Shrubs that do well in clay soil images

Top Recommended Shrubs for Clay Soil

Plants like clay a lot more than gardeners do. I feel rather smug about my sandy soil which is light, easy to dig and drains freely.

However, when I see how well so many plants look growing on clay my attitude changes. Clay soils might be heavy to work and a bit challenging, but they are fertile and lend a good deal of support and anchorage.

Many shrubs grow well on clay soils, especially the popular deciduous flowering shrubs: deutzia, philadelphus, weigela, forsythia and ribes for example.

The level of nutrients in the soil means that supplementary feeding is rarely required for good flowering and performance. However I would still recommend an annual feed with a slow-release general fertiliser for best results.

On heavy clay shrubs are a natural choice because major cultivation of the soil is rarely required after planting, just the removal of weeds around the plants.

An occasional mulch of composted bark, garden compost, or well rotted manure will benefit the plants and gradually improve the soil structure.

Roses love clay, as do many other members of the rose family such as pyracantha and cotoneaster. The larger growing shrub roses planted with informal evergreens, such as Cotoneaster franchettii and Pyracantha ‘Teton’ are ideal in country gardens with a bit of space.

With all year round interest a combination of this type makes a good screen or backdrop. I do encourage gardeners to think of shrub roses just as they would any flowering shrub and to use them accordingly.

Rosa ‘Bonica’ for example has healthy green foliage, few thorns and will bloom repeatedly though summer and into autumn with little attention from you. Growing it on a clay soil means that its even lower maintenance.

The vigorous shrub Leycesteria formosa grows just about anywhere and succeeds well on clay, even on damp sites. The tall arching, hollow stems are sea-green.

The flower clusters hang from the branches from early summer through to autumn, claret red bracts interspersed with small white flowers.

These are followed by shining purple fruits loved by pheasants, hence the common name: “Pheasant Berry”. Look for the variety Golden Lanterns with soft golden yellow leaves. It’s perfect to brighten up a shady corner.

Leycesteria is ideal to plant with red-barked dogwoods.All cornus grown for their winter stems do well on clay and are also valuable for sticky, wet sites.

A combination of these two plants with symphoricarpus, the snowberry is ideal where gardening is impossible, on a heavy clay bank for example.

When it comes to evergreens those hardy favourites come to the fore: choisya, aucuba and Viburnum tinus. All of these do well in sun as well as shade and provide important structure on the heaviest of soils.

Mahonias also do well on clay and provide cheering winter and early spring colour. Their yellow flowers combine well with the golden variegations of spotted laurels.

Clay soils are often neutral to acid and in these conditions the hardy hybrid rhododendrons will thrive. R. ‘Cunningham’s White’ is an old variety with dark green foliage and the palest mauve flowers that fade to white.

It is incredibly hardy and will even tolerate slightly alkaline conditions. For a dark red ‘Nova Zembla’ is a great choice: upright growth with deep red, weather resistant blooms.

All deciduous magnolias grow well on clay. For smaller gardens Magnolia stellata is the natural choice and it performs reliably with a wonderful display of starry, shining blooms from early spring. The grey, catkin-like buds are attractive in winter.

For larger spaces choose one of the cultivars of Magnolia soulangeana, however this grows best in neutral to acid clay.

For late summer flowers the hardy hibiscus are reliable, even if they are late to break into leaf at the beginning of the season. They grow well on clay, the foliage stays green and healthy and the flowers can be superb. Hibiscus syriacus ‘Hamabo is one of the best.

Other good shrubs to grow on clay soils:


Planting on clay can be difficult

It is really important to dig as large a planting hole as you can. Mix plenty of planting compost with the soil before you replace it around the plant to acclimatise the roots to their new home.

Clay soils can dry out and bake hard in the summer. Early autumn is therefore the best time to plant, to give the shrub longer to establish. Planting in spring may be difficult if the ground is wet and heavy.

Do remember that shrubs grown on clay have great stability, the weight of the soil keeps the roots firm and the plants rarely suffer from wind-rock. When shrubs are established little further maintenance or cultivation is needed.

A well known gardener said: “If you have free draining acid, sandy soil, plant rhododendrons; if you have chalk plant clematis; if you have clay move!”

What he should have said was: If you have clay, you will have to make the best of it by choosing the right plants.

I always emphasise that if you say “clay” with a smile on your face it sounds so much nicer.

We hear it all: too much water, not enough water, too much light, not enough light. We get it; it’s difficult to decipher the needs of plants.

We’re letting you in on a little secret: you can look like you have a green thumb by simply choosing plants that refuse to die. Here you have it from the pros—our list of 10 plants you can’t kill, no matter how hard you try!

Air Plants

Not only are they uniquely cool looking, air plants don’t even need soil to grow! “These are pretty simple to keep alive,” Shannon Fleming-Barnhardt, ProPlants Merchandise Product Manager, explains. “Simply soak them at least once every two weeks and keep them indoors in indirect light.” Water every two weeks? Sounds perfect for all you forgetful waterers out there.


The bright red, heart-shaped blooms on anthuriums pretty much last forever with very little effort required. They do best in bright, indirect light and don’t like continually moist soil. “You should really only water these plants when the soil looks dry, which ends up being approximately once a week (if that),” says Fleming-Barnhardt.


“You really couldn’t ask for anything easier than bamboo,” says Fleming-Barnhardt. “Just put bamboo in water and make sure you replace it with clean water every once in a while.” Lucky bamboo also requires very little light, making it a perfect indoor houseplant or office plant. Plus, it helps up your Feng Shui game—who doesn’t want that?


“These are really cool plants,” says Fleming-Barnhardt. “You actually don’t water the soil; you just water inside the top of the plant and let the water pool there.” The drought-tolerant bromeliad only needs to be watered when the top two inches of soil feel dry. These beauties make great indoor or outdoor plants.


These robust plants with bright, cheery (and long-lasting) flowers require very little maintenance—in fact overwatering is actually its number-one killer. Kalanchoes thrive in partial sun and grow well when repotted. “I potted these at my house without a drainage system in place and they continuously bloom over and over with little to no water,” Fleming-Barnhardt explains. “It’s amazing.”

Money Tree

Like the sound of it already? You’ll like it even more when you see how easy money trees are to maintain. “These trees do best in full and partial sunlight and should stay indoors,” suggests Fleming-Barnhardt. “They don’t like continually moist soil, so that means you shouldn’t water it until the soil looks dry, which ends up being around once a week (if that).”


We know…you’re cringing right now. Fleming-Barnhardt says, “Now I know a lot of people have issues with orchids, but they’re super easy if you just simply ignore them.” She continues, “I typically soak my orchids once every two weeks and keep them in indirect sunlight. That does the trick!” You can also try a simple ice cube trick once a week for watering. Orchid blooms last 8 to 10 weeks on average when treated right.

Peace Lily

These plants are almost impossible to kill, and they add such lush, vibrant greenery to the home. “They literally tell you when they are hungry by drooping,” says Fleming-Barnhardt. Many peace lily owners will simply wait until the plant’s leaves droop before watering, which actually works really well to prevent over-watering. “So just pay attention and you can’t really kill this sucker,” she explains.

Pothos Plant

You really can’t go wrong with this houseplant. Pothos plants aren’t picky about where they live indoors (just don’t put them out in direct sunlight all the time). “They can live in dry soil if you neglect them, and in wet soil if you over water,” Fleming-Barnhardt says. Sounds like a dream come true!


Wildly popular these days for their diverse beauty, and also for their drought-resistant qualities, succulents are a must-have for just about everyone. This low-maintenance plant requires very little watering, as it’s not a fan of having continually moist soil. Keep your succulents in bright, indirect light, and water whenever the soil looks completely dry—easy peasy.

Are you someone who cannot keep a plant alive to save your life? Do you have green-thumb envy? Is your home devoid of all pretty plant life for fear they will come back from the dead to haunt you someday? No need to worry about killing your houseplants any longer. Give any of these super easy plants a try, and then you can start bragging about your gardening skills.

14 cut flowers to grow in your garden

There’s nothing like a vase of freshly-cut flowers and there’s nothing like growing the flowers yourself. Discover 14 flowers that make the cut.

1. Kangaroo paw

Anigozanthos manglesii

Colourful and distinctive, kangaroo paw is one of the most recognised and rewarding natives you can grow and it makes an excellent cut flower. Varieties like Bush Pearl and Bush Pizzazz flower year round, while taller varieties push their energy into a shorter but no less dazzling flush of flowers from mid-spring to early autumn. Discover more kangaroo paw varieties.

2. Camellia

With their short stems and big blooms, camellias are the perfect pick for a shallow vase or bowl. Sasanqua camellias flower from late summer to winter while camellia japonica will illuminate your garden from winter to spring. With huge variations in flower size, colour and shape, the hardest part will be picking a variety. Learn more about sasanqua camellias and japonica camellias.

3. Tuberose

Polianthes tuberosa

Blooming from late summer to autumn and sometimes winter, tuberose brims with pretty, creamy-white flowers and an intense, elegant scent that is used in some of the world’s best perfumes. The bulbs are easily grown in pots and the star-shaped flowers grow along the stem, making tuberose a wonderful addition to a tall vase. Discover 21 plants for a fragrant garden.

4. Hydrangea

The most popular hydrangea variety you’ll find growing in Sydney gardens is the macrophylla hydrangea. This species is split into two camps: the mopheads, which burst forth with globe-shaped flowers and the lacecaps, which have flat flower heads. Both will look equally beautiful in your home. Before they go into your vase, bash the base of the stems to help the flowers take up water and last longer. Learn more about hydrangeas.

Pictured left to right: camellias, hydrangeas

5. Leucospermum

When it’s not sold as a protea by florists (who don’t want to confuse customers with the long Greek name), leucospermum is often confused for a leucadendron. But unlike proteas and leucadendrons, which have showy bracts around their flower heads, a leucospermum flower is the star of the show. The beautiful, pincushion-like flowers are brilliantly coloured in red, orange or yellow and appear from spring to early summer. Learn more about leucospermum.

6. Protea


Big, bold and beautiful, proteas have distinctive flowers with a central boss surrounded by tough outer petals. These dramatic flowers are ancient plants linking our flora with that of South Africa. Varieties with some of the biggest blooms include King Pink and King White. Little Prince is a compact form – a good choice if you have a courtyard or balcony garden. Learn more about proteas.

7. Dianthus

Set against silvery-green foliage, dianthus features frilly, tufted white, pink, red or mauve flowers. Many dianthus boast two-coloured petals that are laced, flecked or picotee (an outer margin of another colour, usually red). Fragranced varieties will fill your home with a spicy clove-like scent. When picking flowers, break the stem off near the base of the plant. Learn more about dianthus.

Pictured left to right: proteas, leucospermum

8. Bouvardia humboldtii

With lush green leaves and clusters of crisp white blooms appearing from summer to autumn, bouvardia humboldtii not only makes a beautiful cut flower, it also boasts a spectacular fragrance. Bouvardia humboldtii can be grown in a pot, both indoors and in the garden, and it also makes a great addition to garden beds and borders. Discover more fragrant plants for your garden.

9. Roses


There are literally thousands of roses to choose from, but the best varieties are long-lasting with straight stems and a powerful scent. You might like to try Mister Lincoln, a hybrid tea rose with rich-red flowers. There’s also Thank You, a deep pink variety or The Children’s Rose, which has powder pink petals. For something different, the Abracadabra rose is an extraordinary blend of red and yellow stripes. Discover more rose varieties.

10. Lily


The large stunning flowers of the lily are a florist staple, but why not grow your own? Like tulips and daffodils, lilies need leaves to build up nutrients for the next season’s flowers, so when cutting, don’t remove more than one-third of the leaves or the plant won’t be able to rebuild itself to bloom next season. Morning is the best time to cut stems so they don’t wilt. When selecting lilies for cutting, look for stems that have at least a couple of buds that are just about to open.

Pictured left to right: lilies, roses, bouvardia humboldtii

11. Sunflowers


Nothing is quite as cheery as the bright face of a sunflower. In the garden, these captivating flowers turn their heads to follow the sun across the sky. But in your home, it’ll be the sunflowers that turn heads. Avoid placing them in very cold or very hot water. To encourage more blooms, the best time to cut sunflowers is in the early morning, before the flower is fully open.

12. Tulips


Few things are more beautiful than the sight of slender tulip blooms in a vase. Unlike most cut flowers, the less water tulips have in the vase, the better. With too much water, tulips will keep growing and eventually bend and break. Put a splash of bleach in the water – this will keep the water clear and give you fresh, beautiful tulips for up to a week. Planning to plant tulips? Here’s how to plant bulbs step-by-step.

Pictured left to right: sunflowers, tulips

13. Gladiolus

Level up your cut flower game with the showy tall spires of gladiolus. Equally impressive is its range of colours, from the brightest of shades to delicate pastels. Thankfully ‘gladdies’, like most bulbs, are easy to grow. Cut the stem before the blooms have opened, when the first sign of colour appears. Leave about a third of the stem intact and try not to cut too many leaves, as they are what gives the plant nourishment and ensures flowers return next season.

14. Dahlias

With their flamboyant blooms bursting onto the scene from December to May, you can get a lot of bang for your buck with dahlias. Dahlias flower in a spectacular yellows, reds, oranges, pinks and purples and happily thrive in a pot or in the garden. Cutting dahlias also promotes flowering. The best time to pick the flowers is early morning. Place the blooms in water as soon as you cut them.

Pictured left to right: dahlias, gladiolus

The Heartbreaking (and Shovel-breaking) Challenge of Clay Soil

My first garden was one giant mound of clay. I’m not talking the clay-like soil that many gardeners have, but pure, ready-for-the-pottery-studio, dense, unforgiving, relentless, clay.

The problem was, when you’re starting out as a gardener, it’s very hard to know when the challenges are caused by your own lack of knowledge or the conditions themselves.

I spent the first few years assuming I was the problem rather than the unaccommodating evils of a pit of clay.

I tried everything short of frantic dances to entice the gods of soil quality, but, after splitting a few shovel handles in half just trying to dig holes, it gradually dawned on me that my clay situation was a bit extreme.

My daughter making a pottery tea set from our garden soil was the final tipping point. Doh!

That’s when I finally installed raised beds which I now believe are the answer to just about any garden question. Okay, not really, but they sure provide a great work-around for soil problems.

In hindsight, I hate to think of how many years I wasted trying to change the nature of that soil. And don’t even suggest double-digging! No amount of double-digging, amendments, pleading, begging, or bartering is going to alter tonnes and tonnes of clay. It will always return and win.

If you can actually get a shovel in, you may have some hope. My garden rarely allowed such a luxury.

Today we live on a property that is pure sand. Not sandy, or sand-like, or sand-ish soil. Nope! Beach sand. Without the lakefront view. So sandy, in fact, that after 5 years of gardening here I am yet to find a worm or a stone in any of it.

And so the story continues.

If you have great gardening soil, consider it rare and lucky.

And there you go. If you’re going to plant in clay, pick the veggies that give you a fighting chance.

~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛


  • Veggies you can grow in containers
  • Veggies you can grow in clay soil
  • Veggies you can grow in sandy soil
  • Veggies you can grow in drought soil
  • How to Make Compost for a Healthy Garden

Small trees and shrubs for heavy and clay soils

Clay soil can feel like a blessing and a curse. On the plus side it’s very fertile and keeps plants moist. However it can be heavy and hard to work, and can bake solid in summer. Only certain plants will thrive in these conditions.


Any clay soil will benefit from efforts to improve its texture. Mulch generously in spring with well-rotted organic matter, coarse grit or bark – around a barrowload per square metre.

More garden soil advice:

  • Test your soil type (video)
  • 10 flowers for clay soil
  • Mulching beds and borders

In the meantime, you can make a great garden with plants that thrive on heavier soils, including many shrubs and trees. Here are some of the best that will thrive on clay soil.

You can make a great garden with plants that thrive on heavier soils, including shrubs and trees.

Snowy mespilus

Amelanchier flowers

Amelanchier lamarkii is a very beautiful, small, North American tree that is attractive in all seasons, even in winter. In March the branches erupt with a froth of star-shaped flowers in lax conical heads, just as the coppery pink young leaves unfold – they later turn crimson.


Birch tree stems and foliage

Many birches (Betula) are grown for their snowy white bark. They looks stunning all year round, but especially in autumn when the foliage turns yellow and on winter days when they really stand out in the bare garden.

Cotoneaster ‘Hybridus Pendulus’

Cotoneasters can be used in borders or as hedges and can be deciduous or evergreen. They have small, often white flowers, followed by masses of berries in autumn. Opt for one of the Cotoneaster species deemed to be non-invasive in the UK, such as Cotoneaster hylmoei, Cotoneaster amoenus or Cotoneaster rhytidophyllus.

Crab apple

Crab apple blossom

Crab apples are compact trees have beautiful blossom in spring, and are flushed with pretty fruits, plus attractive fiery foliage in autumn. Malus ‘Evereste’ has a pleasingly conical shape, with red fruits.


Rose ‘Suffolk’

Roses thrive on clay soil, and there are many different types to choose from, including rambling roses, climbing roses and shrub and species roses. Discover 10 beautiful roses to grow or browse our plant database for over 250 roses to grow.


Red hawthorn haws

Tough hawthorns are deciduous trees or shrubs, and a good choice for clay soils. Crataegus laevigata ‘Paul’s Scarlet’ is a small tree that has pretty magenta blossom in springtime.


Holly ‘Argentea Marginata’

Common holly is a useful evergreen shrub that can be grown as a specimen tree, clipped bushes or as a hedge. There are dozens of varieties, many with variegated leaves. Discover 10 hollies to grow.

Strawberry tree

Strawberry tree Advertisement

Arbutus unedo is a large, evergreen shrub or small tree, with lily-of-the-valley like flowers in autumn, and attractive, strawberry-like fruits, which are edible but not particularly tasty.

by Matt Gibson

If you live in an area with lots of sandy soil, you’ll need to evaluate your options before you jump into amending your sandy soil with organic matter to get ready for gardening. Once you learn about these 35 plants that thrive in sandy soil, you might decide to keep your well-draining soil and plan your garden around these picks instead.

Often, gardeners who have sandy soil will go to great lengths to amend their garden beds with organic material to try to create a more sustainable habitat for a wider variety of plants. Many plants perform poorly in sandy soil conditions because the porous medium does not hold water or nutrients for very long.

However, despite its less than stellar reputation among gardeners, sandy soil does have advantages of its own. It drains well, it’s easy to dig in, and it’s less susceptible to bacterial and fungal diseases in the garden. Sandy soil also tends to warm up earlier in the spring than other soil types, which can mean new plant life earlier in the season.

Though there are not a ton of plant species that thrive in sandy soil, sand-based soils are much easier to amend than clay soils, and the plants that do perform well in sandy soil habitats are useful, attractive, and require very little maintenance.

So, if you live in an area that has lots of sandy soil, you may want to check out the plants that perform well in your area and plan your garden out to include some of those options. You may find that you only need to amend a few small beds to accommodate your needs, saving you lots of work in the rest of the yard. Or you might embrace your sandy soil completely and create a low maintenance garden that makes the most out of what your property offers. Even if you ultimately decide to amend the majority of your garden space despite the wide array of plants that thrive in sandy soil, you are sure to find one or two plants on this list that you will enjoy growing in the sandy spots of your garden.

Vegetables that Thrive in Sandy Soil

Carrots have tap roots, which means that carrots grow better when their root systems can easily penetrate the ground. That need for depth makes sandy soil a perfect medium for growing carrots. Clods of soil, like those present in clay-based soil types, can impede and disrupt the development of carrot root development.


Like carrots, radishes also have tap roots, which need to be able to easily burrow into the ground. Sandy soils are porous and more malleable than clay-based mediums, so they are therefore suited to be a habitat for radishes, carrots, and other root vegetables.


Potatoes are another root vegetable that thrives in sandy soil. This is mainly because sandy soils have an acidic soil pH balance. Acidic soils eliminate the possibility of scab, a disease that plagues potatoes, often affecting entire crops.


Lettuce, more than many other leafy green vegetables, tends to tolerate the dryness of sandy soils as long as gardeners make sure that plants are watered daily and regularly, never allowing the soil above the roots to completely dry out. Hydration is especially on abnormally hot or windy days.

Collard Greens

Like lettuce, collard greens are able to tolerate the dry conditions of sandy soils better than other leafy greens. Collards also perform well in the early spring, which makes them more suited for sandy soils, which warm up faster than clay-based or loam-based soil types.


Tomatoes are sun-loving fruits that perform exceptionally well in the heat-retaining, well-draining habitat that sandy soils provide. Though they’re sometimes grown as annuals in the summer, tomatoes are usually grown as perennials that are harvested throughout a long growing season.


Zucchini is an annual summer crop and a heavy feeder that enjoys the warmth and excellent drainage of sandy soil habitats. As long as the plant’s fertilizer needs are met when it’s grown in sandy soil, zucchini will produce fruit that can be harvested in abundance.


Like zucchini, corn is a heavy-feeding annual summer vegetable that thrives in sandy soil as long as it is well fertilized.


Grown best from the crowns in a sandy soil medium, asparagus is well-suited to growing in trenches. Use bone meal or rock phosphate to fertilize your asparagus twice per week when growing in sandy soils for the highest yields.


Watermelon requires a longer growing season than other fruits of its type but enjoys the warmth and well-draining environment that sandy soil provides. Just make sure you provide sufficient space between plants for each watermelon to develop, as these plants will only thrive if they are not having to battle other plants for water and nutrients.


Though beans do best in a loose, well-draining soil, such as a sandy one, be sure to add in lots of compost to your sandy soil before planting beans for maximum yield.


Cucumbers need fast-draining soil to thrive, so a sandy medium is a great fit. However, you will need to go the extra mile in providing lots of water and nutrients for your cucumbers to keep them happy. A trellis must also be provided to give the cucumber vine a support to attach itself to and grow upon.

Herbs that Thrive in Sandy Soil

Thyme enjoys the slightly acidic content of sandy soils as well as the excellent drainage. Hardy in USDA zones five through nine, thyme thrives in rocky to sandy soils with full sunlight exposure.


Rosemary loves sandy soil and full sunlight exposure. Hardy in USDA zones eight to 10, rosemary enjoys the excellent drainage and acidic nature of sandy soil.


Like rosemary and thyme, oregano also enjoys the acidity and excellent drainage that sandy soil provides. Most oregano varieties should be planted in full sunlight. Oregano with golden or variegated foliage, however, should be given some shade during the hottest hours of the day, as these varieties are more sensitive to direct sun.

Groundcovers and Perennials that Thrive in Sandy Soil

Oregon stonecrop is a groundcover that thrives in a wide variety of growing conditions. This plant’s drought resistance makes it perfect for sandy soils. Oregon stonecrop grown best in full sun to partial shade and it produces yellow star-shaped flowers that attract butterflies and other pollinators.

Moss Phlox

Moss phlox grows well in just about any poor soil condition, but it especially flourishes in sandy or gravelly soils. Moss phlox is a groundcover that reaches about six inches in height and sprouts red, purple, and white flowers that attract butterflies.


Catmint is a fragrant, flowering perennial that is hardy in USDA zones three through 10. Its stunning blooms attract bees and butterflies—not to mention cats.


Lavender grows in USDA zones five through nine, and lavender plants perform well in sandy soils and drought-like conditions. Lavender is resistant to deer and rabbits and is also a great attractor for bees and butterflies.


Artemisia is a low-growing, ground-covering perennial that loves sandy soil. Grown primarily for its beautiful and fragrant foliage, the artemisia doesn’t flower, but if you brush one of its leaves gently, it emits a strange and delicious aroma.


Like most succulents, sedum is suited to hot, dry conditions, making it a great candidate for sandy soils. Available in countless varieties in nurseries, most sedums are tiny groundcovers that are perfect for rock gardens.

Annuals and Bulbs that Thrive in Sandy Soil

Armed with dense, plump roots that store water for plants to use during times of drought, daylilies are the perfect plants to grow in sandy soil conditions. Though it is not a very fragrant plant, the daylily’s beautiful blooms make up in appearance what the flowers lack in aroma.


Salvia is drought tolerant and well suited to sandy soil environments. These showy annuals quickly grow to one or two feet in height, adding streaks of vibrant color to your garden beds with spikes of pronounced red, purple, and blue flower clusters.

Giant Allium

Massive purple flowers shaped like pom-poms sprout atop a single stalk with very little foliage. The flower stalks tower three to four feet above the ground, making giant allium a showstopper in the back row of sandy flower beds.

Sweet Alyssum

Forming a low mat around four to six inches in height and two feet wide, sweet alyssum makes a lovely pink, purple, or white bed of color on your sandy garden floor.

Flowering Shrubs that Thrive in Sandy Soil

Adaptable to most any soil type, including sandy soils, the butterfly bush is a great choice for a flowering shrub that will draw the eye of passersby. The butterfly bush adds a swatch of color to the garden with its white, purple, or pink towering flower cones.

Siberian Pea Shrub

The Siberian pea shrub is cold tolerant and adaptable to dry, sandy soils. It’s bright yellow flower display is a sight for sore eyes in mid-summer.

Rose Of Sharon

This easy-to-grow shrub makes hibiscus-like flowers in the late summer months. It requires lots of water for ideal production when grown in sandy soil, but Rose of Sharon’s rose, white, or purple blooms are well worth the extra effort.

Red Chokeberry

Red chokeberry grows heartily in all soil conditions, including boggy and sandy types. Ranging from six to 10 feet tall when fully mature, red chokeberry’s white flowers, ornamental berries, and dark green foliage (which turns red in the fall) combine for a pristine display of the beauty of nature.

Flowering Quince

Native to China, flowering quince produces spiny twigs and scarlet-red blooms that appear before the leaves emerge. Flowering quince can reach heights of six to 10 feet in well-draining soil.

Evergreens that Thrive in Sandy Soil

Reaching two to three feet in height, evergreen spurge is a versatile plant that can adapt to just about any growing condition, as long as it has a well-draining soil. Evergreen spurge is adored for its yellow bottlebrush-style flowers.

Western Sword Fern

The Western sword fern is a shade-loving evergreen that thrives in sandy soil. Growing as high as four feet tall, the western sword fern doesn’t flower, instead producing thick fronds of leathery-looking foliage.

Trees that Thrive in Sandy Soil

The silk tree, also called the mimosa tree, takes five to seven years to reach full maturity, when it averages 30 feet high. A natural fit for sandy soils, the silk tree is a fast-growing deciduous tree with a lot of personality.

Black Locust

Black locust trees show bare branches that sprout fragrant white clusters of flowers in the early spring, followed by finely cut foliage, then decorative seed pods. Black locust trees tend to grow very quickly, even in sandy soils.


Eucalyptus is native to Australia, which is famous for its sandy soil. Though there are many varieties of eucalyptus tree available, all of them are fast-growing shade trees that produce a pleasing minty odor.

Videos About Sandy Soil

This short video highlights eight of the 35 plants we featured in this article, also offering a few growing tips for each featured plant:

This film from natural farmer John Kaisner explains how to use weeds to amend and improve sandy soil:

Just want to know which grass will perform the best in sandy soil environments? This tutorial video will show you how to grow grass in sandy soil while spotlighting several grass species that will thrive in sand soil types:

Want to Learn More about Sandy Soil?

Birds and Blooms covers Top 10 Plants for Sandy Soil

Garden Lovers Club covers Sandy Soil Plants

LoveToKnow Home & Garden covers Plants That Thrive in Sandy Soil

SFGate Homeguides covers List of Crops That Grow in Sandy Soil

SFGate Homeguides covers What Flowers & Plants Grow Well in Sandy Soil

Plants for different soil types

Most fruit and vegetables prefer neutral to slightly acidic pH soils.

Your favourite plants don’t seem to thrive in your garden? Check your soil – its structure, acidity and fertility have a major impact on what will or won’t grow.

Here we take a look at soil – what it is, how you can assess yours, and what you can grow in acid or alkaline ground.

What is soil made of?

Your soil is the foundation for all plant life in your garden.

Take minerals from rocks, organic matter in the form of rotted manure and vegetation, and organisms – bugs, bacteria and worms that help to aerate and condition your veg patch – and what you get is soil. The foundation and nutrient source for all plant life in your garden.

What kind of soil do I have?

Dark peat soil on the island of Harris, in Scotland.

Different geology, topography, and weather conditions mean each of us has a unique mixture of minerals, organic matter and organisms in our patch. That said, your soil will share similar characteristics with neighbouring gardens and will reflect the general makeup of soils in the area.

Soil type Properties
Clay soil Full of minerals, this soil is fertile but quickly gets cold and waterlogged in winter, and during the summer, bakes to a crust. Sticky mud you can roll into a sausage is a clay soil.
Silt soil Like clay, silt is fertile, holds water and is easy to compact. Unlike sticky clay, silt soils have a silky consistency.
Sandy soil Sandy soil has much larger mineral grains than clays and silts. It’s free draining and thanks to the air trapped within it, sandy soil is also warmer than either clay or silt. However, it tends to be low in nutrients, dries quickly, and is often acidic. Sandy soil is gritty and crumbly in texture.
Chalky soil The consistency of this soil varies considerably depending on its precise makeup – some are heavy, some quite light, but all chalky soils tend towards alkalinity.
Peat soil Full of dark organic matter, peat soils hold a lot of water.
Loam Combines elements of sandy, clay, and silt soils to produce the best of all worlds, a soil that’s moist, fertile and drains well.

Acid and alkaline soils

A simple test kit from your garden centre will help you measure the pH of your soil.

You can measure the acidity of your soil using a soil test kit available from all good garden centres. A pH value of 7 is neutral – less means your soil is acidic, more makes it alkaline. A soil additive may make a temporary difference to the pH of your soil, but in general, good gardeners grow the plants best suited to the soil at their disposal.

Acid soils

Beautiful Rhododendron bushes and Magnolia trees thrive in acidic soil in a Cornish garden.

If there’s a lot of organic matter breaking down in your soil, it will tend to have a lower pH value. But just because your soil is a little on the acidic side doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can grow in it. On the contrary, slightly acidic soils support a wide variety of plantings:

  • • Magnolias – like neutral to acid soils, and are adaptable enough to grow in any moist, well drained loam. Those with clay or silt soils should improve their soil to stop it getting waterlogged.
  • • Rhododendrons – love acid soils, and prefer moist ground, but won’t cope well with water-logging.
  • • Heather – likes damp, peaty soils which makes it ideal for acid ground.
  • • Camellias – woodland plants originally from Japan, China and Korea, Camellias like moist peaty acid soil best, but do grow in other soils provided there’s plenty of organic matter, and adequate drainage.

Alkaline soils

Arches of scented honeysuckle and lavender love the alkaline soil of this English country garden.

Soils which contain significant quantities of chalk or limestone have a higher pH value – they’re alkaline soils. And while adding organic matter will help balance the soil over time, you’re probably better off growing some of the wonderful plants that thrive in chalky soil:

  • • Lavender – wonderfully aromatic and a mecca for bees, lavender loves free-draining chalk soil.
  • • Honeysuckle – another bee-friendly plant that smells divine, sun-loving honeysuckle thrives in fertile soil with good drainage.
  • • Lilac – like fertile, well-manured soils that drain easily. These low-maintenance plants require little more than an occasional prune, and like a sunny spot in which to thrive.
  • • Verbascum – like light chalky soils in full sun, and will reward you with a dazzling display.

Remember – depending on what it needs, there are lots of things you can do to improve your soil’s structure and fertility. All it takes is a little elbow grease and time.

Have you experimented with soils? If you’ve any top tips for getting the most out of your soils, head over to our Facebook page and share them with our gardening community.

10 flowers for clay soil

Clay soil has its advantages – it’s very fertile, and it keeps plants well supplied with moisture. However, it can be claggy in winter, and baked solid in summer, and only certain plants can survive these conditions.


Any clay soil will benefit from efforts to improve its texture. Mulch generously in spring with well-rotted organic matter, coarse grit or bark – around a barrowload per square metre. Watch our video on mulching beds and borders.

Not sure what soil your have? Find out your soil type.

In the meantime, you can make a great garden with plants that thrive on heavier soils – here are some of the best plants for clay soil.

Clay soil has its advantages – it’s very fertile, and it keeps plants well supplied with moisture. 1

Roses thrive on clay soil, and there are different types to choose from, including rambling roses, climbing roses and shrub and species roses. Discover 10 beautiful roses to grow or browse our plant database for over 200 roses to grow.



Mostly yellows and tawny oranges, the lily-like flowers of hemerocallis (daylilies) open in succession all summer. Avoid expensive or weak-looking hybrids, as they tend to be too fussy.



Both our native foxglove, Digitalis purpurea, and cultivated forms grow and self seed on heavy soil, in sun or light shade.


Euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii

Euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii is a bushy perennial that has blue-green foliage all year. It’s topped in spring by lime-green flower heads, adding zing to sun or light shade.



The pale pink flowers and dark purple foliage of Sambucus nigra ‘Black Lace’ are a winning combination. The berries are edible, and are loved by birds, too.


Hydrangea macrophylla

Hydrangea macrophylla has dome-shaped clusters of flowers in blue or pink that smother this blowsy shrub in July and August. Protect from cold, drying winds.


Lychnis coronaria

Choose a sunny spot for the grey-leaved campion, Lychnis coronaria, with its scarlet cross-shaped flowers held on upright stems in summer.



The delicate, frothy flowers of Thalictrum dance all summer long on the tall stems of this perennial, which likes semi-shade.



The flower spikes of persicaria, in shades of pink or terracotta, appear all summer. It’s a great plant for ground cover in sun or semi-shade, and the leaves also provide autumn colour.


Chinese lantern


Grown for its autumn display of papery orange lanterns, which can be dried for indoor displays, Physalis alkekengi var. franchetii is a vigorous perennial that likes sun or partial shade.

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