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Avatar for EmilyEm
Feb 8, 2020 12:40 PM CST
Oregon
Hi! I'm an apartment dweller in Oregon. I've been growing some native plants in the large bed next to my front door, with limited success. Although this bed gets full sun, its clay soil is very damp. In fact, it's sprouted mushrooms in places.

My neighbor has hydrangeas that are thriving in this soil. I've got a camellia bush that's doing well as well as a happy copper beech bush, excited borage, a thrilled fern, and some thriving bulbs coming up.

I also planted heuchera, kinnikinnick, butterfly bush, and evergreen huckleberry. (Yes, I know this is a lot and perhaps aesthetically questionable, but I'm trying to help birds, butterflies, and bees.) The heuchera has all but died, even though it supposedly loves clay, as has the butterfly bush. The evergreen huckleberry and kinnikinnick are alive, but they haven't grown in months.

I think the plants are dying because of the dampness, but I'm not sure. I'm in Zone 8/9. I'm wondering what I can plant in this bed that will flourish. My preference is for native plants, or at least plants that are helpful to butterflies, songbirds, etc. Any advice would be heartily appreciated!
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Feb 8, 2020 2:25 PM CST
Name: Big Bill
Livonia Michigan (Zone 6a)
GROW ORCHIDS!!!
Bee Lover Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge) Orchids Region: Michigan Hostas Growing under artificial light
Echinacea Critters Allowed Cat Lover Butterflies Birds Region: United States of America
You won't get much to grow unless you improve the soil. A drastic over haul is needed. Just how many square feet is the bed?
Taught classes on Orchids and Orchid growing and led hundreds of bird walks. Retired Wildlife Biologist.
Avatar for oneeyeluke
Feb 8, 2020 3:44 PM CST
Name: one-eye-luke US.Vet.
Texas (Zone 8a)
Quitter's never Win
Birds Cat Lover Dog Lover Hummingbirder Organic Gardener
White Flower Farm, has a plant section called, "Plants for Moist Soil" give them a try they have about 12 different flowering plants for wet soil.
NOT A EXPERT! Just a grow worm! I never met a plant I didn’t love.✌
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Feb 8, 2020 4:02 PM CST
Name: Diana
Southeast Missouri (Zone 6a)
Cat Lover Vegetable Grower Enjoys or suffers hot summers Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Region: Missouri Irises
Canning and food preservation Hibiscus Dog Lover Daylilies Enjoys or suffers cold winters
Rose Mallows (Hibiscus moscheutos and others) are native bog plants. They are tall and lanky. The Hardy Hibiscus cultivars derived from them include smaller more compact plants with huge blooms. They can tolerate wet feet just fine.
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Feb 8, 2020 4:45 PM CST
Name: Lee-Roy
Bilzen, Belgium (Zone 8a)
Region: Belgium Composter Region: Europe Ferns Hostas Irises
Lilies Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge)
Heuchera's are woodland plants and fry in full baking sun.

You might want to try:

Perennials:

Iris sibirica, ensata (if moist at all times as you say)
Rodgersia (if moist at all times, even tolerates waterlogging)
Astilbe
Aster sp.
Rudbeckia
Astranta
Kniphofia
Geranium sp.

Shrubs/trees:

Cornus sp.
Buddleja

Bulbs:

Leucojum aestivum
Galanthus nivalis/elwesii
Fritillaria meleagris
Narcissus (less so than the above mentioned)
Avatar for EmilyEm
Feb 8, 2020 8:37 PM CST
Oregon
BigBill said:You won't get much to grow unless you improve the soil. A drastic over haul is needed. Just how many square feet is the bed?


Unfortunately, I'm a renter, so I don't think I'd be permitted to do anything too drastic.
Avatar for EmilyEm
Feb 8, 2020 8:38 PM CST
Oregon
Thank you for all of your amazing suggestions!
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Feb 8, 2020 8:45 PM CST
Name: Bea
Zone 8b Oregon (Zone 8b)
Amaryllis Heucheras Keeps Horses Hostas Houseplants Hummingbirder
Hydrangeas Keeper of Koi Lilies Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Region: Pacific Northwest Ponds
EmilyEm...Also easy and hardy shrubs love Oregon weather. There are so many varieties. They are available in Mini and medium sizes.
Rhododendrons
Azaleas
I’m so busy... “I don’t know if I found a rope or lost a horse.”
Last edited by bumplbea Feb 8, 2020 8:46 PM Icon for preview
Avatar for LarryCrutchley
Feb 8, 2020 10:23 PM CST
Maryland
Irises
EmilyEm

Welcome!
Avatar for luis_pr
Feb 9, 2020 11:56 AM CST
Name: Luis
Hurst, TX, U.S.A. (Zone 8a)
Azaleas Salvias Roses Plumerias Region: New Hampshire Hydrangeas
Hibiscus Region: Georgia Region: Florida Dog Lover Region: Texas
If you are a renter, be on the lookout for landscape companies given generic comments that may result in them cutting/pruning plants that should not be pruned. You may suddenly find your plants cut in half or deciduous plants cut all the way down. Ask the owner if you can put a sign that says do not prune.
Avatar for Rubi
Feb 9, 2020 12:31 PM CST
West Central Minnesota (Zone 4a)
Hummingbirder
Arico said:

Iris sibirica, ensata (if moist at all times as you say)



If this is what's commonly known as Siberian Iris, I'd definitely agree with this recommendation. I've got them planted by my drainspout, and they're growing like weeds!
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Feb 9, 2020 2:44 PM CST
Georgia (Zone 8a)
Region: Georgia Enjoys or suffers hot summers Dog Lover Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge) Birds
Hummingbirder Butterflies Bee Lover Garden Art
Swamp hibiscus
Siberian Iris
Juncus
Spiderwort
Canna Lily
Northern Sea Oat

I have these in a clay bed that floods and they do fine.

Dwarf wax myrtle is a shrub I have read does well in wet clay.
Avatar for Dirtmechanic
Feb 9, 2020 8:57 PM CST
canada 4b (Zone 8a)
EmilyEm said:Hi! I'm an apartment dweller in Oregon. I've been growing some native plants in the large bed next to my front door, with limited success. Although this bed gets full sun, its clay soil is very damp. In fact, it's sprouted mushrooms in places.

My neighbor has hydrangeas that are thriving in this soil. I've got a camellia bush that's doing well as well as a happy copper beech bush, excited borage, a thrilled fern, and some thriving bulbs coming up.

I also planted heuchera, kinnikinnick, butterfly bush, and evergreen huckleberry. (Yes, I know this is a lot and perhaps aesthetically questionable, but I'm trying to help birds, butterflies, and bees.) The heuchera has all but died, even though it supposedly loves clay, as has the butterfly bush. The evergreen huckleberry and kinnikinnick are alive, but they haven't grown in months.

I think the plants are dying because of the dampness, but I'm not sure. I'm in Zone 8/9. I'm wondering what I can plant in this bed that will flourish. My preference is for native plants, or at least plants that are helpful to butterflies, songbirds, etc. Any advice would be heartily appreciated!


It is actually air that is lacking. The soil will drain, but the durn clay particles being so fine and packing when wet is the first and worst issue. Because it is so dense, it takes a lot of compost to balance it. One good shovel of dense clay weighs about as much as an entire bag of black kow compost. Anyway, the secret is to go up like a planter but leave the clay bottom open. Think tall borders. Tall enough to help feeder roots breathe. You can pry and shovel the plants up redo their soil if they are not too big.
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Feb 9, 2020 10:09 PM CST
Name: Heather H
Richmond, Va (Zone 7a)
I would think that if you are allowed to plant in this spot, which means you have certain " rights" to the area, ( if you are allowed to plant in that spot,you gotta dig a little)that you could dig out some of that clay,shovel it into a bucket or bag and replace it with topsoil, soil conditioner and compost. A large bag of each mixed into the clay would drastically improve the growing areas soil and ability to grow different plants
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Feb 10, 2020 4:31 AM CST
Name: Lee-Roy
Bilzen, Belgium (Zone 8a)
Region: Belgium Composter Region: Europe Ferns Hostas Irises
Lilies Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge)
HeatherH444 said:I would think that if you are allowed to plant in this spot, which means you have certain " rights" to the area, ( if you are allowed to plant in that spot,you gotta dig a little)that you could dig out some of that clay,shovel it into a bucket or bag and replace it with topsoil, soil conditioner and compost. A large bag of each mixed into the clay would drastically improve the growing areas soil and ability to grow different plants


Placing a different (read: more draining) soil type on top of another doesn't leviate drainage problems. In fact it enforces them because of the formation of a perched water table. Mixing the two is totally out of the question. To improve drainage on a clay soil by incoorporating 'sand' you'd need ATLEAST the same amount in volume to make a difference over the ENTIRE area. A waste of time, effort and money.
Mixing organic matter into the soil doesn't help long term either. It will decompose eventually, making the soil sink back to the original level causing problems for your planted stuff and in the mean time might even cause anaerobic conditions futher down.
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Feb 10, 2020 7:44 AM CST
Name: stone
near Macon Georgia (USA) (Zone 8a)
Garden Sages Million Pollinator Garden Challenge Plant Identifier
I'd be planting some of those wonderful pacific coast iris that we can't grow here...

Also... how about some nice blackberries?
Last edited by stone Feb 10, 2020 7:45 AM Icon for preview
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Feb 10, 2020 8:45 AM CST
Georgia (Zone 8a)
Region: Georgia Enjoys or suffers hot summers Dog Lover Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge) Birds
Hummingbirder Butterflies Bee Lover Garden Art
I forgot one. Swamp Milkweed

Here's my garden last year:
Thumb of 2020-02-10/Hamwild/1e6924
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Apr 20, 2020 9:34 AM CST
Name: Debbieo
Florence Al (Zone 7a)
Million Pollinator Garden Challenge
Geez louise. I have the same problem with my soil. I moved NW Al and now have "chirt". Oh my. I have gardened in clay soil in Atl Ga successfully. But this has me crying the blues. I have no rich uncle and the money it would take or the labor is huge and beyond my reach.
I am trying hardy hibiscus this year.
Successful with milkweed. I have killed a variety of plants in the last few years.
I see way too many containers in my future.
Sighing!
I am searching roadsides for what works Crying
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Apr 20, 2020 10:14 AM CST
Name: Rob
Portland, OR (Zone 8b)
Native Plants and Wildflowers Region: Pacific Northwest
The Lewis mock orange is a nice, native shrub with beautiful white flowers that smell of citrus. Bees love it, and it will grow just about anywhere. The scientific name is philadelphus lewisii.
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Apr 20, 2020 12:39 PM CST
Name: Diana
Southeast Missouri (Zone 6a)
Cat Lover Vegetable Grower Enjoys or suffers hot summers Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Region: Missouri Irises
Canning and food preservation Hibiscus Dog Lover Daylilies Enjoys or suffers cold winters
Cranberry Crush breaking dormancy in red clay muck and rocks in the drainage area next to the driveway:
Thumb of 2020-04-20/DraDiana/dae803
The really healthy looking green thing in the background is dandelions. Thumbs down
Some blue-eyed grass is surviving in the ditch, plus a couple of volunteer holly hocks. I had a wild type daylily "ditch lily" volunteer there until I moved it. It doesn't require much weeding - most weeds don't like it.
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