by One Click Plants June 27, 2024 4 min read

Clay soil is commonly found in areas of the UK that are closest to a freshwater supply. Usually a river, lake or pond. Sometimes it can also be found nearer the seaside in certain areas of the country. It is a compact type of soil and will pose its own challenges to gardeners. However, it is also incredibly nutrient-rich and is capable of holding large quantities of water, which is great for plants that are highly absorbent and require large amounts of watering. The struggles come when choosing the right type of plants to plants in clay soil.

 

In this blog we detail the best gardening tips for gardeners with clay soil in their gardens, and recommend the best types of plants for your clay soil garden.

 

Areas of the UK with clay soil

According to data from the National Soil Resources Institute with information sourced from the LandIS, or the Land Information System there are around 30 distinct types of soil found throughout the map of the UK. Clay soil types are typically found within the South East of England. This includes areas such as Kent. However there have also been clay soil types found further north, particularly within the North East of England across and beyond the Humber.

 

Plants for clay soil

When it comes to planting in clay soil, while it can be more difficult at particular times of year, gardeners still have an array of options to choose from. Some of the best plants for clay soil types include:

 

Hydrangeas

The popular Hydrangea thrives in clay soil thanks to the consistency of the soil and its high level of nutrients that support healthy plant growth. Hydrangeas are great for low maintenance gardeners and will happily grow in a wide variety of settings. Choosing the right type of Hydrangea can make all the difference though. So be sure to check out our range and read into their descriptions to ensure you are able to care for your Hydrangea in the best way possible.

Tiarella

Tiarella are often mentioned when gardeners are searching for clay soil plants. Known as Foamflower, Tiarella are recognised for the shape of their seed head, which is reminiscent of a cone or a rocket, with some varieties being named as such, for example the Tiarella ‘Pink Skyrocket’. Tiarella and its many varieties around the world, are happy to grow in clay soil, preferring full or partial shade, with most types flowering in the summer season.

Hellebore

The Hellebore, also known as Lenten Rose, is a beautiful perennial flowering plant prized for its winter blooms.  They come in a wide variety of colours including white, green, pink, purple and even black! While they prefer well-draining soil, hellebores can actually grow in clay soil as long as you make some adjustments. Clay soil tends to hold onto moisture too well, which can cause root rot in hellebores. Below we have detailed how to prepare your clay soil for the best growing conditions.

Geranium

The hardy Geranium often makes an appearance on our lists, and it’s simply because they are so versatile. They thrive in a range of conditions and offer so much variety in colour and pattern for even an amateur gardener. They are low-maintenance and simply perfect for lining your borders. They will thrive well in clay soil as long as you care for and prepare the soil to ensure the best growing conditions.

 

How to prepare your clay soil for planting

Amending with Organic Matter:

This is the key step! Organic matter like compost, aged manure (avoid fresh manure), or leaf mould loosens the clay particles, improving drainage and aeration. It also adds nutrients and helps retain moisture without becoming waterlogged.

Dig into the planting area and mix the chosen organic matter thoroughly with the existing clay soil. Aim for a 50/50 mix for best results.

 

Drainage Considerations:

For heavily compacted clay, consider adding some drainage material to the planting hole:

Coarse grit (like pea gravel) at the bottom of the hole (2-3 inches) allows water to flow through more easily.

Sharp sand mixed into the amended soil (10-20% of the mix) can also help with drainage, but use it sparingly. Clay retains moisture well, and you don't want to lose that completely.

 

Additional Tips: 

  • Raised beds: If you're dealing with extensive clay soil, consider creating raised beds. These allow for better drainage and provide more control over the soil composition.
  • No-dig approach: In established gardens with clay soil, a "no-dig" approach can be beneficial. Layer organic mulch on the surface instead of digging it in. Over time, worms and other soil organisms will gradually incorporate the organic matter, improving the soil structure.
  • Soil testing: Consider getting your soil tested. This will give you a clearer picture of your clay soil's nutrient levels and potential needs for additional amendments like lime or specific fertilisers.

 

Planting in clay soil in the summer

Unfortunately for gardeners with clay soil, the dry summer heat causes many problems. Since it is a clay consistency, the soil can quickly bake in the sun and become hard and difficult to cultivate. While this is incredibly frustrating, particularly in a season when so many other gardeners are enjoying their summer blooms, all is not lost.

With the right care and attention, it is possible to enjoy your clay soil garden even during the hottest weeks of British summer time.

Digging in plenty of organic matter and mulch will help to preserve the moisture of your clay soil during summer. With the the preparation of your clay soil you should be able to avoid the ground from cracking and drying in the heat.

 

Buy shrubs, perennials, trees and more online

At One Click Plants, our online nursery has stock of a wide range of outdoor plants for your garden. With a variety of plant types and categories you will find plants for all types of gardens including those with clay soil.  And for those gardening beginners, our excellent knowledge hub provides all the information you need to get into gardening and make the most of your borders, pots, containers and baskets.

For more information about our online nursery or to ask about a particular plant, do not hesitate to get in touch with us. Our gardening experts are more than happy to help!



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