I live in central Scotland, which is a bit damp, and the soil in my garden, despite years of aerating, adding sand etc is still quite a thick clay soil.

When it is sunny I get sun all day long, so plants that take root seem to grow well, but I find it very hit or miss as to which ones work. (Hebes, Hostas, Cotoneasters, Willows all work well, as do some climbers, but Roses, Firs have trouble. As you'll see from my previous post, grasses, clover, daisies etc love it:-(

Is there any guidance as to which ones might thrive in this environment, or perhaps some early care recommendations. Ideally plants favourable to bees, birds such as finches and tits and wildlife in general.

3 Answers 3


My experiences with clay: My area (Fairfax, VA) is completely fine clay from the surface to deeper than you can dig and gets 44 inches of rain a year, but is probably a lot warmer than your climate in the summer. I would describe my area as lush, except for short cut yards in the heat of the summer, with high undergrowth in the forests and vines on everything. Clay can be very nutritious, so perhaps you can control certain properties to get it to work better for you. I have had success with lilacs, ceders, maple, azaleas, boxwoods, dogwood, ivy, hastas, ornamental apples, roses, a healthy nutall oak, and various perennial bulbs. First, get pH and fertility testers and alter pH with lime if needed to target the preferred alkalinity of each plant. My roses take the most work. I have been replacing clay around them slowly with 1/2 compost. You probably have more rain and drainage problems than I do. One tree-planting trick that is used around here when planting a root ball is to not just dig a hole, but to dig a hole and a trench for drainage, which in extreme cases is turned into a french drain but more typically filled with something more porous like some rocks and then top soil. Once a transplant has put out roots it is fine from then on. Also, when in doubt people add organics and pearlite to the soil to improve drainage as well. Clay can bind around sand pretty tightly.


The soil in my area is light and sandy (easy to dig, but less able to retain water and nutrients - quite a challenge during dry spells!), so, unfortunately, I can't speak from experience. However, you may find the following articles helpful:

Top Ten Plants for Clay Soil

Plants for Clay Soil

Top Ten Plants for Heavy Clay


I know people living in areas with heavy clay soil and the only trees surviving there are plum trees. It seems that plum trees grow in soil with up to 50% clay.

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