Plants that Thrive in Clay-Heavy Soil

GardenWise on Clay-Heavy Survivors

Some areas are lucky to have clay-heavy soil, something I think about often as I work often in the clay heavy soil of Northern Virginia.   I use the word lucky because I have the opportunity to share some of the most beautiful clay heavy soil survivors, with blooms that will take your breath away.  Below are some suggestions for those with clay-heavy soil, beginning with the irresistable Blue Cornflower.

Blue Cornflower (Centaurea cyanus) These brilliant flowers are what memories are made of — rare among “blue” flowers as they are actually blue.  They are delicately fragrant and drought tolerant.  This flower has a lot of history — it’s the national flower of Estonia,  was used in Pharaoh Tutankhamunand’s funeral wreath, and was President Kennedy’s favorite flower, worn by John Kennedy Jr. at his wedding to honor his father. 

Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) These plants (herbs, actually) do very well in clay-heavy soil, are drought tolerant,  and come in a variety of colors — the  purple blooms will stop you in your tracks.  They will break up soil as they grow, and are a favorite among those who practice herbal health as they have been known to boost the immune system. 

Daylily ( Hemerocallis) A must grow for anyone with clay-heavy soil, they do well in a wide range of soil conditions, come in a variety of wonderful colors, and are rugged.  They also establish quickly, grow vigorously, and survive winters with little care.  

Liriope (Liriope muscari) With spikes of tiny violet-blue flowers, this grass-like plant is named after the nymph Liropie, mother of Narcissus.  The plant is a member of the lily family, has dark green, ribbonlike foliage that recurves toward the ground, and does very well in soil with clay.   

Coreopsis Verticillata or Tickseed is a plant that is very tolerant of clay and its disc florets and ray florets are bright yellow that will make you smile from ear to ear, even on a not so sunny Fall day. 

• Black Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia) is the Maryland state flower and a cheery perennial with bright yellow petals that surround black centers. It’s a striking flower that does very well in clay soil. Plant them en masse and enjoy the show!

Shasta Daisy (Leucanthemum x superbum) With its classic daisy appearance of white petals around a yellow disc, they are attractive to bees and birds, and are drought-tolerant.  They do well in clay-heavy soil and have cheery blooms.