Clay Soil: Overview and the Best Plants to Grow

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clay soil

Do you know that your garden clay soil is more than just dirt?

When you examine your garden soil closely, you will notice a complete mixture of mineral particles, organic material, living organisms, moisture, and nutrients.

Among the most crucial factors is the ability f your soil to grow plants in its texture.

Moreover, the size of the mineral particles dictates their growth.

An important thing here to understand is the ideal gardening soil is loam or loamy soil.

It is a broad mixture of sand, clay, intermediate mineral particles, and a heavy dose of organic materials.

Thus, depending on the size of the particles, the texture of your garden soil can vary from porous or sandy to extremely dense and resistant to water movement,

Soit of this type is Clay soil and is termed so because its mineral particles are very fine clays.

Keep on reading to learn more about it in detail.

Clay Soil

Clay soil is a type of heavy soil that benefits from high nutrients and it can be very hard to grow a flower and vegetable garden in it.

Soil that contains about 50% of clay particles is referred to as “heavy clay”.

You can simply do a soil test to determine whether you have clay soil or not.

But, if your soil sticks to shoes and garden tools like glue, forms big clots and crusts over and cracks in dry weather, it is clay soil.

While some trees and shrubs can grow easily in it, most annuals, perennials, and vegetables do grow strong roots to fore their way through clay soil.

Moreover, if you are trying to grow spring flower bulbs, then it will be impossible to grow them as most bulbs tend to rot over winter in clay soils.

However, you can make improvements to clay soil.

With some basic information and a well-designed strategy, you can grow flowers and vegetables as much as you want.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Clay Soil

Every type of soil has its advantages and disadvantages.

In the same way, clay soil has its advantages. Because of its density, it can retain the moisture in it.

Moreover, it tends to be more nutrient-rich than other types of soil.

For this reason, the particles that make up the clay soil are negative charges, which means that they attract and hold positively charged particles.

These particles include calcium, potassium, and magnesium.

clay soil 2

On the other hand, in addition to its positive attributes, it also holds some negative attributes.

Some of these are:

Clay soil is slow draining, is slow to warm in spring, and compacts easily, thus making it difficult to plant roots.

Moreover, it has a tendency to heave in winter and to be alkaline in pH.

Improving Clay Soil

Improving the clay soil can be a difficult job, however, the continuous work you do can help to improve the structure of your soil.

Moreover, it can help to make it easier to work with.

Most of the work you will do is upfront, although some annual chores can help to prolong the improvement of the soil.

Therefore, it is best to improve the whole planting area all at other rather than to attempt to improve the soil in individual planting holes.

However, if you dig a planting hole, then drop in the plant, and amend the soil that you are using to backfill the hole.

But you have done nothing more than create an in-ground flower pot.

Gradually, the plant will begin to send the roots that will stop in their tracks when they reach the clay walls of the planting hole.

Thus, you will end up with a root-bound plant that will not grow as large or as healthy as it should.

Steps for the Improvement of Clay Soil

In order to amend your soil, start by defining the growing area of your garden bed.

However, if you are improving an existing bed, you can also dig out plants you want to keep and set them aside until your soil is improved.

On the other hand, if you are preparing a brand new bed, you will need to go through the basics of starting a new garden bed.

To make amendments, you will need to add 6 to 8 inches of organic matter to the entire bed.

Moreover, you can also add any organic matter that you can get your hands on.

Grass clippings as long as you have not treated them with chemicals, shredded leaves. rotted manure and compost all are ideal choices.

clay soil 1

Spread your organic matter on the top of the soil and you will need to mix it into the top of 6 to 12 inches of the soil.

Dig it and mix it with a shower as it moves a lot of earth without pulverizing the soil particles the way tilling can.

However, if digging the earth is hard for you, you can also use a tiller to do the job.

After you are done, your garden bed will be several inches higher than it was before, however, it is not an issue.

It will settle over the course of a season as the organic matter breaks down and will continue to improve as microorganisms work to break down all the organic matter you have added.

You can also plant your flowers or trees immediately.

Plan to add more organic matter in the form of compost once or twice a year as it will continue the process of improving the structure of the soil and offset any settling that happens.

Things to Avoid for your Clay Soil

Most often, you might think to in order to improve the dense clay soil you will need to add the opposite kind of mineral material- sand.

This is because loamy soils are ideal garden soil and is a mixture of sand and clay,

However, it is important to note that when you directly add sand to the clay soil, it will resemble concrete.

Moreover, the reason why loamy soils are great for your plants is that they have a huge ratio of organic material in them which serves as a foundation for the sand and clay soil.

Without this organic material, it can be harmful to your plants.

Thus, in order to improve your clay soils, you will need to add compost and other organic material.

We at Al Ard Alkhadra aims at providing 100% organic fertilizers for your garden beds and plants.

Learn more about them at Natural Products.

Plants you can Grow in Clay Soil

As clay soil is one of the difficult soil to grow plants in, choosing plants to grow in can take some discretion.

This is because clay soil is wet and dense and it can bake as solid as a brick in direct sunlight.

Moreover, it leaves little room for air circulation and water movement for your plants.

However, there are plants that not only can tolerate this type of soil but can also help to break up and improve its texture and drainage.

Though you will still need to meet other growing requirements like sun exposure and hardiness zones, the following are the plants you can grow in clay soil.

1# Arkansas Blue Star or Amsonia Hubrichtii

These delicate willow-like leaves make it a lovely foliage plant for borders.

Place blue star0shaped flowers tend to appear in late spring, followed by attractive seed pods.

However, golden fall foliage rounds out the growing season.

This plant can grow in most types of soil, though it does not like prolonged drought.

arkansas blue star

You will get more flowers if you plant them in full sin, however, they can also handle partial shade and can also grow in hot dry climates.

Moreover, they like soil pH between 6.2 to 7.0 but will grow anywhere.

Make sure to water them regularly and should never dry out.

When the leaves emerge, feed them with a water-based fertilizer, making sure it releases slow.

2# Aster

Aster is late flowering perennials that can take your garden even through the first.

These plants can thrive in clay soils, though they do not need good drainage.

Thus, if you have heavy clay soil, then make sure to plant them in raised beds or double-digging the soil.

Make sure to plant your asters in full sun for the majority of the day as too much shade can cause lanky plants and fewer flowers.


The soil pH for these plants can range from 5.8 to 6.5. however, if your soil is alkaline, you can correct it by adding organic matter.

Moreover, the soil for your aster plants should b most but never saturated and you can also try to water the base of your asters.

These plants are moderate feeders and can do better with a flower fertilizer twice a month.

However, excessive blooming can shorten the blooming then, thus stopping fertilizing them in August.

3# Black-Eyed Susan

As these plants are adaptable and low maintenance, they will bloom for months and live for years.

They will thrive best in full sun, however, they can also handle partial sunlight.

Black-eyed Susans are not very particular about the soi but will do best in soil that is not too rich and is well-draining.

black-eyed susan

Moreover, keep your plants well-watered during their first season to get them established.

Once they establish their roots, they will be quite drought-resistant.

These plants like warmer temperatures for 60 degrees Fahrenheit and more, thus can handle both drought and humidity.

Keep in mind that you should not fertilize them too much as it can make their stems weak.

But you can add compost as a side dressing and this is all they will need.

4# Blazing Stars

These plants have grassy foliage and spiky bottle-brush flowers that bloom over a long period of time.

The flowers are very popular with monarch butterflies and will spend hours feasting on their nectar.

They tend to thrive best in full sun. Moreover, they will grow in any type of soil, with any level of fertility, although quick drainage is important to prevent root rot.

blazing star

Liatris prefer a slightly acidic to neutral soil pH.

After planting them, water them thoroughly and they will need additional irrigations before the plants emerge.

One inch of water a week during the summers will prevent stunted growth and leaf scorch.

Moreover, apply water to the base of the plants or use drip irrigation during the first year.

5# Butterfly Weed

Found in North American, these plants are native perennials and produce clusters of flowers with stunning color combinations.

Moreover, it is attractive to butterflies, as well as bees and hummingbirds.

While planting them, make sure to plant them where they receive bright sunlight daily as they love to soak up the ray.

Full sunlight is ideal for their growth, but the hardy plant can tolerate only a few hours of shade.

butterfly weed

Butterfly weeds grow in a variety of soil conditions and compositions and prefer neutral to slightly acidic pH.

Make sure to maintain a moist soil environment during the first year of their life.

Once the plant is well-established, you can water it occasionally, as it prefers dry soil.

It can thrive well in a variety of temperatures and humidity settings and tolerates heat and drought well.

Low-maintenance butterfly weed does not need additional fertilizers. in fact, it can do more harm than good.

6# Canadian Wild Rye

It is a clump-forming, cool-season grass with a gentle habit of arching.

Although it can be in partial shade, it tends to best in full sun positions.

It is handy that this species is not particular with the type of soil it grows in.

Moreover, they are popular as they are very adaptable and will grow in sandy, gravelly, loamy, clay, or limestone varieties.

However, the one thing it needs is a good drainage system.

clay soil 3

It does not thrive in waterlogged conditions.

Make sure that soil contains consistent and average amounts of moisture to promote growth.

It can also tolerate dry sites and is also drought resistant which makes it a good choice for warm and wide-spreading prairie meadows.

These plants go into dormancy in cold months and also during the heat of the summer.

However, it can cope with a variety of temperatures but appreciates dry, temperate conditions.

Summing it Up

With the help of improvements to your clay soil, you can grow a number of plants, like the above ones.

To make sure the soil is improving, it is a good idea to collect the soil sample and test it for nutritional deficiencies or pH issues. If there are any deficiencies, you can add any organic fertilizers or soil.

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