My Earmarked PlantsSend to a Friend

Clay tolerant trees and shrubs for heavy problem soils

A range of trees and shrubs will be quite happy on heavy clay soils, in fact many will positively flourish on heavy clayey soils. Such trees, having adapted to the limitations that come with very heavy and compacted, and often water logged soils. The benefits of such heavy clay soils is the intrinsic fertility that comes with the majority of clay rich soils. By planting larger plants such as trees and shrubs you could actually help improve wet heavy clay soils over many years, making the soil easier to plant and grow as trees and shrubs root through the clay and improving drainage while eventually creating a looser more plantable topsoil layer.

It is always sensible to stake and tie trees securely and always dig in plenty of compost and fertilizer into the planting pit to give the young plant a good start. This is especially important with heavy clay soils which can be water-logged and cold in the winter months, only to dry and crack in the winter months.

When planting dig a large planting pit and incorporating plenty of well rooted compost -as well as maybe some washed sand into the base of the planting pit - will really help trees and shrubs get off to a good start. A regular surface mulch of compost will also help introduce humus into the clay, making topsoil behave more like soil and less like something you might make crockery out of.

Click on an image or plant name to view the full plant profile
Click Image for
Full Profile
Latin &
Common Name
EarmarkType & FormFlowers & Foliage
Abelia X grandiflora - AbeliaAbelia X grandiflora

Shrub, Ground cover, Rounded - BushNon-flowering
Euonymus europaeus - Red Cascade - Ornamental SpindleEuonymus europaeus

'Red Cascade'

Ornamental Spindle
Tree, Container-friendly, Rounded - BushWhite flowers (Spring)
Pyracantha coccinea - Jaune - FirethornPyracantha coccinea


Shrub, Ground cover, Rounded - BushWhite flowers (Summer early)
Rubus cockburnianusRubus cockburnianus Shrub, Ground cover, Rounded - BushNon-flowering
Syringa vulgaris - Madame Lemoine - LilacSyringa vulgaris

'Madame Lemoine'

Shrub, Rounded - BushWhite flowers (Summer, scented)
Viburnum plicatum - MeriesiiViburnum plicatum

Shrub, SpreadingWhite flowers (Summer, scented)
Magnolia kobus - MagnoliaMagnolia kobus

Tree, Container-friendly, Rounded - TreeWhite flowers (Spring)
Cotinus coggygria - Smoke tree, Venetian sumachCotinus coggygria

Smoke tree, Venetian sumach
Tree, Shrub, Rounded - BushDark pink flowers (Summer late)
Malus hupehensis - Hubei Crab, MalusMalus hupehensis

Hubei Crab, Malus
Tree, Rounded - TreeRed flowers (Spring)
Betula albo-sinensis - Septentrionalis - BirchBetula albo-sinensis


Tree, EllipticalNon-flowering

You can use our plant-finder to find plants that match your garden conditions exactly, for example Clay tolerant trees and shrubs for heavy problem soils - click to give it a try!

Have you seen our other plant top ten recommendations?