Plants for clay soil
Clay soils sometimes have a reputation for being impossible to work. Truth be told, gardening on clay is one of the most nutrient-rich environments you could wish for and whilst the ground will tend to be heavier and wetter than loam or sandy soils, there are plenty of plants that enjoy the moisture-retentive environment this brings. Here at Jackson’s Nurseries, we sit mainly on clay (in a part of the UK that was historically known for its pottery industry), making us well placed to advise on the best plants for clay soil and grow these varieties to thrive on clay in your own garden. Clay soil refers to a type of soil made of very fine particles sitting closely together which prevent air and moisture from easily moving through the soil. This makes it ‘heavy’ and can lead to poor drainage, although this can be improved by incorporating plenty of well-rotted, bulky organic matter such as compost, leaf mould or bark chippings, and some coarse grit if you find the ground lies wet for some of the year. If you’re unsure what type of soil you have, take a look at our article on understanding your soil for some simple tips on how to check it.
Cornus is a group of deciduous shrubs with striking bark colours that are easy to grow, tolerant of hard pruning and will thrive on heavy clay soils. For spiny stems and fabulous berries consider pyracantha; whilst Buddleia plants aka butterfly bushes are great for an open growth habit, long-arching stems and flower spikes that are highly attractive to butterflies and are unfussy about soil type. Forsythia plants and hydrangeas also work well. As a general rule, larger and better established shrubs will cope better with wet clay conditions – the vast majority of shrubs we sell are established plants in 2-3 litre pots or larger with some available in 5+ litre containers, so you’ll have plenty to choose from. Many trees are suited to clay including magnolia for decoration and birch trees for height. Fruit trees such as apples and pears also grow well on clay, although soft fruit bushes may be best in a raise bed on clay soils.