The Q&A Archives: How Do I Make Things Better on Limited Budget?

Question: Although the HD website put me in Mid-Atlantic region, I am actually bordering Connecticut and in the New England area on your map. I have clay soil and live in a heavily treed area. A lot of spots get partial sun and a few maybe 3 - 4 hours of sun. Have tried many kinds of plants (mostly perennials) and don't see them after 2 to 3 summers. Can't afford to do large scale soil amendment. What can I plant in my area that would do well in clayish to clay soil? I have a great spot for some shrubs that receives only partial sun. Thank you for whatever suggestions you may have for me. Madelyn Novak

Answer: Your zip code puts you in zone 5 so we'll concentrate on plants that are hardy to at least that degree of cold. Since you have more shade than sun, I've chosen plants associated with woodland gardens. Most will grow in clayish soils. If you can add some compost, at least to the planting areas at first and then try to mulch over the top of the ground around the plants each spring, you can dig that organic matter into the soil at the end of each growing season. Each time you incorporate organic matter into the soil you'll effectively improve your clayey soil. Here are some suggestions for planting:

Monarda didyma (Bee Balm) Blooms June to August. Scarlet flowers attract hummingbirds. Well-drained to moist soils.

Dicentra spectabilis (Bleeding-heart)Pink flowers on drooping spikes. May to June.

Aquilegia hybrida (Columbine) Many cultivars to choose from.

Primula veris (Cowslip) Spring blooming plants. Many different types. Grows well
in shade.

Hemerocallis fulva (Daylily) Orange-red mid-summer blooms on 6-foot spikes.
Tolerates a variety of soils. Sun or partial shade.

Epimedium grandiflorum (Long-Spur) Partial shade. Red to white flowers in spring. Dense foliage with bronze fall color.

Shrubs include:

Abelia grandiflora (Glossy Abelia); Pink flowers in late summer. Bronze fall foliage.

Berberis thunbergii (Japanese Barberry); Profuse flowers and red fruit. Grows well in a variety of soils.

Myrica pensylvanica (Bayberry); Adaptable to poor, sandy soils. Aromatic plant parts.
Female plants bear gray berries. Semi-evergreen.

Aronia arbutifolia (Red Chokeberry); White flowers and red berries. Fine red fall
Grows in moist soils.

Symphoricarpos orbiculatus (Coralberry) Especially noted for their white, fleshy berries.

Sambucus canadensis (American Elderberry); Edible berries attractive to birds. Grows in moist and wet soils.

Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Nana Aurea' (False Cypress, Dwarf Hinoki); Evergreen foliage. Many sizes and forms from which to choose.

Hope these suggestions are helpful.

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