14 Plants That Thrive in Clay Soil

These tough plants won't let dense clay soil stunt their growth.

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Photo By: Photo by Felder Rushing

Photo By: Photo Courtesy of Bailey Nurseries 

Photo By: Photo Courtesy of Bailey Nurseries 

Photo By: Photo Courtesy of Bailey Nurseries 

Photo By: Photo Courtesy of Bailey Nurseries 

Photo By: Photo Courtesy of Bailey Nurseries 

Photo By: Photo Courtesy of Bailey Nurseries 

Photo By: Photo Courtesy of Bailey Nurseries 

Photo By: Photo Courtesy of Bailey Nurseries 

Photo By: Photo Courtesy of Bailey Nurseries 

Photo By: Photo Courtesy of Bailey Nurseries 

Photo By: Photo Courtesy of Bailey Nurseries 

Photo By: Photo Courtesy of Bailey Nurseries 

Photo By: Photo Courtesy of Bailey Nurseries 

Castor Bean

If you need something to make your landscape really stand out, this list will help. These high-impact perennials offer bold textures, bountiful color and rugged durability. They will make a splash to wake up the neighborhood while addressing those mundane spaces in your garden. Castor bean, for instance offers huge, lobed leaves, interesting ornamental fruits and somewhat showy flowers. It's lush foliage adds a tropical look to temperate gardens. Hardy in zones 9-11, and grown as a warm season annual in cooler regions, it may grow to 10' tall in a single season.

Iris

Iris species, including Japanese, Louisiana, bearded and more, tend to perform very well on heavy soil. Different varieties of these sun loving, spring and summer bloomers are available for all parts of North America.

Miscanthus

Ornamental grasses do very well in clay. Choose from dwarf fountain grass, mid-sized silvergrass and switchgrass, or large pampas grass. All of these sun lovers produce beautiful textures, colors and movement in the perennial garden or shrub border.

Heuchera

Heuchera, or coral bells, is a clay soil choice that offers some of the greatest diversity of foliage color of any perennial genus. From "natural" green, to chartreuse, to deep purple, to salmon and more, there is a heuchera to accent any dappled-sunlight garden. In warmer climates they are semi-evergreen to evergreen.

Baptisia

Baptisia, or false indigo, is a large clumping perennial with dense foliage and spring blooms in blue, white or soft yellow. This sun loving legume thrives in clay and adds nitrogen to the soil as well.

Platycodon

Platycodon, or balloon flower, is a low, spreading sun to part-sun lover that blooms repeatedly in summer. This tough plant is a great addition to the herb garden for it's medicinal qualities as well.

Hosta

Hostas are widely planted and universally adored for their foliage color, and texture, as well as their durability. These shade to part-sun lovers offer green, blue-green, golden, chartreuse and variegated patterns on leaves that may be as small as dandelions or as large as elephant ears. And they do well in clay soil!

Aster

For a summer-fall bloomer in clay soil, asters are a good choice. Colors vary from blue, purple, pink, red and white. Asters are sun lovers.

Rudbeckia

Rudbeckia, or Black-eyed Susan, is a favorite of gardeners and pollinators alike. It holds up well under a variety of adverse conditions, and both nectar and seeds (as well as foliage) are favorites of all manner of wildlife.

Perovskia

Perovskia, or Russian sage, offers silver-green, lacy foliage and blue-purple flower spikes from summer through fall that butterflies, bees and hummingbirds adore. This sun lover performs well in clay soil.

Echinacea

Echinacea, or coneflower, is well known for its medicinal reputation. It is a sun lover, summer bloomer, and offers a wide array of bloom colors including white, yellow, purple, pink, orange and lime. In clay soil, it performs like a champ.

Coreopsis

Coreopsis, or tickseed, may be ankle-high or knee-high, and bloom colors range from all shades of yellow, to orange, red and maroon. These sun lovers don't mind clay at all.

Achillea

Achillea, or yarrow, is another sun lover that works well in clay soil. Beginning in late spring, yarrow blooms in colors ranging from white to pink, red and yellow, until mid summer.

Athyrium

Many ferns, including Athyrium (Japanese painted fern, ghost fern and others), are great choices for clay-based shade gardens. Other fern choices for clay include Dryopteris (male fern and autumn fern) and Matteuccia (ostrich fern and sensitive fern). For ferns, prepare the soil well by first turning in a three inch layer of compost before planting.