The Best Trees for Clay Soil

Growing plants, shrubs and trees in clay soil can be a bit tricky. The key is to find the best cultivars for clay soil's conditions. Trees planted in clay soil need to withstand drying out between rains and being oversaturated during a storm.

Silver Maple

Silver maple (Acer saccharinum) is part of the Aceraceae family. It is an easy and fast-growing tree with good fall color. It will get to 60 to 80 feet tall with deciduous pale green leaves that are silver underneath. These leaves will turn red or yellow during the fall. Plant a silver maple tree in full sun or partial shade in moist, well-drained soil. Propagate via seeds or by cuttings.

River Birch

River birch ( Betula nigra) is part of the Betulaceae family. River birch is a fast-growing tree that reaches 50 to 70 feet tall. Leaves are shaped like a diamond and grow to 3 inches long. Their glossy-green hue turns yellow in fall. Plant a river birch tree in full sun to partial shade in moist, acidic soils. Propagate via seeds in fall, hardwood cuttings in summer or softwood cuttings in spring.

Shagbark Hickory

Shagbark hickory (Carya ovata) is from the Juglandaceae, or walnut, family. It can grow to 150 feet tall, though usually only to 80 feet. It is a producer of the hickory nut. Plant a shagbark hickory in full sun, although it can tolerant some shade. Propagate via seed or by grafting.

European Larch

European larch (Larix decidua) is from the Pinaceae, or pine, family. It can get up to 70 to 100 feet tall, and it has light-green needles that turn yellow before falling. It produces brown cones. Plant a European larch in full sunlight or partial shade in moist, well-drained soil. Propagate via seedlings.

American Basswood

American basswood (Tilia Americana) is from the Tiliaceae, or linden, family. It is a fragrant tree that gets 60 to 80 feet tall but can reach 100 feet. Leaves are 4 to 8 inches long. Flowers are not showy but fragrant and in clusters. Plant an American basswood tree in full sun or partial shade. Propagate via seed or by grafting.

Chinese Elm

Chinese elm (Ulmus parvifolia) is from the Ulmaceae family. It is a fast-growing tree that reaches 40 to 50 feet tall, with 2-inch-long toothed and veined leaves. Plant a Chinese elm in any soil in full sun to partial shade with regular watering. Propagate via seed in the fall, graft onto seedlings or use greenwood tip cuttings.

Keywords: trees for clay soils, clay soil trees, clay soils

About this Author

Tina Samuels has been a full-time freelance writer for more than 10 years, concentrating on health and gardening topics, and a writer for 20 years. She has written for "Arthritis Today," "Alabama Living," and "Mature Years," as well as online content. She has one book, “A Georgia Native Plant Guide,” offered through Mercer University; others are in development.