The Q&A Archives: Wet clay soil and shade

Question: I have tried for 4 years to get some sort of shrub to stay alive in front of the house. The soil is mosly clay and stays wet all spring. The house faces the north and has about 90% shade. So far the only luck I've had is with hosta's and one boxwood. I have added peat moss and potting soil but doesn't seem to help. Any suggestions would be appreciated. I need atleast 8 shrubs.


Answer: It's difficult to find plants that tolerate clay soils because they remain wet for prolonged periods of time. Amending the soil with organic matter will loosen it and help it drain faster. Failing that, here are a few suggestions for shady spots and clayey soils: Abelia, Glossy (Abelia x grandiflora), Aralia, Fiveleaf (Eleutherococcus sieboldianus), Aucuba, Japanese (Aucuba japonica), Azalea (Rhododendron spp.), Barberry, Japanese (Berberis thunbergii), Barberry, Mentor (Berberis x mentorenesis), Boxwood, Common (Buxus sempervirens), Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis), Camellia (Camellia spp.), Coralberry or Snowberry (Symphoricarpos spp.), Currant, Golden (Ribes aplinum ?Aureum?), Dogwood, Redosier (Cornus sericea), Euonymus (Euonymus spp.), Fothergilla (Fothergilla spp.),
Holly (Ilex spp.), Honeysuckle, Winter (Lonicera fragrantissima), Hydrangea (Hydrangea spp.), Jasmine, Winter (Jasminum nudiflorum), Jetbead, Black (Rhodotypos scandens), Kerria, Japanese (Kerria japonica), Mockorange (Philadelphus spp.),
Mahonia, creeping (Mahonia repens), Mahonia, Leatherleaf (Mahonia bealei),
Nandina, Heavenly bamboo (Nandina domestica), Pine, Mugo (Pinus mugo var. mugo),
Privet (Ligustrum spp.), Spirea, Vanhoutte (Spiraea x vanhouttei), and Sweetspire, Virginia (Itea virginica).

Some of these shrubs can grow quite large so be sure to read the tag on the plant and choose the ones that will fit in your garden. Enjoy!

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