Trees and Shrubs For Midwestern Clay Soils

Most of the Midwestern area is comprised of clay soils. Never fear! This is a much better situation to have than sandy soils. Clay soils maintain more minerals and moisture than other soils.

Sometimes clay soils can be bad, such as in conditions where there are more problems than just the soil. If while digging in the soil, it looks blueish-black and smells kinda off, this is because of poor drainage and the smell is from rotting organisms. The area should be assessed for drainage problems before anything else is done.

If the clay is a redish-orange, this is perfect as the soil is holding all the minerals plants crave.

With regards to planting woody plants, be sure to plant these correctly and never lower than the top of the roots of the rootball. If you’re at all concerned about the clay content of your soil, plant you woody plant a bit higher. Trust me, they will love you for it!!

Trees for Clay Soils

Scientific NameCommon NameGrow Zone
Abies balsameaBalsam fir3
Abies concolorWhite fir4
Acer freemaniiFreeman maple4
Acer ginnalaAmur or ginnala maple3
Acer platanoidesNorway maple4
Acer rubrumRed maple3
 Acer saccharinumSilver maple3
Alnus glutinosaEuropean alder4
Betula nigraRiver birch4
Carpinus carolinianaBlue beech4
Carya cordiformisBitternut hickory4
Carya ovataShagbark hickory4
Celtis occidentalisCommon hackberry2
Crataegus speciesHawthorn3-4
Fraxinus nigraBlack ash3
Fraxinus pennsylvanicaGreen ash3
Ginkgo bilobaGinkgo4
Gleditsia triacanthosCommon honeylocust4
Gymnocladus dioicusKentucky coffeetree4
Juglans cinereaButternut4
Juglans nigraBlack walnut4
Larix deciduaEuropean larch4
Larix laricinaTamarack2
Malus speciesApple, crabapple3
Phellodendron amurenseAmur corktree4
Picea abiesNorway spruce4
Picea glauca var. densataBlack Hills spruce4
Pinus nigraAustrian pine4
Pinus strobusWhite pine3
Pinus sylvestrisScots pine3
Pinus ponderosaPonderosa pine4
Populus speciesAspen, cottonwood2
Pyrus speciesPear4-5
Quercus bicolorSwamp white oak4
Quercus macrocarpaBur oak3
Salix speciesWillow2
Syringa reticulataJapanese tree lilac4
Tilia speciesLinden, basswood3
Ulmus speciesElm4

Shrubs for Clay Soils

Scientific NameCommon NameGrow Zone
Amelanchier speciesServiceberry4
Aronia melanocarpaChokeberry3
Caragana arborescensSiberian peashrub3
Cephalanthus occidentalisButtonbush4
Cornus albaTatarian dogwood3
Cornus alternifoliaPagoda dogwood4
Cornus racemosaGrey dogwood3
Cornus sericeaRed osier dogwood3
Diervilla loniceraDwarf bush-honeysuckle3
Elaeagnus commutataSilverberry2
Euonymus alatusBurning bush3
Forsythia x ‘Meadowlark’‘Meadowlark’ forsythia3
Forsythia x ‘Northern Sun’‘Northern Sun’ forsythia3
Hamamelis virginianaWitch hazel4
Ilex verticillataWinterberry4
Juniperus species (most)Juniper3
Physocarpus opulifoliusCommon ninebark2
Potentilla FruticosaPotentilla2
Rhus speciesSumac2
Ribes alpinumAlpine currant2
Ribes odoratumClove currant2
Rosa rugosaRugosa rose2
Salix speciesWillow2
Sambucus canadensisAmerican elderberry3
Spiraea speciesSpirea3-4
Symphoricarpos albusWhite snowberry3
Syringa speciesLilac2
Thuja occidentalisArborvitae, white cedar3
Viburnum dentatumArrowwood viburnum3
Viburnum lentagoNannyberry viburnum2
Viburnum opulusEuropean cranberry bush3
Viburnum sargentiiSargent viburnum4
Viburnum trilobumHighbush cranberry bush2

© The Naturarian

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