Making a Bog Garden© 2000 Rob Sacilotto

A bog garden can be a beautiful and exciting way to display your plants and landscape your home. Many variations exist in design and construction; this guide explains a simple method used by Botanique Nursery.

Site Selection

Choose a sunny spot that gets five or more hours of full sun, and can be made mostly level. The main viewing area (path) should be from the south side. You can use rope or garden hose to mark an outline which will be the perimeter of the bog. Leave a 6-8 foot space on the north side of this bog if you plan on using large background plants such as Iris pseudacorus, Hibiscus coccineus, etc. Large plants must not shade out the bog. Bog gardens also can be placed along the edge of a water garden. This design, especially good for Pitcher Plants (Sarracenia), hardy Sundews (Drosera), and the Venus's Flytrap (Dionaea), is intended for outdoor use in USDA zones 6 and warmer. Other plants that enjoy this system include hardy bog orchids (Calopogon, Pogonia, others), Bog Buttons (Marshallia), Bog Gentians, Lobelia, Sabatia, Orange Milkwort (Polygala lutea), and many other bog plants. Adaptations in plant species and winter coverings may increase the range where this design is useful. Cranberries are not recommended as they grow too aggressively!

Preparing the Bog (see image below)

1. Dig the outlined bog to a depth of 12-14 inches, removing soil to form a basin. The bottom should be mostly flat, level or slightly pitched. The sides should go mostly straight down.

2. If moles or tunneling rodents are a problem in your area, line the basin with galvanized hardware cloth, screening, or heavy, woven weed cloth/barrier. Use rot/rust resistant materials.

3. Line the bottom and sides of the basin with 4-6 mil plastic sheeting (on top of any mole/ rodent protection.) Leave plenty of excess plastic along the edges; it can be trimmed away after the bog is filled and settled. Cut several ten-inch slits in the liner base, every foot or so. This will allow the bog to drain, while the liner holds most of the moisture in the bog.

4. Add 2-3 inches of moist sand to the bottom. Coarse sands are good to use. Do not use beach sand!

5. Fill the remaining basin with: 1 part sand + 3 parts peat moss, dampened and mixed well.

Tamp the mix in place using a bow rake; this will reduce settling of the mix. The bog should be filled until it is about an inch below surrounding, existing, soil level.

6. The lining materials can be trimmed as needed. It is wise to leave about 12 inches of liner/mammal guard exposed in case the bog settles further; this edge can be hidden with mulch, pine needles, rocks, etc.


Place taller plants to the north and smaller plants closer to the viewing area. As long as smaller types don't get too much shading, they can be placed between taller types. Accents, such as stones, pools, or branches can add appeal. Avoid salt water accents, as they often contain harmful minerals. Do not use limestone or basic rocks. Sphagnum moss can be used as a ground cover, if managed. More about mosses.


Constant saturation is not needed, but the soil mix should not dry out. We recommend soaker hoses, buried three inches below the surface and about two feet apart, to deliver efficient irrigation. Gentle hand watering is an option. Five-day watering intervals are typical, depending on weather. A mulch 6 inches deep of pine needles or oak leaves is wise in zone 6 and colder parts of zone 7. This mulch should be added about Dec.-late Feb., then removed once temperatures are above 32° F. If plants are pushed out of the soil by ice, replant immediately. Dead leaves can be trimmed off about two inches above soil level. Do not fertilize! Feeding insects to carnivorous plants is not needed outdoors. Enjoy the show!

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