30- to 50-feet tall and 20- to 30-feet wide, the black gum likes full sun and moist, well-drained, acidic soil. They are also generally low maintenance and a choice source for honey for pollinators.
  • Swamp white oak, Quercus bicolor – Oak trees are diverse; many different oak species can adapt to almost any situation. The swamp white oak is no exception. It’s a hardy performer in soggy grounds. This best plant for water runoff is not only native to the U.S., but it can grow to an impressive 75-foot height and 65-foot spread in full sun in USDA zones 4 to 8. It offers dark green lobed leaves and attractive peeling bark.
  • River birch, Betula nigra – The river birch, which grows in USDA zones 4 to 9 is a great addition to your landscape if you want shade. This tree grows 13 to 24 inches each year, bringing that shade at a fairly fast rate. It also tolerates drought and offers peeling, interesting looking bark. 
  • Red maple, Acer rubrum – The red maple is adored for its captivating autumn color when its dark green leaves turn golden yellow and then ruby red. Its smooth, gray bark and handsome oval crown make it a great addition to home landscapes in USDA zones 3 to 9. Well-suited for partial shade or full sun, red maples can grow 40 to 70 feet tall and 50 feet wide. As a low-maintenance tree, this plant that loves wet soil can handle moderately moist soils.
  • Ohio buckeye, Aesculus glabra – This neatly rounded tree with dense foliage on sweeping branches offers deep shade in USDA hardiness zones 3 to 7.  It loves full to partial sun and can range from 20 to 40 feet in height and spread. Its name comes from the small, brown nuts with beige circles on them called buckeyes. In autumn, this tree brings a nice yellow color to your yard. 

At Hartney Greymont, we have local arborists throughout Massachusetts located in Needham, Concord, Danvers, Cape Cod, and the surrounding areas to help provide recommendations for tree species based on your local landscape features.


River Birch
Red Maple
Bald Cypress
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