Dre Campbell Farm
65 Plants You Can Grow in Clay Soil

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65 Plants You Can Grow in Clay Soil

If your soil is sticky when wet or cracks when it’s dry, chances are you’ve got clay soil. But don’t worry; there are plenty of plants that will thrive in this type of soil.

However odd it may sound, clay is one of the best soil types for your garden. Because its particles are much smaller than those of other soil types like sand, silt, or loam [1], its distinctive qualities make it ideal for plant growth.

Overall, clay soil is great for certain plants because of its water-holding capacity. Plus, it holds on to nutrients very well. With proper care, you don’t need to use as much irrigation or fertilizer.

Vegetables That Grow Well in Clay Soil

Clay soil can be a challenge to garden with. However, some vegetables do very well in this soil type.

These 14 veggies are among the best crops for clay soil.

  • Broccoli
  • Potato
  • Lettuce
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Chard
  • Squash
  • Cabbage
  • Kale
  • Beans
  • Carrots
  • Pea (snap and cowpeas)
  • Daikon Radish
  • Pumpkin
  • Cauliflower

However, please keep in mind that some vegetables, like pumpkins, don’t do so well with too much moisture. So make sure your soil drains well.

Additionally, some veggies like full sun, while others grow best in the shade. So be mindful of this when organizing your garden.

Herbs for Clay Soil

If you’re looking to add some herbs to your garden but have clay soil, no worries! There are still plenty of options for you. Check out this list of 14 herbs that grow well in clay soil.

  • Wormwood
  • Mint
  • Yarrow
  • Sage
  • Dill
  • Lemon balm
  • Parsley
  • Lavender
  • Calendula
  • Fennel
  • Hyssop
  • Chives
  • Saint John’s Wort
  • Valerian

Flowers That Grow in Clay Soil

If you’re worried that having this type of soil means you can’t have a beautiful flower garden, don’t be!

Clay soil is great for growing a variety of beautiful flowers. Check out our list of 21 flowers that will thrive in this type of soil, including some tropical plants and bee-friendly flowers.

  • Hosta
  • Roses
  • Bee Balm
  • Butterfly Bush
  • Daylily
  • Aster
  • Coneflower
  • Iris
  • Black-Eyed Susans
  • Chinese Lantern
  • Cup Plant
  • Sedum
  • Elder
  • Joe Pye weed
  • Helenium
  • Phlox
  • Balloon Flowers
  • Coral Bells
  • Foxglove
  • Goldenrod
  • Perennial Sunflowers

Trees and Shrubs

Here are 16 of the best shrubs and trees that will thrive on clay soil.

  • Birch
  • Alder
  • Crab Apple
  • Hawthorn
  • Laburnum
  • Tamarack
  • Snowberry
  • Holly
  • Willow
  • Japanese Red Maple
  • Hornbeam
  • Elm
  • Common Lilac
  • Buttonbush
  • Nannyberry
  • Cotoneasters

The Best Perennials for Clay Soil

Goldenrod, asters, bee balm, Russian sage, daylily, purple coneflower, and yarrow are all great choices. These beautiful plants do well in clay soil, and they’ll keep coming back year after year.

What about Hydrangeas?

The best soil for your hydrangea is one that drains well and is loamy and fertile. If you’ve got clay soil, though, no worries. You can still supply your plants with what they need by amending the soil with compost or other organic materials.

Issues With This Soil Type

Clay soil may not be the ideal choice for gardeners, but there are still some plants that don’t mind growing in it.

The worst thing about clay is that it tends to get waterlogged due to poor drainage. This can be a bit of a problem for some plants, limiting oxygen to their roots and hindering growth.

This type of soil is also slow to warm up in the spring, compacts easily, and is heavy to dig, but it still works well for some plants.

Improving Heavy Clay Soil

You can improve most clay soils with time and effort. However, the most important issue to tackle is bad drainage. This is especially true when standing water is present.

Organic Matter

Get your hands dirty and turn that soil over, incorporating lots of organic matter as you go. Doing so will greatly improve the quality of this soil type.

Coarse grit, compost, manure, and leaf mold are all great options to get started. Spread out two to three inches of any of these materials and fork them into your garden bed.

Garden Lime

You can also improve this soil type with a little calcium. This will help the clay particles form clumps and improve drainage.

However, note that this technique works best on acidic soils. So, if you’re not sure of your soil’s pH level, pick up a testing kit from your local garden store or get one online.

Read more on how to use garden lime for your plants.


Who knew that gypsum could do so much for your lawn and garden? Not only does it improve soil structure and relieve compaction, but it also adds essential nutrients like calcium and sulfur. And unlike lime, it doesn’t affect your soil’s pH.

Moreover, if you want to keep veggies such as tomatoes and bell peppers healthy and free from blossom end rot, add some gypsum to your garden. This will help ensure that they’re getting enough calcium, which is essential for preventing this disorder.

See also: 71 Plants for Sandy Soil


Clay isn’t just for mud pies. Many plants do very well in it. Sure, it can be dense and heavy, but it’s also incredibly fertile. Clay also holds water really well, so your plants will never suffer from drought. If you choose the right plants, they’ll thrive in clay soil.

Andre Campbell

Organic farmer and co-founder of Dre Campbell Farm. He appreciates everything in nature—sunshine, plants, animals, and human life.

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