Grass plants for clay soil
There are a range of glass plants well suited to heavy clay soils, including Miscanthus, Panicum, Pennisetum and Yucca. 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 is made of very fine particles sitting closely together which prevent air and moisture from easily moving through the soil. This makes it ‘heavy’ and prone to waterlogging in winter and cracking in summer, but they’re also rich in nutrients and moisture retentive. We recommend conditioning clay soils by incorporating plenty of well-rotted, bulky organic matter such as compost, leaf mould or bark chippings, and some coarse grit if you find your ground lies wet for some of the year. If you’re unsure what type of ground you have, check out our article on understanding your soil for some simple tips to test soil type.
Miscanthus is a reliable grass best known for its fabulous displays of feathery, textured flowers that are held above the foliage in bright or subtle colours through summer and autumn. Perfect for adding structure, elegance and movement to the garden, they provide a beautiful display with a chameleon-like ability to adapt through the seasons and ask for very little work in return. Larger varieties are effective grown singly as a centre-piece or as a backdrop to purple-flowering plants, while smaller-growing varieties are well-suited to containers. Wispy Miscanthus can be planted behind benches to create a tranquil seating area where its foliage will gently rustle in the wind.
As sentinels of the south-western deserts, Yuccas are adaptive to wet clay soils with waxy, arching, sword-shaped foliage arranged in rosettes. Many have leaves with razor-sharp edges and spiny tips, earning them the common name Spanish dagger. In summer, they produce grand flowers held high above the foliage on tall stalks that emerge from the centre of the plant, sometimes 3 metres tall. Most produce white or cream flowers, sometimes with a purple or pink tinge. In the border, they're best combined with other plants that also prefer a dry soil, such as sedum, salvia, lavender plants, Euphorbia and black-eyed Susan.