Best Trees and Shrubs for Clay

Here are some of the better woody tree and shrub plants for heavy clay soils. You can experiment with other plants on soils with lighter amounts of clay but if in doubt, go with these.
Note that I’ve broken them down into the “best” and “tolerate” lists. Those in the best list should take darn near anything. Those in the “tolerate” list will tolerate but not thrive in heavy clays and will start to thrive as you decrease the clay content. So start with the “best” list if you’re unsure.

Best Trees for Clay Soil

  • Apples and Crabapples
  • Norway and Silver Maple
  • Common Honeylocust
  • Aspen and Cottonwood
  • River Birch
  • Kentucky Coffeetree
  • White, Black, Green Ash
  • Elms
  • European Larch and Tamarack
  • Ohio Buckeye and Horsechestnut
  • Hawthorn
  • Lindens
  • Bur Oak and Eastern Pin Oak
  • Swamp White Oak
  • Willow

Trees That Tolerate Clay

  • Balsam and White (Concolor) Fir
  • Freemani, Red and Amur Maples
  • Norway and Black Hills Spruce
  • Austrian, White and Scotch Pines
  • Japanese Tree Lilac
  • Gingko
  • Black Walnut

Best Shrubs For Clay Soil

  • Alpine Currant
  • Honeysuckle
  • Siberian Peashrub
  • Arborvitae
  • Lilac
  • Snowberry
  • Chokeberry
  • Ninebarkv
  • Arrowwood and Nannyberry Viburnum
  • Redtwig Dogwood
  • Potentilla
  • European and Highbush Cranberry Viburnum
  • Forsythia
  • Russian Olive
  • Willow

Shrubs That Tolerate Clay

  • Barberry
  • Winged Euonymus
  • Serviceberry
  • Diervilla
  • Junipers
  • Sumac
  • Pagoda Dogwood
  • Winterberry
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