This question is accompanied by this previous question...

Did my Dogwood die because it was planted with wire around the roots?

So clearly my two dead Dogwood trees didn't do so hot in clay. The previous landscaper recommended them and planted them but just tossed a bunch of clay on top of the root ball and sent me the bill. When I asked about why they quickly became so sickly he accused me of not watering them and refused to follow up on his guarantee to replace any dead plants in the first 2 years. I watered them for hours everyday when it didn't rain and they were pretty sickly that first year regardless. They never came back the next spring. The previous answers to my question suggested that Dogwoods just don't do well in clay so I blame my landscaper for not knowing better when he was clearly aware of the clay situation.

I dug them out as well as about 10 other dead plants and shrubs he originally planted, and I wanted to put the following plants in their place.

  • Green seed rollouts of Lavender
  • 2 Crepe Myrtle's
  • A bunch of small flower plants that won't come back next year

Any advice to ensure the best success with these plants?

  • 1
    From your description, it sounds possible that you actually overwatered them, especially since you have clay soil that holds water well.
    – michelle
    May 5, 2015 at 12:45
  • We have nothing but clay where I live and we did have a dogwood we planted die. From what I see on the property, though, they grow rampant in the woods. It's more like they're easily shocked in direct sunlight and can die. I did read somewhere that they grow differently if planted under the shade of another tree vs in full sun. It really affected growth rate, final size, and the like. We do have a couple of dogwoods my grandfather had planted and they did well in full sun and were very healthy.
    – Dalton
    May 5, 2015 at 18:45

1 Answer 1


First, Cornus varieties do very well in heavy, clay soils, so your gardener wasn't wrong about that. Some varieties prefer neutral to acid conditions, others neutral to alkaline, and you haven't said which you were growing. Secondly, they also like rich, fertile soil, so its not clear whether your soil was enriched or emended prior to planting with humus rich materials such as well rotted animal manure. If your landscaper simply dug a hole in solid clay and planted them, it's possible the roots were sitting in water all the time because solid clay is not free draining; if you just dig a hole in it without digging the whole area first, that's where water ends up, in the hole you've made, so that might have caused a problem.

As for the plants you've now mentioned growing, Lavender hates heavy, wet soil - it likes light, free draining conditions. Crepe Myrtle grows well in most soils, except heavy, wet ones - it also likes free draining conditions.

As for 'bedding' plants, the temporary visitors, again, it depends which ones you want to grow and the actual condition/preparation of your soil. Adding as much humus rich material as humanly possible as often as possible will help with heavy clay soils, as will the addition of horticultural grit by the truck load (if you have a large garden), dug in.

  • I just want to add, about the crepe mrytles, that my entire county is nothing but clay, which is very heavy and isn't well draining. You see a Crepe Myrtle around every corner and we have a few ourselves. They seem to do very well in those conditions. I amended the soil upon first planting and mulch them, but I haven't watered them since that first year and they're getting bigger and bigger.
    – Dalton
    May 5, 2015 at 18:47
  • Good, that means either the clay isn't so awful you can throw pots with it, or you emended it very well... so if the area you want to plant crepe myrtles is similar, then they should be okay.
    – Bamboo
    May 5, 2015 at 18:57
  • I basically dug a pretty substantial hole, gouged the sides so the roots wouldn't slip around and around the clay 'bowl' of the hole, and cut the dirt 50/50 with miracle grow potting soil. I mulch it in and fertilize it with a 10-10-10 once a year. I watered it frequently the first year, and none since.
    – Dalton
    May 5, 2015 at 19:52

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