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I have cattails that have taken over a large section of my yard for years, which have made the land underneath deeply muddy and impassable. When I clear the cattails away, the sun will dry out the land in a matter of days, but eventually heavy rains come in and wash away the soil in the area I've cleared.

I would like to plant something in place of the cattails that will help prevent erosion but will also allow the land underneath to dry out.

It's a very large area, and I'd like to avoid needing to mow it, so I imagine I need something that grows quickly, but is not very tall or thick (so the sun can penetrate it), and grows perennial in Zone 6 in the US.

Any ideas?

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    Are you sure the cattails produced the wetness rather than taking advantage of it? Try pulling one out if you didn't know the roots go deep. I picture Japanese Iris and Lousiana Iris, which love water and sun. Commented Jul 9, 2023 at 22:21

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that will help prevent erosion but will also allow the land underneath to dry out.

The water is coming from the earth below. Even if it collects in a low area during times of rain, there is water coming from below--otherwise, it would dry out if it were not coming from below. Cattails growing there naturally are telling you something-- "there's water here year round."

You could try to design around it, and make a controlled wetland drained marsh, but you can't plant something "to dry out" a naturally wet area. Even if you dumped yard after yard of wood chips on that wet spot, and planted big time deciduous water-suckers or water-loving trees-- it will never "dry out."

To prevent erosion next to a wet spot, you have a ton of shrub options-- buttonbush is a champ at retaining soil on slopes but it can be really aggressive; lots of irises, silky dogwood, azalea, willow, blueberry, wintergreen, cranberry, rhododendron, red twig dogwoods, etc.

You may be able to "build up" a path, leaving water to flow and saturate around the path, but dollars to doughnuts it will never "dry out."

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You seem to have cause and effect mixed up, here.

You get cattails because there is wetness, not the other way around.

Cranberries might work for a plant that tolerates wetness other than cattails.

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  • Wonderful idea. Commented Jul 10, 2023 at 4:17
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Regardless of what you plant, the bushes stop the sun from reaching the ground so the soil will not get very dry. But it may stop being waterlogged.

If cattails are stopping erosion, then leave them there. Unless you want something prettier. Whatever you plant, should tolerate wet soil and be bushy.

You could always create a path using stepping stones perhaps.

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