Clay soil has its advantages – it’s very fertile, and it keeps plants well supplied with moisture. However, it can be claggy in winter, and baked solid in summer, and only certain plants can survive these conditions.
Any clay soil will benefit from efforts to improve its texture. Mulch generously in spring with well-rotted organic matter, coarse grit or bark – around a barrowload per square metre. In the meantime, you can make a great garden with plants that thrive on heavier soils – here are some of the best plants for clay soil.
- Roses thrive on clay soil, and there are different types to choose from, including rambling roses, climbing roses and shrub and species roses.
- Mostly yellows and tawny oranges, the lily-like flowers of hemerocallis (daylilies) open in succession all summer. Avoid expensive or weak-looking hybrids, as they tend to be too fussy.
- Both our native foxglove, Digitalis purpurea, and cultivated forms grow and self seed on heavy soil, in sun or light shade.
Euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii
- Euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii is a bushy perennial that has blue-green foliage all year. It’s topped in spring by lime-green flower heads, adding zing to sun or light shade.
- The pale pink flowers and dark purple foliage of Sambucus nigra ‘Black Lace’ are a winning combination. The berries are edible, and are loved by birds, too.
- This hydrangea has dome-shaped clusters of flowers in blue or pink that smother this blowsy shrub in July and August. Protect from cold, drying winds.
- Choose a sunny spot for the grey-leaved campion, Lychnis coronaria, with its scarlet cross-shaped flowers held on upright stems in summer
- The delicate, frothy flowers of Thalictrum dance all summer long on the tall stems of this perennial, which likes semi-shade
- The flower spikes of persicaria, in shades of pink or terracotta, appear all summer. It’s a great plant for ground cover in sun or semi-shade, and the leaves also provide autumn colour.
- Grown for its autumn display of papery orange lanterns, which can be dried for indoor displays, Physalis alkekengi var. franchetii is a vigorous perennial that likes sun or partial shade.