Top 10 Plants For Clay Soil
By David Salman, High Country Gardens Founder & Chief Horticulturist
Clay can be one of the gardener's biggest challenges. Unless a plant is well-suited for clay conditions, it likely won’t do well. Read on to learn which plants grow well in clay, and some of the techniques for amending clay soil for long term success.
What Is Clay Soil?
Soil is actually made up of several components: clay, sand, and silt, as well as water, air, and organic matter. The proportions of clay, sand, and silt are what determine how well your soil supports the things that are growing, how much moisture it holds, and how well it drains.
Clay is very finely textured with extremely small individual particles that form a highly water-absorbent, poorly drained soil. Clay soils are nutrient-rich, but their density can make root growth difficult. Clay soil becomes brick-like when it gets dry becoming very hard and brittle and resistant to re-wetting. Wow, what's a plant to do?
5 Tips For Planting In Clay Soil
- Amend clay soil at planting time with high quality organic compost, Yum Yum Mix, and Soil Mender Worm Castings to improve texture and the availability of water and oxygen.
- Top-dress in fall with Yum Yum Mix and organic matter, such as leaves or grass clippings, to feed the soil for a healthier and more workable garden.
- Mineral aerators like coarse perlite (readily available at indoor grow shops), small size volcanic scoria (if locally available), and expanded shale can be mixed to the soil to a depth of about 1 foot deep along with the soil amendments listed above.
- The soil can also be "bermed,” building mounds to plant onto or lifted into terraced and raised beds.
- Choose clay-loving plants. Choosing these adaptable plants means less work amending soil for a garden that will grow and thrive more easily. If a plant doesn't have the constitution to deal with this sticky soil, then no amount of amendments will bring long-term success.
Top 10 Plants For Clay Soil
Below is a list of David Salman's top recommendations for planting clay soil. Remember, when browsing our site, use our Soil Type shopping filters to find plants that are suited to clay soil.
- Maximilian's Sunflower (Helianthus maximiliana) — 'Santa Fe' and 'Dakota Sunshine'
- Poppy Mallow (Callirhoe involucrata)
- 'Thin Man' Indian Grass (Sorghastrum nutans)
- 'Blonde Ambition' Blue Grama Grass (Bouteloua gracilis)
- Yellow Yarrow (Achillea fillipendulina) — 'Coronation Gold' and 'Moonshine'
- European Sage (Salvia nemerosa) — 'Blue Hill', 'May Night' and 'Caradonna'
- Orange Butterfly Weed - Clay Form (Ascelpias tuberosa)
- Pink Cotton Lamb's Ear (Stachys lavandulifolius)
- Catmint (Nepeta faassenii) — 'Select Blue' and 'Walker's Low'
- Red Hot Poker (Kniphofia) — 'Fire Dance' and 'Pfitzer's Hybrid'
Exclusive. Santa Fe is a selected form of Maximilian‚s Sunflower chosen for its huge, bright yellow daisies that tightly pack the 6 foot tall flowering spike. A tough perennial...Learn MoreSanta Fe Maximilian's Sunflower (Helianthus) Santa Fe Maximilian's Sunflower Helianthus maximiliana Santa Fe$14.99 Sale $13.49Sale Price I Save 10%Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
Exclusive. Dakota Sunshine is an August blooming selection of the native Maximilian‚s Sunflower. Chosen from South Dakota collected seed, this cultivar is especially useful in ...Learn MoreDakota Sunshine Maximilian's Sunflower (Helianthus) Dakota Sunshine Maximilian's Sunflower Helianthus maximiliani Dakota SunshineAs low as $12.99 Sale $9.74Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
Bouteloua gracilis ‚Blonde Ambition‚ PP#22,048 (Blue Grama Grass) is a native ornamental grass with a completely new look. The horizontal eyelash-like chartreuse flowers ...Learn MoreBlonde Ambition Blue Grama Grass Blonde Ambition Blue Grama Grass Bouteloua gracilis Blonde Ambition PP#22,048As low as $8.99 Sale $8.99Per Plant - 2.5" Pot
36„ tall x 24„ wide. Coronation Gold is a vigorous tall growing yarrow with large flat deep golden-yellow flower heads. This non-reseeding variety blooms all summer and ...Learn MoreCoronation Gold Yarrow Coronation Gold Yarrow Achillea filipendulina Coronation Gold$12.99 Sale $11.69Sale Price I Save 10%Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
Moonshine Yarrow (Achillea Moonshine) is an outstanding perennial plant with silver-gray foliage and lemon-yellow flat-topped flowers that cover the plant all summer. This is a well-...Learn MoreMoonshine Yarrow Moonshine Yarrow Achillea MoonshineAs low as $11.99 Sale $7.49Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
Salvia sylvestris ‚Blue Hill‚ is a superb selection grown for its late spring display of clear blue flowers held over sturdy compact mounds of green foliage. It is extrem...Learn MoreBlue Hill Salvia Blue Hill Meadow Sage Salvia sylvestris Blue Hill$11.99 Sale $10.79Sale Price I Save 10%Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
Salvia sylvestris ‘May Night’ (Meadow Sage) blooms prolifically with deep purple-blue flowers. It is an outstanding perennial with excellent cold hardiness, vigor, and to...Learn MoreMay Night Salvia May Night Meadow Sage Salvia sylvestris May NightAs low as $11.99 Sale $10.79Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
Caradonna’ is a beautiful Old World sage with tall, very dark purple flower stems and stunning blue-violet flowers. The plant has a strong vertical habit and is a superb nectar...Learn MoreCaradonna Salvia Caradonna Meadow Sage Salvia sylvestris Caradonna$12.99 Sale $11.69Sale Price I Save 10%Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
Nepeta ‚Select Blue‚ (Select Blue Catmint) is a fantastic xeric perennial with dramatic lavender-blue flowers and handsome gray-green foliage. A recurrent bloomer, the fi...Learn MoreSelect Blue Nepeta Select Blue Catmint Nepeta faassenii Select BlueAs low as $12.99 Sale $8.99Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
18„ tall x 15-18„ wide. Brought down from the high elevations of South Africa‚s Drakensberg Mountains, this little Red Hot Poker is a colorful bloomer with great co...Learn MoreFire Dance Red Hot Poker Fire Dance Red Hot Poker Kniphofia hirsuta Fire Dance$11.99 Sale $10.79Sale Price I Save 10%Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
Our ‘My Soil Is Like A Brick Collection’ features long-blooming, easy-to-grow perennials for challenging clay soils. Bright pink, sunny yellow, and bold blue flowers bloo...Learn MoreMy Soil Is Like A Brick Collection My Soil Is Like A Brick Collection$99.99 Sale $94.99Sale Price I Save 5%Per Collection of 9
Pfitzer‚s Hybrid Mix‚ is an outstanding selection of Red Hot Poker with showy spikes of tubular orange and yellow flowers. Native to South Africa, this durable wildflower...Learn MorePfitzer Red Hot Poker Mix Pfitzer Red Hot Poker Mix Kniphofia uvaria Pfitzer Hybrid Mix$11.99 Sale $10.79Sale Price I Save 10%Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
Learn more about preparing your soil for success: Soil Preparation: Building Your Soil Health Naturally & Organically
Not sure what kind of soil you have? See our guide: The Dirt On Garden Soil Testing
by High Country Gardens