Plants that like wet clay soil will easily grow if your garden has this type of heavy soil. Clay soil is comprised of fine particles that bond easily, trapping water and nutrients.

Plants that Like Wet Clay Soil

Plants that are able to thrive in this type of soil must be tolerant of pooling water and grow on minimum nutrients.

Here are our favorite plants that will do very well in clay soil.  

Best Plants That Like Wet Clay Soil

1. Asters (Symphyotrichum spp.)

Asters are native to North America and come in dozens of cultivars worldwide. These perennial plants quickly grow in different weather conditions, including clay soil. These gems are the stars of the fall garden.  

Asters Symphyotrichum

– Characteristics

These simple flowers provide you with purple, blue, white, red, or pink daisy-like flowers from August through November. Most flowers have already died off during this time, making asters the season star. These flowers are essential to the ecosystem as they are the latest blooming plants, providing nectar for bees and butterflies. 

– Growing Asters 

Asters are easy to grow, thriving in USDA hardiness zones three to nine. These plants take care of themselves all summer long, with vibrant blooms appearing later in the season. Grow them in an area with plenty of moisture like clay soil. They do not need a lot of nutrients to grow, thus making it easy to grow them in poor soils. 

2. Heartleaf Bergenia (Bergenia Cordifolia)

Heartleaf is native to Russia and is also referred to as pigs squeak. Due to its dramatic change of colors, the stems are always picked and used in winter floral arrangements. 

Heartleaf Bergenia

– Characteristics 

This evergreen perennial has large glossy leaves that make a sound when rubbed together. The heart-shaped, leathery, and glossy leaves turn to rosettes as they grow, eventually forming thick clumps. They are initially dark green but later turn into a stunning purplish bronze in winter. 

The flowers grow on thick stalks up to 16 inches tall in spring. It has dense inflorescences of deep pink blooms that are perfect for a flower border. These flowers attract butterflies and bees in large numbers. 

– Growing Heartleaf 

These flowering plants can tolerate growing in various soils, including clay. You can plant them in mass plantings, where they will thrive without being invasive in partial shade. It remains evergreen throughout its growing season.  

3. Bee Balm (Monarda Didyma)

Bee balm is commonly grown for its beauty, pollinator attraction, and medical uses. It is a favorite for hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies. It is native to North America and thrives in moist woodland areas. These perennial plants come back year after year, adding that cheerful color to your garden or home.

Bee Balm 

This plant is known by several common names such as bergamot, horsemint, scarlet bee balm, crimson bee balm, and Oswego tea

– Characteristics 

Like its name, bee balm is attractive to bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies. It has open, daisy-like shape flowers with tubular petals in red, pink, white, and purple. The leaves of this plant have a minty aroma when crushed. 

– Growing Bee Balm

Bee balm plants prefer to grow in USDA hardiness zones three to nine. It thrives in moist soils in a sunny location and tolerates some shade. It grows up to around four feet tall and spreads rapidly using underground stolons. It is best grown along ponds or streams and provides color and contrast for the perennial border or cottage garden. 

4. Bearded Iris (Iris Germanica)

There is no way you will only plant one type of this perennial because it has thousands of varieties with blooms in every rainbow color. It is tolerant to many soil types, including clay, and can grow anywhere in your garden. The bearded iris is the most popular and easiest to grow among the varieties. 

Bearded Iris 

– Characteristics 

The bearded iris has sword-like leaves that are a perfect backdrop to any garden. Coupling up with the dropping lobes flowers that spread all over the plant, they give you eye-catching beauty to behold. These flowers come up in spring when the season has warmed up to mid-fall. 

– Growing 

You can plant this iris from bare roots or rhizomes and watch it flower in the first or second year. It thrives in USDA hardiness zones three to nine and requires very little attention. The rhizomes multiply quickly, so you can divide them up every few years to avoid overcrowding. 

– Toxicity 

The bearded iris is toxic to dogs, cats, and humans and should be kept away from contact. Make sure you plant it away from pets and humans to keep everyone safe. 

5. Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla Mollis)

Lady’s mantle is native to Southern Europe and is best for growing along the edges of clay soil patches. This attractive flowering plant is tolerant of poor soil conditions and struggling gardens. 

Ladies Mantle

– Characteristics 

This plant has a frothy appearance caused by densely occurring clusters of chartreuse-colored flowers. It is a superb choice for highly textural gardens. It grows to about 18 inches tall, producing stunning palmately veined leaves with wavy scalloped margins.

The broad leaves collect dewdrops every morning, and after rain showers, that plant uses these drops. This plant can become invasive due to its high tolerance ability.  

– Growing Lady’s Mantle

Lady’s mantle is easy to grow for both newbies and seasoned gardeners. The plant thrives in areas that have cool summers and moist, fertile soil. It thrives in USDA plant hardiness zones three to seven. It can tolerate full sun but performs better under shade in warmer regions. Allow plenty of room when growing these plants, spacing them at least 8 to 12 inches apart. Also, with Lady’s mantle you can plant many companion plants!

6. Daylily (Hemorocallis) 

The daylily is every gardener’s favorite plant. It is a dependable perennial with prolific and colorful blooms that are free from pests. This plant grows quickly and is long-lived.  

Daylily Hemorocallis

– Characteristics 

Daylilies are grown for their flowers – the colors, shapes, and sizes. They bloom from late spring to autumn. Individual flowers will sadly last only a day, but each plant produces many buds. These buds may bloom for 30 to 40 days, with many varieties having more than one flowering period. One mature clump can have 200 to 400 blooms over a month or more. 

– Growing Daylily

This plant thrives in almost any type of soil growing in full sun or partial shade in USDA hardiness zones three to nine. It is rarely troubled by any disease or pests, making it thrive without a problem. It is drought and flood tolerant, immune to heat stress and poor soils. Blooming begins in midsummer, continuing to early fall with new daily blossoms. 

– Toxicity 

These plants attract butterflies, hummingbirds, and bees. However, they are toxic to pets like cats and can lead to minor symptoms like vomiting and lack of appetite. In more severe conditions, they can even lead to kidney failure or death. The daylily is non-toxic to humans and dogs. 

7. Hostas (Hosta spp.)

Hosta has been a perennial favorite to many gardeners since the 1700s. There are over 2,500 cultivars with different leaf sizes, shapes, and textures. With proper care, hostas come back every year, showcasing their beauty.  

Hostas spp

– Characteristics 

There are so many hosta options, but most have a general resemblance. Hosta is a clump-forming plant growing from rhizomatous roots. It creates blooms on long stalks that go well above the clumping foliage.

The foliage is the main attraction, as it is lush and uniquely stunning. The smaller hosta varieties grow faster, reaching their mature size in three to five years. The larger types can take at least five to seven years to reach maturity. 

– Growing Hostas

Hosta grows in USDA hardiness zones three to nine. It does not need the sun to rise; it thrives in the shade, unlike many plants that need full sun. You can grow them in gardens and pots, and they will do well in heavy soils like clay. Plant them in early spring or soon after the summer heat cools down in early fall.  

8. Japanese Maple (Acer Palmatum)

Japanese maple is native to Southeast Siberia and Far East Asia. This stunning small tree thrives in shaded woodlands. It is very common to find it in the understory layer of forests, creating dome-shaped canopies of about 6 to 10 meters. 

Japanese Maple

This plant has three taxonomically accepted subspecies and dozens of cultivars. Today, you will find it growing globally because of its beauty. 

– Characteristics

Japanese maple comes in different sizes due to its variety and cultivar. They can range from a small tree with a round vase-like shape, or it may have a weeping form. This plant is known for its striking foliage with leaves that have five to nine palmate lobes.

They are green or red and will turn to brilliant shades of yellow, red, purple, or orange during autumn. Some leaves have broad lobes, while others are finely dissected and lacy.  

– Growing 

The Japanese maple prefers partial shade and consistently moist soils. That’s why clay soils are perfect for this plant. Due to their small nature, they are perfect for growing in patios, small gardens, large pots, or container gardens. It thrives in USDA hardiness zones five through nine and is known to be cold-hardy. It is a slow grower and adapts to different climate types.

9. Blazing Star (Liatris Spicata)

Blazing star is native to eastern Northern America and a member of the Asteraceae family. It is a clump-forming perennial plant that grows to about three to six feet tall. It is commonly grown in moist areas or meadows. It is an excellent attraction to pollinators like bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies that are useful for the ecosystem. 

Blazing Star

Blazing star is also commonly known by other terms that include dense blazing star, gayfeather, spike gayfeather, snakeroot, blazing marsh star, sessile-headed blazing star, and dense button snakeroot.

– Characteristics 

The pure species of the blazing star has bright purple flower spikes but can also be pink or white. The leaves are grass-like and narrow, forming a basal clump. The leaves turn their color to bronze in the fall, making them a stunner.

Instead of the ordinary daisy like flowers that this family of plants produces, the blazing star has highly unusual flower heads featuring tiny star-like blossoms arranged along an upright bottle brush spire.  

– Growing Blazing Star 

Blazing star thrives in USDA three to nine under full sun or part shade. It grows in any soil, preferring moist ones throughout its growing season. You can plant blazing stars from potted nursery starts or corms right after the last frost day in the spring. This will help them flower in the first year, unlike starting from seeds that take two years before flowering. 

10. Butterfly Weed (Ascelpias Tuberosa)

Butterfly weed is an herbaceous perennial that belongs in the Apocynaceae family. It is a sacred plant honoring the Greek god of medicine. It is native to North America, growing in clumps at least one to three feet tall, and you will find it in prairies, fields, or dry, rocky open woods. It was selected as the 1985 NC Wildflower of the Year. 

Butterfly Weed

Butterfly weed is known by other names, including butterfly milkweed, chieger flower, Indian paintbrush, milkweed, pleurisy root, and common butterfly weed. 

– Characteristics 

Ascelpias Tuberosa produces clusters of flowers in beautiful color combinations that are attractive to bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies. It has a lengthy taproot that makes it very drought-tolerant. This plant is excellent for a meadow garden with its showy yellow-orange flower clusters. You can plant it with ornamental grasses and wildflowers like asters for a more refined look.

– Growing Butterfly Weed

This plant does well in poor soils that are consistently moist. It thrives in USDA three to nine under full sun and grows quickly from seed but will take two to three years to get established. Mature plants freely self-seed if the seed pods are not removed before splitting. 

11. Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia Hirta)

Black-eyed Susan is considered a biennial or short-lived perennial in the Asteraceae family. It is native to the United States but has become common throughout North America. It is common to find it growing along the roadsides and river banks. 

Black Eyed Susan

– Characteristics 

Rudbeckia Hirta has leaves that alternate with toothed or an almost smooth margin. Some leaves have three or more lobes, making them stand out stylishly. The flowers are brown and domed in the center, surrounded by bright yellow or orange florets. These flowers mature mid-summer; if you de-head, they can go on to mid-fall. 

– Growing Black-eyed Susan

It blooms the first year when planted from seed in early spring. It also freely self-seeds, remaining in the garden for many years. Black-eyed Susan is tolerant to moderate drought and forgives your neglect. Grow it in full sun in moist soils like clay, taking note that it thrives in USDA hardiness zones four through nine. 

12. Purple Coneflower (Echinacea Purpurea)

Purple coneflower is considered native to the Eastern United States area and is found in many flower gardens. Planting this attractive flower draws bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies, ensuring you have plenty of pollinators. The plant also provides a beautiful background or large six inches of plants.  

Purple Coneflower

– Characteristics 

Echinacea Purpurea has sturdy stalks that may reach up to six feet tall, rarely bending and growing without requiring staking. They have pink-purple daisy-like flowers that are about three inches tall. These flowers attract pollinators to your garden throughout the blooming season. 

– Growing 

Purple coneflower thrives in poor or lean soils, including clay. Rich or heavily amended soils result in lush foliage and poor flowering. Plant them in full sun and wet soils. 


The list above contains all the plants that like wet clay soil and are simple to grow with minimal care and maintenance. Before you run off to plant some in your clay backyard,

Here are some essential points to remember:

  • Each substrate has its challenges, and clay and sand are the most difficult substrates to work with because they have fine particles that often clog the garden because of holding too much water.
  • Clay soil, though challenging to work with, has a lot of advantages when growing plants that like this type of soil, as they will thrive with little effort.
  • Though clay contains a lot of water, it can break into intense bricks under the fierce summer heat. Make sure the plants you grow in this soil can tolerate drought conditions.

Now that you have a list of plants that like wet clay soil, it’s also important to know that you don’t have to give up on this soil; you can amend this soil to become better by adding sandy soil to help with aeration. Once amended, you can grow all the above plants and many others that tolerate average soils, so good luck!

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