10 Best Perennials for Clay Soil

collage clay soil perennials

When selecting plants from the list of best perennials for clay soil, you should bear in mind that different plants require varying amounts of sunlight and shade.

All plants require some sunlight: it is what they use to make food via the process of photosynthesis, but hostas are particularly shade-loving plants. That said, hostas with chartreuse-colored or yellow leaves can take more sunlight than the dark-leaved varieties.

Coral bells enjoy the partial shade but will take more sunlight if kept regularly watered. The other plants on the list prefer full sun, which means a minimum of six hours of sunlight each day.

There is another important consideration you should bear in mind: make sure that the clay-loving perennials that you want to plant will thrive in your USDA hardiness zone. For instance, hostas may not do very well in southern states. They need a period of dormancy, so colder climates are better for them.

Check, too, on the plants’ water requirements. While hostas prefer moist soil, Russian sage is quite happy in hot, dry soil.

Finally, even though the plants listed will grow in clay soil, it is always a good idea to amend clay soil every time you plant. Do so by working in organic material. You will improve the soil’s structure, making it much easier to work. You will also create air spaces in the soil, which will improve aeration and drainage. The roots of your plants will love you for it. For best results, use well-rotted compost, manure or humus.

1. Hosta

hosta in clay soil

Hosta plants are one of the most popular perennials for gardeners because they are easy to grow and propagate. They’re excellent for shady conditions and moist soil. They are known for their lovely clumping foliage, but aside from this, a single description seems impossible since hundreds of varieties exist. The best times to plant are when they established a good root system, in spring and in late summer.

2. Black-Eyed Susan

Black-Eyed Susan

The black-eyed Susan is a versatile biennial or short-lived perennial plant that is about 30-90 cm tall. It is a flowering plant that is known for its gorgeous yellow/golden petals encircling the dark brown spherical center. Its leaves are long, slender, and coarsely textured. This perennial plant is incredibly resilient that can grow in good to severe soil conditions. The planting period is spring, and the flower will bloom in summer of the following year. After flowering and seed maturation, the plant dies.

3. Bee Balm Perennials

Bee Balm

Bee balm (wild bergamot) is a native perennial favorite, loved for its fragrant and beautiful flower blooms of red, pink or purple foliage. This herbaceous perennial can grow to about 2 – 4 feet and spread to about 2 – 3 feet. Aside from its landscape beauty, it has medicinal uses as well. Bee balm can be best planted in the spring or in the fall. They can thrive in medium to wet, moisture-retentive soil conditions during full sunny to partially shaded locations.

4. Coral Bells Perennials

Coral Bells

Coral bells – herbaceous, evergreen perennials are native to the woodlands preferring good drainage in sun or shade. They are recognized for their lovely bell-shaped flowers that bloom in a range of white, green, pink, and red. The small blooms appear in spring clustered on wiry stems above the foliage. Plant sizes are available from about 1 – 2 feet in height to around 6 – 30 inches wide.

5. Balloon Flower

Balloon flower

Balloon flower is a long-lived perennial plant choice for cultivars mainly as garden ornamentals. The name itself is derived from its balloon-like buds that open to form a flaring star-shaped flower. This incredibly beautiful deep blue flower buds that bloom throughout summer, are held singly or in small clusters atop upright, branched stems. It grows up to 12 – 30 inches tall and 12 – 18 inches wide. To achieve maximum potential, it is best to cultivate in fertile, moist and relatively well-drained soils in full sun or partial shade.

6. Aster

Aster Perennials

Asters are beautiful perennials that are native in the United States and can be seen along roadsides during the fall. They produce daisy-like flower heads displaying vibrant fall colors in shades of pink, purple, blue, and white. There are many species of asters, so its height ranges from 18 – 60 inches. Asters can thrive well in moist but well-drained and loamy soil conditions. And they prefer full sun or light shade settings.

7. Russian Sage

Russian Sage

Russian sage is a semi-woody to herbaceous perennial that can be 3-5 feet tall and can spread as wide as 2-4 feet. It has fragrant, fine-textured silver-grey foliage, and produces tall sprays of violet-blue flowers in the late spring and summer months. Russian sage can be planted in full sun or part shade, and in well-drained soil during early spring or late fall.

8. Coreopsis


Coreopsis are herbaceous perennials that are drought tolerant and long-blooming. They are known as “tickseed” due to the shape of their seed capsules that resemble ticks. It blooms with bouquets of daisy-like flowers throughout the year especially in spring when the weather is warm. The lovely flower heads come in yellow, white, pink and red petals, with dark brown, mahogany or maroon centers. Coreopsis thrive in full sun to light shade.

9. Athyrium


Athyrium, also known as lady fern, is a perennial upright fern with deciduous leaves of about 2-5 feet long that are arranged in loose tufts. The leaves are a beautiful bright green with a magnificent texture and color of the fronds that electrify shady areas of the garden. They are easily grown in moist, rich, fertile, and well-drained soils in part shade to full shade locations. Athyrium are a very low maintenance plant and is relatively tolerant of sun and dry soil conditions.

10. Iris

Iris perennials

Iris is a hardy herbaceous perennial that is one of the best-known spring flower plants. Iris plant range in height from just a few inches to over 3 feet and are adapted to a variety of environmental conditions. They produce flowers in a variety of shapes, colors, and sizes. Its sword-like foliage is very attractive when the plant is not in bloom. They are easy-to-grow perennials that are extensively grown as ornamentals in the home and botanical gardens.