When I started out planning the landscape of my home, I searched everywhere to find suggestions for what would thrive in clay soil. What I found most often were a selection of plants that just didn’t fit in with the neat, maintained look that I wanted. So, I thought that I would share with everyone what I have found to be the easiest (and most likely to survive) plants, and they go together well. So, here are 12 easy to grow plants for clay soil.
- Magnolia Little Gem – This beauty is said to grow between 15′-20′ and looks good all year long. It is winter hardy up to zone 7. They produce fragrant blooms throughout the summer, but their leaves are enough reason to choose this specimen. They have long, glossy, leaves with a soft, velvety, brown underside.
- Sweetbay magnolia – Although not as stately as the little gems, I love these for their airy look. They are evergreen in my area, but are hardy in zones 5-9. They do produce blooms in late spring/early summer; however, don’t expect these blooms to be the beauties that the other magnolia cultivars produce. What they do have, though, is a heavenly scent. I have two of these in raised planters near my pool, and for the month of May, there is a slightly vanilla, perfumed, scent that wafts over you each time the breeze blows.
- Crepe Myrtle – What is more Southern than these. They produce large clusters of blooms during late summer, and are one of the few plants that will liven up an area so late in the season. They come in all different colors and varieties, but the sheer number that permeates the southern landscape is a testament to their abilities to overcome clay soil.
- White or Pink Dogwood – this is another tree that dots the southern landscape. They produce an abundant amount of blooms in early spring when most of the other scenery is beginning to really take off. Expect these to reach about 20′-25′ high. Zones are 5-9. For best performance, provide them with some afternoon shade. (For a late spring bloom, try the Kousa Dogwood instead)
- Holly – Just about any holly will perform well if given a good spot. So far, I have weeping Yaupon (regular and dwarf), upright Yaupon, soft touch Holly, Burford Holly, Robin Holly, Foster Holly, and Oakland Holly. Most of these will grow into a tree form or a very large shrub, except for the dwarf yaupon and the soft touch, which are nice small shrubs that maintain there shape well.
- Indian Hawthorne – There are several varieties of these, but I prefer the variety that stay under 3 feet high. These look nice with the Crepe Myrtles. Give them plenty of sun for best performance.
- Knock Out roses – If you can dig a hole, you can grow a knock out rose. Well, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but not by much. Knock out roses are another Southern favorite. Just make sure to give them full sun, preferably in a location where deer can not get to them. (The blooms must taste a good as they look).
Perrenials and Other
- Ornamental grass – Maiden grass, Carly Rose, even Pampus grass will thrive. Give it a nice sunny location and watch it take off. All you need to do with these are to cut them back to about 4″ high sometime before the new growth begins. (Usually late fall through late winter is best, but if your like me, you will want to leave the dead tufts for as long as possible, because it provides some nice winter texture).
- Day Lilies – These have roots that will drill right through the clay soil. They look nice when interplanted with the maiden grass and also work well with the Crepe Myrtles.
- Hostas – shade loving plants that can be divided every few years. These will brighten up a dark area.
- Salvia – needs plenty of sun or it will get leggy. Produces nice blooms in shades of blue and purple, depending on variety.
- Liriope – Several varieties for both sun and shade. A common mistake that people make is to plant a creeping variety as a bed border. Make sure that you get Liriope Muscari and not Liriope Spicata. Liriope Spicata (shown in image) will take over, and is best used for areas where you want nothing but this plant grow.
This is just a small list of some of the easier plants, but there are many, many more plants that will grow nicely in clay soil. If anyone would like to share what they have had good success with, I would love to hear about it.