Shrubs for clay soil
Many shrubs will succeed on heavy clay soils with deciduous flowering varieties such as cornus, potentilla, weigela, deutzia, forsythia and ribes performing particularly well on clay. Shrubs are a natural choice on clay because they do not require any major cultivation of the soil after planting – keeping on top of weeding and an annual mulch of well rotted garden compost, leaf mould, bark chippings or similar is all that’s required. You don’t need to dig mulch in either – worms, insects and microorganisms will help take the material down into the soil for you. Some of the best evergreens for clay soils are Cotoneaster, Escallonia, Euonymus, Gaultheria, Mahonia, Pyracantha and Vinca. These varieties will help provide year-round structure and form to your borders even on the heaviest of soils.
Our top pick for clay is Mahonia plants which provide cheery winter colour with their yellow flowers combining well with the golden variegations of spotted laurels. Clay soils are often neutral to acidic, making the pH suitable for hardy hybrid rhododendrons too. Clay soils can dry out, bake and crack in the height of the summer heat. For this reason, the best time to plant shrubs on clay soils is early autumn, so they have plenty of time to establish before the following summer. Planting in spring may be difficult if the ground is wet and heavy. 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.