En EspaŅol
Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Mr. Smarty Plants - Plants that will grow in clay in North Carolina

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
4 ratings

Friday - March 14, 2008

From: Durham, NC
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Soils, Grasses or Grass-like, Herbs/Forbs, Shrubs
Title: Plants that will grow in clay in North Carolina
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have a small fenced back yard, predominately hard red clay, that is a major focal point. I am designing my own garden/yard area (to cut cost) and have a list of plants that will grow in this soil with minimum care. Could you please recommend plants or small bushes that will both survive the soil (or lack thereof) and maintain some beauty during the winter months? Thank you for your assistance and your website. I have to comment that I love your name as well.

ANSWER:

The important thing is that you use native plants, especially plants native to your area. They are already accustomed to your soil, your average annual moisture, etc. Furthermore, they will need less (or no) fertilizer. And clay soil is not all bad-it tends to have more nutrients in it than sandy soils. Improving clay soil can be a long-running project, involving getting more organic matter into it, not so much for nutrition, but to help the clay particles separate and allow for more drainage. Providing good drainage, such that water does not collect and stay around roots, as is often the case with clay soils, is essential. We found this article from Fine Gardening magazine on Improving Clay Soils. It was written by Keith Baldwin, who mentions living in the Piedmont. The best we can figure out, Durham is also located in the Piedmont, a plateau which crosses several states, so his experience with clay soils seems to apply to your situation. His solutions are pretty labor intensive, and the article is fairly long, but it would be worth your while to absorb some of his suggestions and modify them to suit your energy and time levels. Another, less intense article, Clay Busters, lists some native plants that will grow in clay soil. We are going to give you a list of plants that will grow naturally in your area, most of which are on the Clay Busters list and all recommended for North Carolina. We've added a couple of native grasses, which are often overlooked but are valuable for adding texture and shape to a perennial garden. When you click on the plant name, it will take you to a webpage describing the optimum conditions for each plant; all that we have selected are perennials.

Finally, here is a list of Native Plant Suppliers in North Carolina. Many more commercial nurseries are now offering at least some native plants, and you can probably find one in your area.

Flowering Perennials

Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly milkweed)

Coreopsis lanceolata (lanceleaf tickseed)

Echinacea purpurea (eastern purple coneflower)

Monarda fistulosa (wild bergamot)

Penstemon digitalis (talus slope penstemon)

Rudbeckia triloba (browneyed Susan)

Shrubs

Rhus glabra (smooth sumac)

Amelanchier arborea (common serviceberry)

Erythrina herbacea (redcardinal)

Physocarpus opulifolius (common ninebark)

Grasses

Andropogon gerardii (big bluestem)

Sorghastrum nutans (Indiangrass)


Asclepias tuberosa

Coreopsis lanceolata

Echinacea purpurea

Monarda fistulosa

Penstemon digitalis

Rudbeckia triloba

Rhus glabra

Amelanchier arborea

Erythrina herbacea

Physocarpus opulifolius

Andropogon gerardii

Sorghastrum nutans

 

 

 

More Soils Questions

Flowers for sunny and shady gardens in Cedar Hill TX
March 30, 2010 - Last year I spent way too much on flowers for my sunny and shady flower beds. They all died from the heat, even after constant watering. What flowers could I plant in sunny and shady flower beds that ...
view the full question and answer

Growing non-native Cabernet Sauvignon vines in Central Texas
July 01, 2013 - Hi. I recently moved into a remodeled home in Taylor, TX, and have experimented with Cabernet Savignon vines before. I have a 1/2 acre and a chain-link fence I want to put vines on. (I have a book o...
view the full question and answer

Use of fresh clippings from tree trimmers for mulch in Austin
May 02, 2010 - Hi, The tree trimmers are in my neighborhood (east central Austin) to clear the power lines and said I can have a load of free mulch. I am wondering if there is any harm in using the fresh mulch from...
view the full question and answer

What soil to plant native plants in Huntsville TX
April 14, 2010 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, I recently purchased several plants at the Spring Plant Sale and would like to know when planting them, what type of soil should I use. I typically use partial native soil an...
view the full question and answer

Fertilizer amounts for native perennials in Belton, TX
March 18, 2009 - I am a novice gardener and need advice on how to fertilize my native perennials. I would like to use organic fertilizer and need advice on exactly what to use. I have a compost pile but it does not ...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center