child digging up soil to plant plants for clay soil

13 Best Plants for Clay Soil

Looking for plants for clay soil? You’ve come to the right place!

The soil type in your garden can have a significant influence on the plants you are able to grow. For example, most gardeners would agree that sandy, loamy soil is optimum for growing plants as it provides plenty of nutrients and doesn’t tend to get waterlogged. However, many gardeners may quake at the idea of having clay soil in their gardens. Infamously prone to waterlogging and very slow to warm up in spring, clay soil can sound like a nightmare. However, you would be wrong to think that – clay soil can successfully grow many beautiful plants, both native and imported, for a thriving garden full of colour. For example, did you know that orange trees thrive in clay soil? Well, you do now! Here are 13 more of the best plants for clay soil to liven up your garden. 

Roses

a rose growing in clay soil

Roses are the flowers of the romantics, and if your garden is rich with clay soil, you can bring the romance to your flower beds! The heaviness and loaminess of clay soils are the perfect environments for many types of roses to thrive, including climbing roses, rambling roses and shrub varieties. The soil should be moist but well-draining, and you should water your roses regularly to ensure the soil stays damp enough. Roses thrive in spots that receive full sun; however, many species of roses will thrive on a minimum of at least 3 hours of direct sunlight a day. 

Foxglove

foxgloves growing in clay soil

The foxglove is a charming native British flower, and both these species and cultivated forms will thrive in heavy clay soil. As long as you plant them in full sun or light shade, foxgloves will grow spectacularly and are proficient self-seeders. Foxgloves are very low-maintenance plants and enjoy moisture without getting waterlogged, so you should water them once or twice a week in spring and summer, lessening this to once a week in autumn and winter. 

Daylily

a daylily

The charming flowers of the daylily are reminiscent of the famous plant that lends it its name, but the differences are relatively clear in the brazen colours (primarily yellows and oranges) and the clay soil type that they prefer. Daylilies are tough plants and can survive in many conditions, but the most fertile growing conditions involve moist, well-draining soil and a spot that receives full sun. You should keep daylilies well watered throughout dry spells, but don’t feed them as this can cause excess foliage at the expense of flowers. 

Elder

flowers of an elder tree thriving in clay soil

Elders are beautiful native trees or ornamental shrubs that blossom with white flowers and small black fruits. Both elder trees and shrubs love clay soil that is moist and well-draining. And elders are not too picky about where they’re planted either, as they will do well in any spot from full sun to full shade. However, you should know that the elder shrubs produce elderberries, and although you can eat elderberries, you should always cook them first, as some raw elderberries can be poisonous

Hydrangea Macrophylla

Also known as the French Hydrangea, Hydrangea Macrophylla is one of the best plants for clay soil, as it grows quickly with little regular maintenance besides watering and pruning. Ensure that the soil is moist and well-draining, and plant these hydrangeas in full sun to partial shade. Additionally, hydrangeas require adequate shelter from cold winds that can drastically affect them. 

Thalictrum

thalictrum flowers

Thalictrum is a charming, wildflower-like plant that thrives in clay soil and produces delicate flowers that blow beautifully in the breeze. Perfect for the flowerbeds or borders of cottage gardens, you should plant thalictrum in full sun or partial shade. If you have a particularly tall variety of thalictrum, you may need to add support stakes to ensure they grow. 

Lychnis Coronaria

a rose campion flower

Lychnis Coronaria is one of the most beautiful plants for clay soil and is perfect for brightening up summer-flowering gardens. Also known as Rose Campion, these plants can grow quite tall – around 2-3 feet! – so you can be sure of beautiful blossoms that stand out. They prefer spots of full sun and will need regular watering throughout spring and summer. 

Chinese Lantern

chinese lantern flowers

Chinese lanterns are named after the flowers they produce, which take on a lovely shape reminiscent of their namesake. Available in a range of colours, Chinese lantern requires sun or partial shade. Inside the pods that the Chinese Lantern plant blooms are small fruits that contain seeds. Unripe fruits and leaves of the Chinese Lantern plant are poisonous and so should be avoided. 

Persicaria

There are plenty of varieties of Persicaria that all make wonderful plants for clay soil, especially as some of them are very tolerant of dryer conditions, particularly low-growing varieties. However, larger varieties prefer moist soil, and both are best positioned in a spot that receives full sun or sits in partial shade. Persicaria is incredibly low maintenance and shouldn’t require much watering unless there’s a particularly dry season. 

Japanese Maple

japanese maple tree leaves

Japanese Maple trees are the classic autumn favourite, showing lovely rusty red leaves all through the season. And they love clay soil! Most Japanese Maples prefer a shady spot that is well-sheltered as they grow slowly and delicately. Ensure that you water them regularly, especially during their first year of growth and any particularly dry times. You can also grow Japanese Maples in containers. 

Cranesbill

cranesbill flower

Cranesbills produce beautiful blue or purple flowers and can spread quickly in clay soils to produce many more of them. Cranesbill prefers rich soil with good drainage that isn’t too moist. These wildflowers also prefer a light shade that filters through high treetops, so you should try to plant them in a spot where they will receive the full morning sun or partial shade throughout the day. To keep the soil moist, water them regularly. 

Crocus ‘Blue Pearl’

Blue pearl crocuses are as pretty as their name, producing light blue flowers throughout late winter and early autumn. For adequate growth, you should plant them deep in clay soil in groups of two to three. Crocus ‘Blue Pearl’ prefers full spring sun, and you should water them regularly throughout spring and autumn. You may also need to water them in winter if there is no snow. 

Coneflower ‘Goldsturm’

Coneflowers are wonderful plants for clay soil, but the Goldsturm variety will thrive in the conditions. As long as you keep the soil moist and well-draining, these coneflowers will reach their ultimate height of 60m with little maintenance. They prefer full sun or partial shade and will become drought-tolerant once they are properly established. 

Choosing The Best Plants For Clay Soil

So, there are just thirteen of the best plants for clay soil that you may want to incorporate into your garden. Although clay soil may require a little more work and maintenance than other soil types, with dedication and motivation, you can have a garden to be proud of. So, try some of these plants for clay soil for yourself, and cultivate the best garden for you!

What are your favourite plants for clay soil? Leave your suggestions below. 

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