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Ten trees and shrubs for clay soil

Val Bourne / 02 February 2015

Read gardening expert Val Bourne's recommended top ten trees and shrubs that grow well in clay soil.

Magnolia stellata
Surprisingly, magnolias such as this magnolia stellata can do very well on clay soil

Read our guide to improving clay soil and our guide to planting a tree

10 trees and shrubs for clay soil

Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus)
This beech-like deciduous plant can be used as a hedge, or it can be pleached. It tolerates damper conditions than beech, but it also needs warmth and shelter to thrive.

Malus × robusta ‘Red Sentinel’ AGM
Single white flowers are followed by long-lasting red fruits on this small, disease-free crab apple which colours up well in autumn.

Pyrus salicifolius ‘Pendula’ AGM
A grey-leaved mop-headed small tree capable of growing in heavy clay soil.

Ribes sanguineum ‘Pulborough Scarlet’ AGM
The flowering currant produces long strings of red flowers in spring.

Philadelphus species and varieties
Known as mock oranges, these white-flowered, often fragrant, shrubs are very variable in size. Try ‘Beauclerk’ (for its white flowers with a purple tinge) or the similar ‘Belle Etiole’ for its lemon fragrance. Both go well with roses, which also grow well in clay soil.

Visit our Home and Garden section for gardening guides, home improvement tips and much more.

Magnolia stellata
Magnolias do much better on clay that you’d imagine. This is the spring-flowering, starry-flowered magnolia that shrugs off frost due to its strappy petals.

Sambucus species and varieties
There are several dark-leaved forms of elder, including the lacy-leaved ‘Black Beauty’, ‘Black Lace’ and ‘Guincho Purple’.

Viburnum plicatum ‘Lanarth’
A summer-flowering viburnum with hydrangea-like white lacecap flower on tiered branches.

Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’
The red-barked dogwood produces bright lipstick-red stems in winter and there are variegated forms like ‘Elegantissima’.  This will survive in water-logged soil.

Betula nigra ‘Cully’ AGM (syn. ‘Heritage’)
A fine form of the river birch with shaggy brown bark.

Read our suggestions for plants for clay soil

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.