Plants for chalky soil
Chalky soils are free draining, alkaline and tend to be lower in nutrients than neutral, loamy soils. Chalky soils generally dry out more quickly, although deeper alkaline soils or those where clay is also present can be more moisture retentive. We generally recommend choosing types of plants that are naturally suited to your soil type, rather than trying to change it. Any change will only be temporary and will need to be repeated over time. There are plenty of plants that will thrive on chalk providing there is a sufficient surface layer of topsoil, spanning a range of different types, shapes and sizes. Generally speaking, chalky soils are best suited to plants that like sharp drainage and are not too greedy in terms of nutrient requirements.
The best climbing plants for chalky soils include akebia, clematis, grape vines, ivy, jasmine, lonicera and virginia creeper. For conifers choose Chamaecyparis, ginkgo, juniper, pine, yew or thuja. Some great hedging plants for chalk include berberis, spotted laurel, lavender, lonicera Baggesen’s gold, pyracantha and Portuguese laurel. In the perennial department there is lot of choice including Achillea, Agapanthus, Anemone, Aster and Campanula, whilst for shrubs some good picks are butterfly bush, ceanothus, hebe, pyracantha, rosemary and spiraea. Some good trees for chalk are apple trees, crab apple trees, hawthorn, pear trees and cherry trees. The depth of soil over chalk can vary considerably. If the depth of top soil in your garden is particularly shallow (some may have just 10cm or a few inches of soil before hitting solid chalk), additional top soil will need to be added on top of your ground to make planting viable. Limestone soils have similar characteristics.