Plants for Clay Soil

Clay soils are notoriously difficult to work with, being wet, heavy and easily damaged in winter, and baking hard and cracking in summer. With some effort and careful management however, they can support a wide range of healthy and attractive garden plants. 

Contact our Plants team on 01223 842777 for further advice on the plants we have available today. 


Perennials are a good option for adding a hint of colour to your garden displays whilst attracting bees and butterflies. If looked after correctly, these plants will give you a lot back. They will grow back each year ready for the Spring season.

Some of the varieties we offer instore include: 

Aconitum, Actaea, Ajuga, Alchemilla, Anemone, Aquilegia, Aster/Symphyotrichum, Astrantia, Bergenia, Brunnera, Campanula, Chrysanthemum, Crocosmia, Digitalis, Doronicum, Geranium, Geum, Helenium, Helleborus, Hemerocallis, Hosta, Kniphofia, Lamium, Leucanthemum, Ligularia, Lysimachia, Monarda, Paeonia, Persicaria, Pulmonaria, Rodgersia, Rudbeckia, Sedum/ Hylotelephium, Thalictrum


A shrub (or bush) is a small to medium-sized perennial woody plant. Unlike herbaceous plants, shrubs have persistent woody stems above the ground. They are distinguished from trees by their multiple stems and shorter height (less than 6 m-10 m [20 ft–33 ft] tall).Small shrubs, less than 2 m (6.6 ft) tall are sometimes termed subshrubs.

Some of the varieties we offer instore include: 

Aucuba, Berberis, Buddleja, Camellia(ericaceous), Choisya, Cornus, Corylus, Cotinus, Cotoneaster, Erica, Escallonia, Euonymus, Forsythia, Fuchsia, Gaultheria(ericaceous), Hypericum, Hydrangea, Ilex, Leucothoe(ericaceous), Mahonia, Photinia,Phyllostachys, Pieris(ericaceous), Rhododendron (ericaceous), Ribes, Rosa, Salix, Sambucus, Skimmia(ericaceous), Spiraea,Syringa, Viburnum, Weigelia

Challenges & opportunities

Clay soils tend to be heavy, sticky and dense, making them both difficult to dig and prone to damage and compaction. Drainage is usually poor, and clay soils remain wet for longer than other soil types. They are also slow to warm up in spring and can bake hard and crack in summer. Both make for difficult conditions for plants to establish. Clay soils are rich in nutrients however, and once improved and properly managed, a wide range of plants can be successfully grown in clay soils.

Climbers and wall shrubs

Climbers can be great space savers for smaller gardens. They will grow up walls, across trellis's and over unsightly garden features. Wall shrubs will tackle this same requirement, but will require a little more ground space than true climbers. 

Some of the varieties we offer instore include:

Akebia, Chaenomeles, Clematis, Garrya, Hedera, Hydrangea, Kerria, Lonicera, Parthenocissus, Pyracantha, Vitis, Wisteria



A tree is a plant that has a permanently woody main stem or trunk, ordinarily growing to a considerable height, and usually developing branches at some distance from the ground. 

Some of the varieties we offer instore include:

Acer (some), Amelanchier, Betula, Carpinus, Crataegus, Liquidambar, Malus, Sorbus, and more.

Planting and aftercare

Digging is best done on dry days in autumn, once wet, clay becomes compacted and unworkable. Winter frost will also help to break up large solid clods of soil. Adding bulky organic matter will improve the soil structure. When planting, adding a mix of compost and grit to the planting hole may also assist with drainage at the roots. Spread a mulch of bark, manure or other organic matter around plants in spring or autumn. This will also improve the soil as it breaks down, helping to retain moisture and prevent summer cracking.

A member of the Outdoor Plant team can advise on the benefits of different types of composts and help you select the one most suitable for your plants. It is very important to ensure that plants in pots are watered regularly, more so in warm or windy weather.


Bulbs give you a world of opportunity. Every plant and flower will have different requirements when it comes to growing directly from a bulb, so its always best to consult the individual method shown with that bulb. If treated right, you can create a garden from scratch to suit your core desires and invite a wealth of wildlife to join you. 

Some of the varieties we offer instore include:

Camassia, Convallaria, Dahlia, Eranthis, Galanthus, Leucojum, Lilium, Narcissus, Tulipa and many more.

*Not all varieties are suitable, please see a member of our Outdoor Plant team for advice and more information.

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