Plants For Heavy Clay Soils

Plants for heavy clay soils are surprisingly quite common and can be propagated as easy as most other gardening plants.

Now we all know heavy clay soil is difficult to dig, it sticks to your boots, it sticks to your spade, even a stainless steels spade, it sticks to everything. And it compacts just by walking on it and water will lay in puddles.

Not ideal conditions for plants then?

Well some plants actually thrive in heavy clay soils and by choosing the right ones you can have perfect flowering borders and beds just the same as anyone who has normal soil.

So, what can you plant in heavy clay soils.

Plants for heavy clay soils should be split into two types, those which prefer shade and those which will thrive in direct sun.

These are few favourites that will perform well in heavy clay soils..

Shade plants for heavy clay soils:

Astrantia
Aconitum
Filipendula
Ligularia
Rodgersia
Tiarella

Sun plants for heavy clay soils:

Astilbe
Lysmachia
Lythrum
Monarda
Phlok
Ranunculus
Trollis

All these plants will benefit from a mulch of well-rotted compost or bark chippings.

Once established you can propagate them as normal and collect seeds, take cuttings or divide, depending on the plant.

But if you want to grow more types of plants you can modify your clay soil, just read on..

Clay Soils Some Answers to Your Problems

Heavy clay soils can be difficult to dig, in fact it’s hard work just turning over a couple of spade fulls.

And walking on the soil will compact it and break down its structure, which prevents water from soaking through the surface.

When the soil is wet air cannot penetrate through the surface. This leads to ideal conditions for slugs and soil diseases. It also means plant roots will usually just rot.

Given a nice hot sunny day and the surface of clay soils will bake solid, start cracking and shrink as it dries hard as rock.

Even just digging can cause the surface to compact if it is wet.

Not much chance of growing plants then!

Well there are some solutions.

Some easier than others and some better than others.

The best solution, and quite easy to do, is to make raised beds. You only need about 23cm (9inch) depth.

But 30cm (12inches) would be much better and is well worth the extra effort.

The next best solution, but fairly hard work, is to dig in plenty of horticultural grit. You will need a good 7.5cm (3inch) layer and it will need to be dug in well.

You may need to repeat this a couple of times to get the maximum benefit.

It is also extremely beneficial to dig in plenty of well-rotted manure or compost. By the cartload, the more the better.

Don’t be tempted to just but a layer of grit in the bottom of planting holes. This just makes an ideal place for water to drain in to with disastrous consequences for any plants.