The Q&A Archives: Trees for Screen that Tolerate Wet Clay Soil

Question: Our back yard at our new house overlooks a very busy street, and for drainage reasons was sited more than 6 feet above the level of the back of the lot - about 90-100 feet from the back door. We would like to plant trees for privacy along the back fence. The soil is heavy clay, and everything drains to that area, so it is almost always moist, if not downright muddy. Poplars are the first thought that comes to mind, although we're near the Rocky Mountain foothills and get tremendous wind. On the other hand, maybe the succering will replace trees the wind removes?

Answer: I think you're already on the right track. Poplar species have traditionally been used for windbreaks and they also like water and are rapid growers. (Think about the lines of cottonwood trees you see approaching old ranches or running along creek beds.) Lombardy poplar (Populus nigra 'italica') is usually available at nurseries. Another possibility might be a maple, as they like a good supply of water. Hedge maple (Acer campestre) might be available in your area. Check with a reputable nursery--they often know what works best under local conditions. If possible, stick with natives or trees that have developed a good track record in your area. Good luck!

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