Plants for full sun and heavy clay soil

Heavy clay soils tend to hold moisture longer than loamy soil, which could lead to root rot for plants not accustomed to clay soil. Amending the soil with 2 to 3 inches of organic matter may help. Flowers, trees or shrubs started in clay soil at the nursery or in nature are the best choice for transplanting into clay soil. Afternoon sun may cause flowering plants in any soil type to droop, but they should perk up by morning. The following landscaping plants are suitable for clay soil


Shrubs suitable for full sun and clay soil include spirea, abelia (shown above) and lilac. Spirea and abelia send individual cane shoots from the ground. Small leaves cover each cane. Spirea produces scented flowers that bloom in the spring while abelia’s scented flowers do not appear until mid-summer and last into early fall. Plant spirea in USDA map planting zones 5 to 9 and abelia in USDA zones 6 to 9. Cut overgrown shrubs to the ground.

Lilac tolerates clay soil and full sun. Grown in USDA map planting zones 5 to 9, this highly fragrance shrub may produce white, lavender-blue or lavender-pink blooms depending on the variety.


Deciduous trees that tolerate clay soil and full sun include red horse chestnut and hornbeam. Red horse chestnut produces pinkish blooms in the spring and can reach 80 feet tall. Plant red horse chestnut in USDA map planting zones 6 through 9. Hornbeam, which can reach 40 feet in height, grows well in USDA map planting zones 5 through 9. The branches of the hornbeam tree are dense and tend to grow more upright than horizontally.

Conical shaped evergreens trees like false cypress and Norway spruce can reach a height of 50 to 60 feet. The boughs of each tree reach out or slightly upward while the branchlets (the stems holding the needles) droop as the tree ages. Plant false cypress in USDA map planting zones 5 through 11 for and Norway spruce in USDA zones 3 through 8.


Many landscaping flowers will grow in clay soil and all can benefit from amending the soil with organic matter. Black-eyed Susan is a perennial that produces yellow blooms from summer into fall. Daylily comes in many colors including yellow, burgundy and orange. Plant black-eyed Susan or daylily in zones 5 through 9 of the USDA plant hardiness map.

Daffodil, a bulb, provides color in the spring. The trumpet shaped blooms may be bi-colors or solid colors of white, yellow or orange. Plant daffodil in zones 4 through 9 of the USDA plant hardiness map. All these perennials can add a pop of color to landscape design projects.

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