How to Create a Bog Garden in Containers- Part 1 Plants that can be Grown in Full Sun

Bog Gardens look spectacular
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In this article, you will learn how to create a bog garden in containers and to know which plants can be grown to create such a feature in full sun. You thought it would be not easy to do but with my guidance, you will soon have a beautiful bog garden without even needing a pond.

There are numerous plants that love growing in damp but not waterlogged conditions, which will struggle if the plant is allowed to dry out. These plants need constant moisture in order to do well, otherwise, they will not be happy and eventually die.

Bog Gardens look spectacular
Bog Gardens look spectacular

Bog gardens are spectacular to look at where you may get unusual species growing in conditions to which other plants will struggle. Bring a wild and dank area that looks not only beautiful but also brings tranquillity to the gardener in question. Most people want one but have no idea how to create one in their container garden. Hence, why this article was written.

All you need is an area that gets as much direct sunlight as possible, then a container bog garden can be created. In order for plants to do well, you must understand how they grow in their natural inhabitation. This will make establishing and maintaining a bog garden easier. Get the container dimensions right along with the growing conditions and you will have a flourishing bog garden.

WHAT IS A BOG GARDEN?

Essentially a bog is a freshwater wetland that is formed when plant material decays over hundreds and thousands of years. The decomposition of plants in wet conditions produces thick layers of soft, spongy peat. This makes the bog water look murky and lifeless.

As the plants are decomposing in very wet condition make the bog itself have little oxygen and nutrients availability, and therefore relevantly infertile. These conditions also makes the growing environment acidic (as peat is naturally acidic), as they only receive their water supply from rain, which is also acidic by nature.

They do not normally receive any runoff water and therefore no new nutrient sources are available to the plants. The resulting ecosystem that is created ensures that different plant communities to not only survive but thrive inside the unique growing conditions of the bog itself and the lands that surround it.

Depending on your country of origin, carnivorous plants, mosses, ferns, and orchids will establish well in the waterlogged conditions. As the UK climate is not conducive to carnivorous plants, then this will not be discussed in this article. They will have to be grown inside as a houseplant.

WE ARE TALKING ABOUT THE OUTSIDE OF THE BOG AND NOT INSIDE

This is the growing condition inside the bog when we are talking about bog gardens, we are talking about plants that grow near the bog but outside where the soil is not waterlogged. I am not talking about plants that grow in the bog itself, as these are totally different plants. The main difference is that any plants growing near the bog-like the soil to be damp and nutrient-rich, which the peat present in the bog area feeds the plants.

In order to survive the harsh growing conditions, the plants inside the bog has developed many unusual characteristics and appearances. Evolution in plant life is very strong inside the bog life community.

You have to ensure you get the conditions rate in bog gardens
You have to ensure you get the conditions right in bog gardens

Inside bog plants like their roots constantly in wet water whilst their head like growing in strong sunlight, often with little available nitrogen.

This is why carnivorous plants have developed traps which attract their food via a variety of botanical structures. Other species such as orchids and other plants rely on fungi that colonies on their roots to harness nutrients from the peat inside the bog itself. It is really the survival of the fitness.

The big question is do you need hundreds or thousands of years to make your bog garden. Thankfully the answer is no, otherwise, you will never see the results of your hard work. The best part is that we are talking about plants that are native to the UK that grows NEAR bogs but not in bogs themselves. The conditions are much easier to create and will differ to the plants growing inside the bog itself.

CONTAINER BOG GARDEN PRINCIPLES

It is relatively easy to create a healthy fully functional container bog garden, as long as some basic rules are adopted.

Choose a container that is greater than 20cm in height ensuring that the container has some drainage holes at the side of the container and not at the bottom. It will need to hold water well but not be waterlogged. To do this it is best to add enough building sand to cover the bottom 10cm of the container. This will add extra weight and make sure that any excess moisture can drain away.

Next, you need to line the container with a waterproof lining, with holes punctured in the bottom quarter at regular intervals to allow any excess water to drain. Pool liner is ideal for this as it is specifically designed to make sure that the moisture is at the right level for the plants. The lining is added on top of the sand at the bottom of the container. In this way, the best moisture-retentive regime is made for your bog plants.

 GETTING THE PLANTING MEDIA RIGHT

Next, you need to create the ideal planting regime by using multipurpose compost, with a high peat content, mixed with a moisture-retaining gel.

Fill the container with the planting media ensuring that a minimum planting height of 20cm is met.

You need to hydrate the planting media well by adding plenty of water, leave it for a couple of hours to allow the compost to settle and absorb all the water that it requires.

You can now plant your bog plants in the container, making sure that the top layer is well mulched to prevent any moisture losses. Any organic mulch can be used, such as cocoa or bark.

Place the container in a sunny location, ensuring that it never dries out. Do not overwater as this can be damaging to the plants. They like their roots damp but not waterlogged.

Every year you will need to feed your plants with fertilizers as this will ensure that the plants are happy and well looked after. Remember peat contains a lot of nutrients, which must be replicated in these plants.

Now you should have a happy bog container garden full of beautiful plants.

HOW TO MAINTAIN YOUR BOG CONTAINER GARDEN

To maintain a happy bog container garden you need to carry out the following operations:

  • Make sure that bag is never allowed to dry out at the root level.
  • Top up with new fertilizers every year.
  • It is good to add leaf mould every spring to ensure nutrient levels are kept.

Remove any weeds or other plants that grow in the container, as this will compete with your bog plant for nutrients. If you do not, any spare piece of compost will quickly turn into a meadow and then woodland. You have to be vigilant to make sure only native species are present.

The following plants can be used in container to create your bog garden in full sun:

ACORUS CALAMUS (Sweet Flag)

Acorus calamus
Acorus calamus

This is an upright, deciduous or semi-evergreen perennial that has green, grass-like leaves. In summer, spikes of small, insignificant brown flowers appear. This plant grows up to 90cm in height.

ACORUS CALAMUS ‘Argenteostriatus’

ACORUS CALAMUS ‘Argenteostriatus’
Acorus calamus ‘Argenteostriatus’

A 75cm tall upright deciduous or semi-evergreen perennial that have sword-like variegated green-cream leaves, which are pink in hue in spring. It can form large clumps and may need dividing in spring.

ACORUS GRAMINEUS (Slender Sweet Flag)

Acorus gramineus
Acorus gramineus

A small compact 25cm tall semi-evergreen perennial that has dark green grass-like leaves. Varieties include ‘Ogen’ which has attractive creamy yellow-striped foliage.

ARUNCUS DIOICUS (Goat’s Beard)

Aruncus dioicus
Aruncus dioicus

This is a 2m tall, clump-forming perennial that has large, light green leaves that are divided into smaller leaflets, It produces arching stems that have plumes of tiny, creamy-white flowers.

ASTILBE CHINENSIS

Astilbe chinensis
Astilbe chinensis

A clump-forming perennial with dark green deeply cut leaves. In late summer plumes of tiny, light pink blooms are produced, where it will grow up to 60 cm in height.

ASTILBE ‘Fenai’

Astilbe 'Fenai'
Astilbe ‘Fenai’

This is a clump-forming perennial with deeply divided dark green fern-like fern. In summer in July to August, feathery, dark pink flower heads appear on slender stems. It will grow up to 60cm height and will tolerate some shade.

CAMASSIA LEICHTLINII

Camassia leichtlinii
Camassia leichtlinii

This 1.5m tall, upright deciduous perennial bulb that produces narrow green, lower leaves. From this tall spikes of starry, cream-white blooms appear in late spring to early summer. This late-flowering camassia will extend the spring bulb flowering season.

CANNA ‘Wyoming’

Canna 'Wyoming'
Canna ‘Wyoming’

A tall, erect perennial with decorative, large, oval, purple-bronze leaves, with dark purple veins. In midsummer to early autumn pale orange-gladioli-like blooms are produced. Needs protection from frosts so cover the crown with a thick layer of mulch.

CAREX ELATA (Bowles’ Golden Sedge)

Carex elata
Carex elata

A 40cm tall evergreen, perennial sedge that has arching golden-yellow leaves. In summer black-brown flowers appear on triangle-shaped stems.

CAREX MUSKINGUMENSIS

Carex muskingumensis
Carex muskingumensis

Another taller sedge that grows up to 75cm in height. It is a deciduous perennial with light green, grass-like leaves, which turn yellow before dying back. It produces small insignificant flowers that are followed by brown, attractive seed heads.

CAREX PENDULA (Pendulous Sedge)

Carex pendula
Carex pendula

A tall perennial sedge that grows up to 1m in height. It produces long, green, grass-like leaves where in summer green-brown catkin-like flowers are produced on arching stems, It will self-seed readily so may need to be thinned over time.

DARMERA PELTATA (Umbrella Plants)

Darmera peltata
Darmera peltata

This spreading perennial that is grown for its large, round, deeply veined green leaves. The leaves can grow very large and will turn red in autumn. This 1.2m tall plant bears white or pale pink flower clusters, which appear before the leaves show.

EUPATORIUM CANNABINUM (Hemp Agrimony)

Eupatorium cannabinum
Eupatorium cannabinum

A 1.5m tall upright perennial that produces, large, divided green leaves that are held on red stems. It produces cluster of fluffy, pink or purple blooms in late summer to early autumn.

EUPATORIUM PURPUREUM (Joe Pye Weed)

Eupatorium purpureum
Eupatorium purpureum

A very tall, upright stately perennial that has coarse, oval leaves on purple-green stems. This 2.2m tall perennial will need support when it produces fluffy pink-purple flower head on tall sturdy stems.

FILIPENDULA PURPUREA (Purple Meadowsweet)

Filipendula purpurea
Filipendula purpurea

A 1.2m tall, upright perennial that has dense green, cut leaves. In late summer a large cluster of tiny red-purple flowers appear on tall leaved stems.

FILIPENDULA RUBRA (Queen of the Prairie)

Filipendula rubra
Filipendula rubra

A very tall 2.5m tall upright perennial that have large, aromatic, divided, dark green leaves. In midsummer, feathery plumes of light pink flowers appear that get lighter as they age. Use it at the back pf you bog container garden.

GEUM RIVALE (Water Avens)

Geum rivale
Geum rivale

This perennial forms neat rosettes of green, rounded leaves from which nodding pink or dark orange flowers appear on top of slender stems, These blooms appear from late spring to summer where it will grow up to 60cm in height. It is a notorious self-seeding plant.

GUNNERA MAGELLANICA

Gunnera Magellanica
Gunnera Magellanica

This is a clump-forming perennial that grows up to 1m tall. It has large rhubarb-like green leaves and in late summer cone-like flower heads appear. You need to cover the crown in winter by covering with a compost mulch.

HOUTTUYNIA CORDATA ‘Chameleon’

Houttuynia cordata
Houttuynia cordata

A short, 10cm tall, vigorous deciduous perennial. It has aromatic, heart-shaped green leaves with yellow and red markings. It produces small sprays of green-white flowers. Be warned it can be a bit too quick to spread.

IRIS ENSATA (Japanese Flag)

Iris ensata
Iris ensata

A 90cm tall upright, clump-forming perennial has sword-like, green leaves, where purple or red-purple needles flowers appear with yellow marking on the lowers petals. The flowers appear from early to midsummer.

IRIS SIBIRCA (Siberian Iris)

Iris siberica
Iris sibirica

A tall clump-forming perennial that has upright blue-green, sword-like leaves. In late spring to early summer blue, pink, white and yellow beardless flowers appear.

IRIS VERSICOLOR (American Blue Flag Iris)

Iris versicolor
Iris versicolor

An 80cm upright clump-forming perennial that has arching strap-shaped leaves. This perennial produces blue-purple flowers in early summer.

LOBELIA CARDINALIS (Cardinal Flower)

Lobelia cardinalis
Lobelia cardinalis

This is a deciduous, upright perennial with glossy green, lance-shaped leaves. Spikes of striking red, two-lipped flowers are produced in summer. Be warned the plant is toxic and you will need to wear gloves to handle it.

LOBELIA SIPHILITICA (Blue Cardinal Flower)

Lobelia siphilitica
Lobelia siphilitica

This 1m tall upright perennial that has narrow lance-shaped, light green leaves. It produces tall stems of long-lasting, tubular, two-lipped blue flowers from mid to late summer.

LYSIMACHIA CLETHROIDES (Gooseneck Loosestrife)

Lysimachia clethroides
Lysimachia clethroides

This is a vigorous, clump-forming perennial that has narrow grey-green, lance-shaped leaves. In late summer long, tapered flower heads with small, white flowers appear.

PERSICARIA MICROCEPHALA ‘Red Dragon’

Persicaria microcephala 'Red Dragon'
Persicaria microcephala ‘Red Dragon’

A 70cm tall perennial that has red-green heart-shaped leaves with silver and bronze patternation. In midsummer, tiny white flowers appear, which needs to be cut back in autumn once the flower has been spent.

PHYSOSTEGIA VIRGINIANA VAR. SPECIOSA (Obedient Plant)

Phsostegia virginiana
Physostegia virginiana

This is an erect perennial that has lance-shaped, green, toothed leaves. In late summer stems of hooded, two-lipped, red-purple flowers appear. ‘Variegate’ has white edge leaves.

PRIMULA FLORINDAE (Giant Cowslip)

Primula florindae
Primula florindae

A tall clump-forming perennial that has oval, green leaves that grows up to 1.2m high, In summer cluster of fragrant, bell-shaped, yellow, nodding flower are produced on thin stems. You will need to deadhead to encourage flowering and to keep it from self-seeding.

PRIMULA JAPONICA (Candelabra Primula)

Primula japonica
Primula japonica

This is a deciduous perennial that has oval, pale green, toothed-edge leaves, In early summer cluster of deep red, tubular flowers appear on thick stems, where it grows to 45cm in height.

PRIMULA VIALII (Orchid Primrose)

Primula vialli
Primula vialli

This beautiful clump-forming perennial that has rosettes of oval, green leaves, This 60cm tall plant produces tapering cones of small, tubular, purple-blue and red flowers above slender stems.

SALVIA ULIGINOSA (Bog Sedge)

Salvia uliginosa
Salvia uliginosa

A 2m tall, upright branching perennial that had oblong or lance-shaped, mid-green, deeply toothed leave. Two-lipped, blue flowers appear from late summer to autumn, which will need to be supported. The crown will need to be mulched before the first frosts hits.

SANGUISORBA CANADENSIS (Canadian Burnet)

Sanguisorba canadensis
Sanguisorba canadensis

This 2m tall perennial has a clump-forming habit where mid-green, divided leaves are produced. The leaves turn red in autumn. In late summer to early autumn, upright spikes of bottlebrush-like, white flowers appear.

TROLLIUS x CULTORUM (Globeflower)

Trollius x cultorum
Trollius x cultorum

This upright clump-forming perennial has lobed, toothed, dark green leaves. From late spring to early summer, buttercup-like, bowl-shaped, semi-double, flowers appear. The plant will grow up to 60cm in height, where ‘Lemon Queen’ has pale yellow blooms.

CONCLUSIONS

In this article, we have talked about how to create a bog garden in containers. We have discussed how to create a container bog garden from scratch, and what plants to use if the containers are placed in a sunny spot.

You do not have to have a pond to enjoy a bog garden, as long as you get the growing conditions right.

It may seem like hard work but truthfully they are low maintenance, as long as you get the watering regime right- not too wet, not too dry. They require the compost to be moist at all times and this is why water-retaining gels are recommended to be used when planting these bog plants. If happy growing conditions are met you can grow bog plants quite successfully in containers.

If you have any questions that you wish to ask, or you are desperate to make a comment, please do so in the bog (I meant the comment box) below.

Happy bog gardening.


22 thoughts on “How to Create a Bog Garden in Containers- Part 1 Plants that can be Grown in Full Sun”

  1. Wow this is an excellent article! I never would have even thought about trying to create a blog garden since we don’t have a pound in our backyard. I will talk to my wife and see what she thinks, this would be really cool to have in our backyard. Are the plants mentioned only available in the UK? I live in the United States and would really like to try this out! Thank you for the help! 

    1. Hi Travis

      Thank you very much for those kind words. Bog gardens look excellent for people who have water features, they not need to even have a pond. Yes, the plants should be available in the USA. This is why I always use the Latin Name as this makes buying plants much easier.

      Kind Regards

      Antonio

  2. A bog garden! What a neat idea! 🙂 Very informative and interesting information presented. Does this attract mosquitos in the UK? I live in the U.S. and I’m thinking it would here, but it would still be beautiful maybe not so close to the house. I saw you had astilbes on the list. Astilbes are one of my favorites! Have you heard of the cardinal (snake river) plant? I think this would do really well in bog-like conditions as well. I was surprised and excited to see a perennial canna on here! That is something I definitely need to check out for next year. I love your last comment. 🙂 I really enjoyed this article. I never even thought to do a bog garden in containers so I’m intrigued! This may be on my to-do list next spring!

    1. Hi Catherine

      My Whole website is to inform people and to get them thinking of the many possible designs in the container garden, and this include bog gardens, Astilbes with their feathery flowers are a delight in any garden. Yes, we have cardinal flowers here, as it is part of the Lobelia family, with glorious red colours, and will do well in moisture-loving conditions.

      Canna can be grown in most countries as long as the growing crown is protected from frosts. You can either move them into a garage or greenhouse or even indoors. This is easier to do if it is grown in containers.

      Thanks for your comment

      Antonio

  3. Thank you for this awesome post!  You have a wealth of knowledge!  I did not even know what a bog garden was until you explained it!  I may have missed it in the article, but when is the best time to start a bog garden in your experience?  Also, what is the ideal size for a bog garden?

    1. Hi Jessie

      Thank you for stopping by and your interest in bog garden. The best time to start a bog garden is in spring, where life starts once again. The bog garden can have as many or little containers depending on the size of the pond or water feature. Large pond can take more, whilst smaller ponds need fewer plants.

      Thanks for your comment.

      Antonio

  4. Hi Antonio. Me and my family are planning to buy a house outside the city, where we’ve been living for the past 20 years. We plan to switch to a village house and create some sort of large garden on the whole surface. We weren’t very sure about how we would do it but this post has some great ideas. I’m actually starting to consider creating a bog garden, but do you think it would be possible if there’s no natural water/pond in the area we’re planning to buy? I mean, we couldn’t find any land that has this kind of pond and I’m guessing it would be a lot pricier. Do you think we could create a bog garden from scratch?

    1. Hi Ashley

      Thank you for your comment. Yes, you can create a bog garden even if you do not have a pond or water feature present. It is not difficult to get a pond installed, as you can get many already created designs. It should only take a couple of days to build your feature. Once installed you can then add your bog container plants as recommended to my article to your heart consent.  The beauty with design is if you have a design in mind and have the time and effort, and can meet the budget, you can create a garden design to fit any brief.

      So why don’t you give it a try?

       Thanks

      Antonio

  5. Hi! Your article gave me so many good ideas about a bog garden. For what you describe, plants meant for bog gardens aren’t very hard to maintain, so there wouldn’t be a lot of extra work. I think that since they’re constantly close to water sources, there’s no danger that they dry out – right? Also, do you think a bog garden would look good without a pond? I know you can create one in containers and I think it’s a really handy DIY idea. But still, having a pond around would make it look a lot more natural, right? Anyway, thanks for these tips.

    1. Hi H. Tracy

      Thank you for stopping by and commenting. Yes, you can create a bog garden even if you do not have a pond but it would be lacking the magic ingredient of water. These plants look better if they are surrounding a pond of any size. The water enhances the plants and the plants enhances the water. It is that kind of relationship.

      It must look as natural as possible. For those without ponds, I recommend that get a pond installed before trying a bog container gardener.

      Kind Regards

      Antonio

  6. Hi Antonio ! That was a pleasant article to read. However, I live in France, and in my region, even if I am well exposed to the sun during “sunny days”, how about the change between seasons. Can winter with very cold temperature affect your bog garden ? Or is it better to create a bog garden in tempered regions ? I don’t really understand your definition of “full sun”, how about the “rainy days” that can last days. What will be the impact of it ? Is it about brightness of the area or the presence of the sun? Hope my question makes sense.

    1. Hi Lauranne

      Thank you for stopping by.  If you can create a container bog garden in the UK, then you can create a bog garden in France. The plants I have chosen as full hardy. I tend to tell people if plants need protection from cold weather or hardy frost. Cana plants need some protection, which can be given by moving the plants into a greenhouse or garage before the first frost hits. the rest will not be hurt under these growing conditions.  There is no special requirement of warm temperatures. Full sun is garden speak for more than six hours per day sunlight per day in Summer . when the plants are actively growing.  Rainfall will not hurt the plant but it is a way of saying that these plants do better in sunlight than in the shade.  Some plants sulk when their heads are not in the sun.

      Thanks

      Antonio

  7. Thanks for this wonderful article because I have really enjoyed it since I love to make my own garden to look as such, I have also got to know the characteristics of different plants which grow inside and outside the bog garden and also the container bog garden principles and how to maintain it thanks so much for this article 

    1. Hi Mugalu

      Thank you for those kind words and I hope you enjoy it, especially if you create one.

      Kind Regards

      Antonio

  8. Hi, very good post.

    We were looking with my wife how to make a Japanese garden, and we found your post. Since they are very related to each other.

    We would like to be able to build a small landscape with this type of garden, maybe put a small waterfall and enjoy the sound.

    We were really afraid of it being very difficult! But it seems that it is possible taking the necessary care you wrote about.

    We live in an area with a very dry climate and we wonder if that could be a problem, or if we have to take other precautions besides water-retaining gels. By the way, I did not know this product, it is really fantastic!

    Regards
    Paul

    1. Hi Pablo

      Bog plants need their roots to be constantly moist but not overly wet at all times. If you can keep the container moist then it is worth going for a bog container garden, if not, then these plants will wilt and eventually die. If you live in a very dry area and you got water restrictions, then I would not recommend a bog garden, and go for more drought-resistant plants, which will be a subject for my forthcoming article in the near future.

      Kind Regards

      Antonio

  9. Thank you for your helpful article; it has inspired me to think of the moist wet areas of my lot in a different way. On the roadside areas of my property lies a drainage ditch that can become unsightly in the summer months. Being a drainage ditch, the area is most often very moist. There are a few trees in various locations creating shade but for the most part the areas are full sun. I am curious if these types of flowers might do well in an area like this? 

    The other question I had is if these areas could support these plants, would it be best to first plant them in containers until they are well established and then transfer them to the ditch area? Or would you suggest planting them in the ground straight away? Also, what kind of special care, if any, would they need during the winter months? Thanks so much for your knowledge and advice!

    1. Hi Shan

      Thank you for those kind words. The beauty about container gardening is that if they do well in a container then they will do well in the ground.

      All these plants will do well if planted directly into the ground in very moist area and will generally do well around the globe. No, you can directly plant into the ground with no worries and they should quickly establish. Apart from the canna, which I always recommend to be planted in containers, as it is not fully hardy and needs to be brought to frost free places. The rest are fully hardy and can take severe frosts. They will not need any special attention in winter.

      Next spring , If you buy these plants , you will have a beautiful ditch.

      Kind Regards.

      1. Awesome – Thanks so much for your insight!

        I’m becoming more and more excited about the idea of planting in that roadside area. I’m so thankful I found your article! I think the ditch area will be much more eye appealing next year. Thanks so much!

  10. Hi! I have always liked bog gardens but I have attempted to create one and failed to give it the feeling I wanted. But it has been basically because I had no guidance. I’m glad you wrote this post. There is nothing better than looking at a garden that inspires tranquillity.

    1. Hi Henry

      Thank you for stopping by and commenting. Why don’t you give a container bog garden a try, you may be surprised with the result.

      Kind Regards

      Antonio

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