by Jennifer Poindexter
Are you plagued with clay soil? I reside in the south, so I understand how challenging growing things in clay soil can be.
However, did you know that clay soil isn’t necessarily bad? It has its challenges, but there are some plants that thrive in it.
If you’re trying to landscape your home and need ideas for shrubs that can thrive in clay soil, I have the information you need.
I’ve compiled a list of shrubs that do well in these conditions. I also want to share a few tips with you on how you can embrace your clay soil and ensure these suggested shrubs have every reason to do well under your care.
Here are the shrubs you should consider growing in your clay soil:
Is Clay Soil Bad?
If you’ve gardened before you know that most plants thrive in loose, well-draining soil. This allows moisture to reach the roots of the plant and drain away quickly.
This is important to the health of the plant because leaving plants in an oversaturated state can lead to root rot.
Clay soil is a bunch of compacted elements that are so tightly knit together that the soil holds everything. This isn’t all bad.
If you can find a way to help your clay soil drain more efficiently, then you will have a well-draining location filled with soil that naturally holds moisture and nutrients.
How do you make clay soil work for you and your plants? Begin by amending it heavily. In the fall, consider adding leaf mulch, compost, or composted wood chips to your soil.
Till the ingredients into the soil and allow them to further compost over the winter months. When it’s time to plant in the coming year, you should have soil that drains adequately yet still has the ability to retain moisture and nutrients, too.
Take this tip into consideration prior to planting the shrubs mentioned below as this will greatly improve their growing conditions.
Shrubs to Grow in Clay Soil
You now know how clay soil can work for you and your shrubs. Once you’ve amended your soil, it’s time to plant. Here are your options for shrubs that grow well in clay soil:
Lilac bushes make gorgeous additions to most landscapes. These shrubs produce purple scented blooms during the spring. Plus, they have green foliage that remains the same color through fall.
To give these plants the greatest chance of survival, ensure they’re grown in full sunlight and only water them during periods of drought. If you live in planting zones three through eight, these bushes should return each year.
Arborvitae are evergreen shrubs used for many purposes. They make great hedges, are a wonderful way to create a border around your gardening spaces, and they’re also wonderful for privacy.
Not to mention, these shrubs have few issues with pests. If you’d be interested in growing these plants in an area with clay soil, know that they’re hardy in planting zones two through seven. They also thrive in full to partial sunlight. Plus, they enjoy frequent, light watering sessions.
Dogwoods are a great plant to grow in clay soil. These plants enjoy growing in wet conditions. Plus, they put on a display of color throughout the year. In the summer, the shrub produces colorful berries.
However, over the winter, the shrub displays beautiful red twigs and stems. If you’d like to incorporate this tree into your landscape, you may plant it in any type of lighting. If you live in planting zones three through eight, dogwood shrubs should be hardy in these locations.
Berberis is another variety of evergreen shrub that thrives in clay soil. This plant produces waxy red berries and yellow or orange blooms.
But what most people love about berberis is its versatility. This plant comes in various sizes as there’s more than 400 species to choose from. Most species thrive in full to partial sunlight and are hardy in planting zones four through eight.
Do you have a small growing space that also contains clay soil? Don’t give up because there’s a shrub to perfectly fit your growing space. Coralberry might be this shrub for you.
Coralberry shrubs are compact and produce pink, non-edible fruit during fall. As the temperatures dip, the berries become more pronounced. This plant is deer-resistant and has few issues with disease. You may grow coralberry in full to partial sunlight, and it’s hardy in planting zones three through seven.
Aronia is also recognized by the name chokeberry. Regardless of what you call this shrub, you’ll be glad to know that it’s a low-maintenance option that does well in clay soil.
Plus, Aronia produces edible berries for your enjoyment. If you’re interested in growing this plant, be sure to plant in full to partial sunlight. It should return each year in planting zones three through eight. Another bonus for this shrub is it can handle both drought and times of excess moisture.
Many people love elderberry bushes because of all the things you can do with the fruit of this plant. You can make anything from syrup to wine with the fruit. The shrub is easy to get along with, too.
Elderberry bushes enjoy damp, cool climates. However, they also prefer to grow in areas with full sunlight. The shrub will produce beautiful blooms which later form berries. If you’d like your own elderberry bush, they’re hardy in planting zones three through seven.
Cotoneaster is another shrub that is sure to have a variety to suit most needs. This shrub ranges in size from ground cover to hedge height, depending upon which variety you choose.
The plant consists of waxy leaves and red or black berries during the fall and winter months. They can handle everything from drought, harsh winds, poor soil, and salt spray. Cotoneaster should be planted in full to partial sunlight and is hardy in planting zones five through eight.
If you’ve ever seen a forsythia bush in full bloom, you know they’re breathtaking. My neighbor has a few large forsythia bushes that make you stop and stare because of how beautiful and golden they are when in bloom.
When planting forsythia bushes, be sure to select a location that receives full sunlight. They’re hardy in planting zones five through nine and should return each year in these settings. However, be mindful to prune your forsythia bushes each year after flowering. Otherwise, they can become overgrown and difficult to handle.
10. Smooth Hydrangea
Hydrangea bushes are some of my favorites. I love them so much I incorporated them into my wedding. Smooth hydrangea shrubs are a garden favorite because not only do they thrive in clay soil, they’re low-maintenance, create gorgeous white blooms, and have few issues with diseases or pests.
If you choose to incorporate this shrub into your landscape, understand that it’s hardy in planting zones three through nine, and ensure you select a growing location with partial sunlight.
Pyracantha also goes by the name firethorn. Don’t let the name deter you just yet. Yes, these shrubs have thorns.
However, they make excellent hedges or trellises. These shrubs are evergreen and are hardy in planting zones six through nine. Should you incorporate these shrubs into your garden area, be sure to plant in full to partial sunlight.
12. Rose of Sharon
Rose of Sharon belongs to the genus hibiscus. Therefore, the blooms resemble a hibiscus quite closely. However, these shrubs aren’t particular about their growing space as they can grow in clay soil and either light or shade.
Another bonus of growing Rose of Sharon is they have a blooming cycle that lasts for months. It typically begins in the middle portion of summer and finishes at the first frost of fall. If you’re interested in adding Rose of Sharon to your landscape, it’s hardy in planting zones five through nine.
Honeysuckle is another beautiful option for shrubs that grow well in clay soil. This shrub produces tube-shaped flowers in the later portion of summer. These blooms are great for drawing pollinators to your yard or garden.
If you’d like to incorporate honeysuckle into your landscape, it can grow in numerous soil and lighting situations. However, they’re hardy in planting zones five through nine and should return each year in these areas.
Buttonbush is a taller shrub that produces scented blooms during late summer. This bush attracts pollinators thanks to its fresh scent. Plus, it produces red berries.
When growing buttonbush, ensure you plant it in a location with partial shade. It’s a hardy option in planting zones five through eleven as well.
Our final shrub to discuss is weigela. This option not only grows well in clay soil, but it’s also another option for drawing pollinators to your garden.
This plant will bloom in the later portion of spring and produce blooms that are pink, yellow, white, or red. You should grow weigela in full sun, and it’s hardy in planting zones five through eight.
You now have fifteen options for shrubs to incorporate into your landscape that can thrive in clay soil. Ensure you meet the growing conditions for each option to give it every reason to thrive under your care.
Now that you know your options, use them as inspiration. Begin planning what you want your landscape to look like and start putting your plan into action.
More About Shrubs for Clay Soil