Plants for Clay Soil

Clay soil can be hard to dig over and work, but with the addition of some organic matter when preparing the site and choosing the correct species - it is one of the best soils for growing things in so dont despair!

Hedges For Clay Soil – So often you hear gardeners lamenting about wanting to grow x, y and z plants in their gardens only to qualify it with ‘but we are on clay’, as if it is some kind of soil borne deficiency or shortcoming. The thing is – clay really is an excellent soil for growing so many plants in, its just brilliant holding much more water than other soil types in dry weather and nutrients are also held more strongly within it keeping them available for your plants to take up instead of being leached out by rain. Whenever you improve a clay-based soil with fertilisers, composts or mulches – the benefit of these improvements are reaped for longer than most other types of soil.

Excuse me for waxing lyrical, it can also be frustrating dried out and cracked like badly laid concrete in Summer and resembling a paddy field in Winter – we know all of this from experience at Hopes Grove Nurseries because the nursery is on clay here in Kent!

The thing is, having grown in it for almost 30 years now I can confidently say that the good outweighs the bad. By choosing how and when you work the soil, and by adding plenty of organic matter such as compost or well-rotted manure it can be greatly improved giving success with any of our hedges for clay soil. If drainage is a real problem, try adding some coarse grit as well. If you are determined to have a hedge species that prefers dry conditions such as Yew or Beech and drainage is a problem, you may even like to consider installing some perforated drainage pipe to get rid of excess water. (Or take a look at our list of recommended hedging plants for wet sites)

Ideally try to dig the soil over before planting when it is moist – not too wet and not too dry. In summer (concrete conditions!) this may be easier with a soaker hose to moisten the line of your new hedge. Its also worth preparing the site ahead of time if you can, this way the soil will ‘weather’ letting air into it and making it easier to work when you plant.

If you arent sure how to prepare the site and plant a hedge we have a useful guide to hedge planting (and we send you a printed copy with your plants so you have it handy)

With most hedges for clay soil it is well worth putting a good thick mulch on after planting to stop the surface drying out and cracking during the summer, this can be a major problem for new hedges planted on clay. The only hedging plants that don’t benefit are Lavender and Yew hedging plants, both of these species prefer drier conditions and the mulch can sometimes prove to be a little bit too effective causing root diseases.

Clay soils will sustain a very wide range of hedging plants from our popular Native Hedgerow Mixes that include a wide range of species such as Quickthorn or hawthorn, Hornbeam, Field Maple, Blackthorn, Hazel, spindle and Wild Crabapple to name just a few.

More ornamental plants for informal hedges for clay soil such as Mock Orange, Snowberry and Forsythia hedging plants or Viburnum Tinus with the pretty leaf colour, flowers and berries will all thrive.

For evergreen hedges for clay soil you can do no better than the superbly majestic English Yew, (provided of course that drainage is ok) or the faster growing Thuja Plicata Atrovirens, or for security cover as well as evergreen there is the thorny Pyracantha hedging or the slow growing prickly Holly hedge plants. All types of Leylandii hedging conifers will grow in clay soils.

Laurels will usually grow very successfully on clay soils where they appreciate the moisture that is available during the warm summer months, if the soil is particularly heavy its worth knowing that both the Caucasica Laurel and the Portugal Laurel hedges are more tolerant to harsh planting conditions than the more commonly planted Cherry Laurel hedge.

Both Beech hedging varieties will normally make good hedges for clay soil provided they aren’t waterlogged during the Winter, if the site is particularly wet you may be better advised to choose Hornbeam hedge, a similar plant that retains its brown leaves during the Winter but doesn’t mind having wet feet.

Lonicera will also tolerate clay soil and with its tiny evergreen leaves and tight structure provides a dense impenetrable structure which can be clipped to a tidy formal hedge. Most of the smaller ornamental hedges will also thrive, for example Box hedges, Lavenders (again with improved drainage if needed) along with Euonymus hedging varieties and Potentillas.

If you need any further information about hedges for clay soil, please call our friendly and knowledgeable sales team on 01580 765600 or drop us a line through our contact page.