Native Perennials for Clay Soils

rain Drops on a stem

Last year was the wettest in NJ history and the 2nd wettest year in Philadelphia-area history. We seem to be on track to meet or surpass the goal this year, every month in the spring featured above average rainfall. You are all likely aware of this.

All of this rainfall may have exasperated areas of slow draining soils you may have in your landscapes. These soils may be clay-laden or atop some hardpan or bedrock leaving water no place to go. Regardless of the cause, poorly drained soils and lots of rain can lead a gardener or a landscaper to drink.  We are going to focus on clay soils this time around.

You know if you have clay soils because they get slippery when wet and when dry turn into a cracked, concrete-like substance. First instinct may be to amend the soils, adding organic matter (for the love of everything great in this world do NOT add sand. Sand + clay+ water = actual concrete) to loosen it up and that can be a long-term solution, but it takes time and guess what, plants can help improve the soil as well.

Some general guidelines are to consider plants with taproots, make sure the plants tolerate wet- or poorly-drained soils but will also withstand times of drought, think of that summer concrete! Taprooted plants that thrive in these conditions may also help break up the clay you have.

Some plant options to consider are:





Echinacea purpurea - K V Salisbury







New York Ironweed

New York Ironweed






Have you experimented with any plants that surprised you with their clay soil performance?









  1. […] Echinacea purpurea and cvs– Purple Coneflower […]

  2. […] nutrients to settle and percolate and reducing the need for cultivation. Taprooted plants are often clay soil tolerant because of their ability to break through the […]

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