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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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

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Friday - October 02, 2009

From: Leavenworth, IN
Region: Midwest
Topic: Compost and Mulch, Herbs/Forbs, Shrubs, Trees
Title: Plants for clay soil in Leavenworth IN
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I live in south central Indiana; the soil is very bad clay, either hard as a rock or mud. I have made several raised beds but am still having problems with plants rotting. What types of plants work here?

ANSWER:

We can certainly give you guidelines on plants native to your area; however, even putting in plants perfect for the climate and rainfall will not solve the problem of the clay soil and drainage. A couple of questions to ask yourself: First, what did you use to make the raised beds? Did you amend the soil with compost or other organic material to improve the drainage? Clay absorbs water and swells up, drowning the little rootlets in it that are trying to access nutrients from the soil. If you just dug the same dirt out of the ground and piled it up to make a raised bed, you have defeated the purpose. Second, we are asking you a question similar to the one that you asked us. What plants are you using? If you are planting plants not native to your area, or plants that will not tolerate clay, or are not hardy to your winter temperatures, every one is a strike against your garden. Read these articles with recommendations on raised beds and compare what you have already done to see if you need to make any changes.

Penn State Agricultural Information Service Raised Garden Beds Offer Many Opportunities

From the magazine Popular Mechanics How to Build and Install Raised Garden Beds

Now, on to plant suggestions. We will go to our Recommended Species section, click on Indiana on the map, and then select, in successive searches, on "herb" (herbaceous blooming plant), "shrub" and "tree" under General Appearance or Habit. You can repeat this search putting in the specifications in your own garden, such as Light Requirements and Soil Moisture. When you follow the links to the page on each individual plant, notice the preferred soils under Growing Conditions. Selecting plants native to your area will help to ensure that they are suited to your climate and soils; the list we are giving you is just an example of the many plants that will work for you. Your location on the southern border of the state is apparently in USDA Hardiness Zones 6a to 6b, with average annual minimum temperatures of -10 to zero.

Herbaceous flowering plants for Crawford County IL

Coreopsis lanceolata (lanceleaf tickseed) - evergreen, blooms yellow April to June, medium water use, sun, part shade or shade

Geranium maculatum (spotted geranium) - blooms pink, purple March to July, medium water use, part shade or shade

Shrubs for Crawford County IL

Cephalanthus occidentalis (common buttonbush) - evergreen, blooms white, pink June to September, high water use, part shade or shade

Physocarpus opulifolius (common ninebark) - blooms white, pink May and June, low water use, sun, part shade or shade

Trees for Crawford County IL

Fraxinus pennsylvanica (green ash) - medium water use, sun, part shade or shade

Ilex verticillata (common winterberry) - evergreen, high water use, sun, part shade or shade

From our Native Plant Image Gallery


Coreopsis lanceolata

Geranium maculatum

Cephalanthus occidentalis

Physocarpus opulifolius

Fraxinus pennsylvanica

Ilex verticillata

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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