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Trees for Clay Soil

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Some trees are adapted to clay soil. Planting clay-tolerant trees is a start to growing a garden where the soil dense and dry or waterlogged.

You can improve less-than-ideal soil by adding organic matter—aged compost, manure, and commercial organic planting mix. Organic matter lightens heavy clay soil by separating dense clay particles. Organic matter improves drainage and allows plant roots to breathe.

Trees native to regions where clay soil is dominant are good choices gardens with clay soil.

Aspen trees in autumn
Aspen trees in autumn

Trees that tolerate clay soil

A-F Common NameBotanical NameZones
Alder, EuropeanAlnus glutinosa3-7
AshFraxinus spp.3-9
AspenPopulus tremuloides2-6
Dawn RedwoodMetasequoia4-8
DogwoodCornus kousa4-8
False CypressesChamaecyparis5-8
FirsAbies spp.3-7
Willow tree, Salix
Willow tree, Salix
H-Z Common NameBotanical NameZones
HornbeamsCarpinus spp.3-9
Japanese CedarCryptomeria spp.6-8
MagnoliaMagnolia spp.5-9
Manchurian cherryPrunus maackii4-8
Mountain Ash, EuropeanSorbus cashmiriana3-6
WillowsSalix spp.4-9

Also of interest:

Perennials for Clay Soil

Shrubs for Clay Soil

Climbers for Clay Soil

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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