What Grows Well In Clay Soil (& Heavy Soils)

What Grows Well In Clay Soil (& Heavy Soils)

Different soils have different textures and properties that should be considered when growing different things in them.

In this short guide, we outline what might grow well in clay soils and heavier types of soil.


Characteristics Of, & Profile Of Clay Soil

Pure clay soil tends to:

  • Have the smallest soil particles when compared to silt, and sand
  • Hold/retain a lot of moisture and water and have poor drainage (because of how tightly compacted the small clay particles are)
  • Be poorly aerated 
  • Be sticky and clumped together when wet – making it hard for root vegetables to establish roots in the clay, and making it hard for gardeners to work with it
  • Crack and go solid when they dry out – which can dislodge certain root systems
  • Hold onto nutrients, but can be hard to access for plants and other things growing in clay.


Working With, Improving & Amending Clay Soil

Compost, leaf mould, coarse grit and well-rotted bark chips can work well when added in moderate amounts to clay soil. Liming agents like calcium can also work well in moderate amounts with clay.

However, as mentioned by Empressofdirt.net, sometimes the clay soil in your area might be too extreme for modifications and amending, and raised garden beds with imported soil might work better for growing.

Read these sources for more info on amending, improving and working with clay soil:

  • https://empressofdirt.net/best-vegetables-clay-soils/
  • https://www.growveg.com.au/guides/growing-vegetables-in-clay-soil/
  • https://www.kings.co.nz/gardening-news/growing-fruit-trees-in-clay-soils
  • https://www.daviddomoney.com/best-plants-clay-soil-grow-full-sun-partial-shade/
  • https://www.gardenersworld.com/plants/small-trees-for-heavy-and-clay-soils/
  • http://www.provident-living-today.com/Types-of-Soil.html
  • https://www.burkesbackyard.com.au/fact-sheets/in-the-garden/gardening-tips-books-techniques-and-tools/soil-type-test/


A Note On Soil Types, & What Ultimately Impacts How Things Grow

Before we look at what grows well in clay soil, it’s important to note that all soils are slightly different in composition depending on the location (you might get a pure clay soil in one location, but in another you might get a mixed clay soil or a soil with different characteristics), there are different external factors acting upon each soil, and ultimately, there are many physical, chemical and biological factors that determine how well something grows in a particular spot or under particular conditions.

This is just a guide on clay soils in general, without going into extreme depth about all these other factors (factors like soil fertility, soil health, soil quality, fertilizer added, top soil added, pesticides added, tilling practices and so on).

It would do you well in the long term to get information on the soil in your location (what it is and what is the best way to manage it), the climate in your location (temperature, rainfall etc.) and the growing seasons (for example – the US has different planting zones), the plants or things you want to grow and the conditions they need – and come up with a specific plan for your situation.


Plants & Flowers That Grow Well In Clay Soil

  • Iris
  • Miscanthus
  • Heuchera 
  • Baptisia
  • Platycodon
  • Hosta
  • Aster
  • Rudbeckia
  • Perovskia 
  • Echinacea
  • Coreopsis
  • Achillea
  • Athyrium

– hgtv.com


  • Aster
  • Goldenrod
  • Black Eyed Susan
  • Russian Sage
  • Daylily
  • Yarrow
  • Little Bluestem
  • Fountaingrass
  • Switchgrass
  • Ironweed
  • Canna
  • Bluestar
  • Baptisia
  • Coreopsis
  • Purple Coneflower
  • Sea Holly
  • Perennial Geranium 
  • False Sunflower
  • Heuchera
  • Hosta
  • Blazing Star
  • Bee Balm
  • Sedum
  • Yucca
  • Miscanthus

– bhg.com



  • Roses
  • Daylily
  • Foxglove
  • Euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii
  • Elder
  • Hydrangea macrophylla
  • Lychnis coronaria
  • Thalictrum
  • Persicaria 
  • Chinese lantern

– gardenersworld.com


Flowering perennials and bulbs:

  • Hostas
  • Lingularia
  • Euonymous
  • Vinca
  • Alchemilla mollis 
  • Asters
  • Rudbeckia
  • Coreopsis
  • Phlox
  • Aconites
  • Hellebores
  • Japanese anemone.
  • Geraniums
  • Primulas
  • Cranesbill
  • Pulmonaria
  • Astilbe
  • Astrantia
  • Kniphofia
  • Solidago
  • Ivy
  • Clematis
  • Honeysuckle
  • Narcissi
  • Snowdrops

– daviddomoney.com


Fruits & Fruit Trees That Grow Well In Clay Soil

  • Citrus trees
  • Fig
  • Stone fruits

– gardenguides.com


Vegetables & Crops That Grow Well In Clay Soil

  • Lettuce, chard, green beans beans and other crops with shallow roots
  • Broccoli, Brussel sprouts and cabbage often grow better in clay soil than looser loams
  • Mid and late season sweetcorn are a good choice, too, but some of the best vegetables to grow in clay are squash and pumpkins.
  • As long as they are grown in planting holes that have been generously enriched with compost, summer squash and small pumpkins seem to do well no matter where they are grown
  • Rice can also work well in clay

– growveg.com.au


  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage (red and green)
  • Cabbage (Napa and savoy)
  • Cauliflower
  • Kale
  • Bean
  • Pea
  • Potato
  • Daikon radish

– empressofdirt.net


  • Bean varieties
  • Carrots and beets
  • Swiss chard
  • Rice varieties

– hunker.com



  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Squashes
  • Pumpkins
  • Onions
  • Leaks 

– daviddomoney.com


Trees, Shrubs and Bushes That Grow Well In Clay Soil

Trees and shrubs:

  • Snowy mespilus
  • Birch
  • Crab apple
  • Roses
  • Hawthorn
  • Holly 
  • Strawberry tree
  • Cotoneaster ‘Hybridus Pendulus’

– gardenersworld.com



  • Birch
  • Eucalyptus
  • Sorbus
  • Hawthorn
  • Magnolia
  • Amelanchier
  • Pine
  • Thuja
  • Juniper
  • Chamaecyparis

– daviddomoney.com



  • Cornus
  • Viburnum
  • Mahonia
  • Berberis
  • Pyracantha
  • Cotoneaster
  • Weigela
  • Buddleja
  • Forsythia
  • Hydrangea
  • Chaenomeles (flowering quince)

– daviddomoney.com


Plants For Wet Clay Soil

  • Iris
  • Hostas
  • Hydrangea
  • Cornus
  • Weigela
  • Astilbe

– daviddomoney.com



1. https://www.hgtv.com/outdoors/flowers-and-plants/14-plants-that-thrive-in-clay-soil-pictures

2. https://www.bhg.com/gardening/flowers/perennials/best-plants-to-grow-in-clay/?slide=slide_526290#slide_526290

3. https://www.gardenersworld.com/plants/small-trees-for-heavy-and-clay-soils/

4. https://www.gardenersworld.com/plants/10-flowering-plants-for-clay-soil/

5. https://www.daviddomoney.com/best-plants-clay-soil-grow-full-sun-partial-shade/

6. https://www.gardenguides.com/list_5942074_fruit-trees-grow-clay-soil.html

7. https://www.daleysfruit.com.au/forum/which-fruit-trees-can-be-grown-in/

8. https://www.kings.co.nz/gardening-news/growing-fruit-trees-in-clay-soils

9. https://www.growveg.com.au/guides/growing-vegetables-in-clay-soil/

10. https://empressofdirt.net/best-vegetables-clay-soils/

11. https://www.hunker.com/13406959/crops-that-grow-well-in-clay-soil 

12. http://www.provident-living-today.com/Types-of-Soil.html 

13. https://www.burkesbackyard.com.au/fact-sheets/in-the-garden/gardening-tips-books-techniques-and-tools/soil-type-test/

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