15 Shrubs for Wet Clay Soil That Will Look Great in Your Garden

A gorgeous pink Rhododendron blooming in a garden, 15 Shrubs for Wet Clay Soil That Will Look Great in Your GardenIf the soil in your yard is predominantly clay, do not let it deter you from growing a luscious, colorful landscape. Because it is so compact, clay soil retains water and nutrients better than other permeable, sandy soils. 

Clay soil can become an asset to your landscape, particularly if you select hardy plants that are not fussy about soil type. You will spend less time digging, watering, and fertilizing and more time enjoying flourishing, clay tolerant plants. 

When it comes to shrubs, we’ve taken the guesswork out of landscaping for you by providing this list of shrubs for wet clay soil. All of these shrub varieties are low-maintenance, highly rewarding plants.

1. Deutzia

No-fuss deciduous shrub, deutzia gracilis, can thrive in a variety of soil and lighting conditions. It makes an excellent choice as an ornamental plant for landscape borders. Plant either in open areas or beneath a wooded shade. Deutzia grows between 2-feet and 5-feet tall and equally wide.

Cascading branches produce dainty, bell-shaped white or pink flowers during spring. Bright green foliage drops during autumn, but empty winter branches remain aesthetically pleasing as peeling bark reveals a brilliant, reddish-orange hue.

Growing Tips:

  • Full sun to partial shade. 
  • Any soil.
  • Medium water. 
  • USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 5 – 8. 

Deutzia flowers blooming on the hot sun

 

2. Viburnum

Versatile, hardy viburnum species offer 150 varieties from which to select as a stunning landscape border or focal point. Either evergreen or deciduous viburnum puts on a showy display throughout the year with fragrant spring flowers, colorful summer berries, and radiant autumn foliage. Viburnum grows between 3-feet (dwarf species) and 20-feet tall. 

Bulbous clusters of white to pink spring flowers give way to tiny, round berries. As berries evolve, hues change from red to coral to pink (V. dilatatum), or pale to golden yellow (V. opulus), or green to dark blue (V. nudum). Autumn leaves, either rounded or serrated (V. betulifolium), exhibit the final show by turning orange, burgundy, or maroon. 

Growing Tips:

  • Full sun to partial shade. 
  • Any soil.
  • Water sparingly.
  • USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 4 – 8. 

A Viburnum garden blooming nicely in the hot sun

 

3. Weigela

Low-maintenance, deciduous weigelia florida adds a splash of color to your landscape. This shrub is a lovely addition to any border, but dwarf varieties such as spilled wine can easily accentuate a patio when planted in containers. Weigela grows between 1-foot and 10-feet tall, and 1.5-feet and 12-feet wide. 

Arching branches burst with tiny, tubular-shaped flowers each spring in colors that include white, pink, red (sonic bloom red), burgundy, and maroon. Foliage colors range from bright chartreuse to dark green, deep shades of purple (wine and roses), or variegated. Weigelia can potentially bloom again, although sparsely, during late-spring to mid-summer.

Growing Tips: 

  • Full sun to partial shade. 
  • Any soil.
  • Medium water.
  • USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 4 – 8. 

A close up photograph of a weigela flower

 

4. Philadelphus

The distinguishing feature of philadelphus virginalis is the pungent, orange fragrance of summertime blossoms. Nicknamed mock orange, this deciduous shrub will flourish in most landscapes as either a mixed-bordering plant or container plant. It grows between 4-feet and 8-feet tall.

White airy flowers with wispy, yellow-tipped stamens adorn the shoots of philadelphus each summer. Consider mexican jewel and belle etoile varieties for a slight burst of purplish-blue color at the flowers’ center.

Growing Tips: 

  • Full sun to partial shade. 
  • Any soil.
  • Water sparingly.
  • USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 4 – 8. 

 

5. Forsythia 

Fiery forsythia is a deciduous shrub that is not fussy about growing conditions. It is an excellent choice incorporated either as a landscape border or focal point, growing between 8-feet and 10-feet tall and 10-feet to 12-feet wide.

Woody, unkempt branches come aglow with golden yellow flowers during early spring. Rich, summer foliage of dark green, oblong leaves follow the brilliant display. Forsythia should be pruned annually, immediately after flowering.

Growing Tips:

  • Full sun to partial shade. 
  • Any soil.
  • Medium water.
  • USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 5 – 8. 

A close up photograph of a Forsyhthia

 

6. Hydrangea

All 75 species of hydrangea produce luscious, mid- to late-summer blooms. Hydrangeas range in size from 5-feet to upwards of 20-feet tall. Offering several varieties of leaf shape, flower shape and color, and shrub or climbing, the hydrangea brings diversity into your landscape. Note, the pruning schedule varies depending on hydrangea variety. 

Bigleaf hydrangeas (H. macrophylla) are commonly found in US landscapes. Immense clusters of flowers bloom during summertime. Colors include white, green, blue, or pink. Panicle hydrangeas (H. paniculata) produce conical flower clusters. Oakleaf hydrangeas (H. quercifoila) are the only variety with autumn changing foliage.  

Growing Tips:

  • Shade to partial sun. 
  • Any soil; pH alters (darken or fade) blue and pink flower varieties.
  • Medium water. 
  • USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 3 – 9. 

A garden of Hydrangea flower blooming nicely

 

7. Rugosa Roses

Hardy rosa rugosa grows voraciously, providing continual fruits (or hips) and blooms throughout the summertime. Virtually carefree, the otherwise called Japanese rose, grows 6-feet tall. Rosa rugosa is a good choice for a natural fence in your landscape because it is tolerant of salty air, insects, and disease.

Fragrant flowers have edible white, pink, or red petals. Remove spent blooms to encourage flowering. Bright red rose hips, also edible, emerge during the spring of the second year after planting.

Growing Tips: 

  • Full sun. 
  • Any soil.
  • Water sparingly.
  • USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 3 – 9. 

A close up shot of a blooming Rugusan Roses

 

8. Cotoneaster

Cotoneaster is a versatile plant that has both shrub and creeping varieties to meet the needs of your landscape. Quickly sprawling to triple the width of overall height, use cotoneaster for ground cover, erosion control, screening shrubs, or bordering shrubs. Varieties grow between 2-feet (C. horizontalis) and 15-feet tall (C. salicifolius). 

Deciduous and evergreen shrub varieties naturally form into a rounded shape adorned with dark green, shiny leaves. Tiny, white spring flowers give way to late-summer, bright red berries. Evergreen cotoneaster leaves change maroon or golden orange during autumn, and berries last well into winter. 

Growing Tips: 

  • Full sun to partial shade. 
  • Any soil.
  • Water sparingly.
  • USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 4 – 8. 

 

9. Leycesteria Formosa

Also known as Himalayan honeysuckle, leycesteria formosa is a showy deciduous shrub native to woodland areas of the Himalayas and China. It grows up to 6-feet tall and 5-feet wide. 

Overarching, bright green leaves brighten any landscape. White flowers cascade from reddish-purple bracts, blooming throughout the summertime. Purple autumn berries are edible. 

Growing Tips:

  • Full sun to partial shade. 
  • Any soil. 
  • Medium water.
  • USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 7 – 9. 

A close up photograph of a Leycesteria Formosa Fruit

 

10. Snowberry

The symphoricarpos albus is also known as snowberry, ice apple, waxberry, and white coralberry. Growing 3-feet tall and 6-feet wide, durable root systems make this shrub a good choice for windswept areas, hillsides, and waterfronts. 

Woody branches are lined with green, oblong leaves. Clusters of pink flowers during early summer give way to the snowberry’s most charming feature, white berry clusters. Autumn ripened berries attract wildlife; however, all parts of the snowberry are poisonous to humans.

Growing Tips:

  • Full sun to partial shade. 
  • Any soil.
  • Medium water.
  • USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 2 – 7. 

 

11. Mahonia 

Evergreen mahonia has robust foliage that proves showy throughout the year. Growing between 3-feet and 8-feet tall, this is a good choice for a screening shrub.

Woody stems produce glossy, toothed leaves that change seasonally from dark green to burgundy. Bright yellow flower clusters burst during spring, followed by berries in hues of faded-blue or navy. Mahonia berries are edible, but tart.

Growing Tips: 

  • Partial shade. 
  • Any soil. 
  • Medium water. 
  • USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 5 – 9. 

A beautiful blooming Mahonia

 

12. Choisya

Low maintenance choisya ternata is also called Mexican orange because of extremely fragrant flowers. This evergreen shrub grows up to 8-feet tall and prefers a sheltered borderline such as along a wall or fence.

Gently broadening, glossy leaves grow in groups of three at the edges of woody branches. Star-shaped, white flowers bloom during spring to remain throughout summer and attract bees to your backyard. 

Growing Tips: 

  • Full sun to partial shade. 
  • Any soil.
  • Medium water.
  • USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 7 – 10. 

 

13. Aucuba Japonica

The evergreen aucuba japonica thrives without much attention, growing between 6-feet and 10-feet tall. It is also called spotted laurel because of green, yellow flecked foliage. Use aucuba japonica as a bordering shrub, garden filler, or potted accent piece. 

Aucuba japonica displays hardy, oval leaves year-round. Flowers are insignificant, showing purple blooms that are interwoven into the foliage. Female shrubs produce tiny, bright red berry clusters after flowering.  

Growing Tips: 

  • Shade.
  • Any soil. 
  • Medium water.
  • USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 7 – 10. 

A close up photograph of a Aucuba Japonica

 

14. Rhododendron

Commonly called azalea, more than 900 species of rhododendron include both deciduous and evergreen varieties. Prominent shrubs, rhododendron grows between 4-feet and 20-feet tall and can produce flowers either during mid- to late-spring or autumn, depending on the variety. 

Use rhododendron varieties for either ground coverage or towering hedges. Flower color and shape vary widely. Clusters of pink, purple, white, red, salmon, or yellow flowers are individually tubular, funnel, or bell-shaped. 

Growing Tips: 

  • Shade to partial sun.
  • Any soil.
  • Water sparingly.
  • USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 4 – 6. 

A gorgeous pink Rhododendron blooming in a Garden

 

15. Spiraea

No-fuss spiraea is a vibrant, deciduous shrub. Either spring or summer bloom varieties can grow between 2-feet and 8-feet tall. Overarching spiraea makes a lovely focal point or border shrub.

Spring blooms are clustered white flowers, while summer blooms include white, pink, or red varieties. Bright blue-green foliage turns yellowish-orange during autumn. 

Growing Tips: 

  • Full sun. 
  • Any soil. 
  • Water sparingly. 
  • USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 4 – 8. 

 

Now you can incorporate clay soil tolerant shrubs into the landscape as borderlines, ground coverage, erosion protection, privacy screens, or concealers for unsightly areas. Let vibrant shrubs stand out as a stunning focal point. If you fancy a particular color when your landscape comes into full bloom, check out our other landscaping blogs: 

10 Yellow Flowering Trees and Shrubs

17 Purple Shrubs and Bushes

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