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Trees That Grow Well in Clay Soil

spruce image by mzolna from

Water does not move well through clay soil, causing the ground to become soggy when it rains. Clay soil also compacts easily, making it difficult for tree roots to penetrate and grow. Some trees are native to clay soils, making them better performers. When planting a tree in clay soil, dig the hole about 2 inches shallower than the rootball to account for soil compaction so the top of the rootball will remain close to ground level.


The needles of the spruce evergreen tree can be up to 1 inch long. Spruce varieties like Norway, White and Colorado can grow up to 60 feet tall and 20 feet wide, and are cold hardy to USDA zone 2. A single spruce can be used as a focal point, like at the corner of the house or garage. Spruce can be planted in a row to create a windbreak and privacy screen. Prune in late winter to maintain shape and size.

Silver Maple

Cold hardy to USDA zone 3, silver maple is a deciduous tree that can reach 65 feet tall and 50 feet wide. The sap of the silver maple can be used to make maple syrup; it can also be dried and used in fireplaces. Shade-loving shrubs will appreciate the canopy of the silver maple.

Flowering Crab Apple

Flowering crab apple trees grow up 25 feet tall. Pink or white blooms display in the spring and will be followed by fruit less than 2 inches in diameter. The fruit of this deciduous tree is edible. USDA cold hardy to zone 3. Plant crab apples in the landscape, away from sidewalks or driveways, to avoid messy and potentially slippery areas caused by falling fruit.

Bur Oak

The acorn produced by the bur oak tree has a fringed top. Bur oak is USDA cold-hardy to zone 2. The tree can reach a height of 70 feet and width of 60 feet. After about three years in the ground, Bur oak can grow 1 to 2 feet a year, making it a good choice if you want a fast growing tree.

Golden Willow

Golden willow has long hanging limbs that are yellow on new growth and turn brown with age. The tree can reach a height and width of 55 feet and goes well in the landscape near a pond or stream. Golden willow is USDA cold hardy to zone 2.

Black Ash

Black ash prefers moist soil. This deciduous tree can reach a height of 50 feet and width of 30 feet. Black ash can grow in partial sun. Its wood is good for firewood. Black ash is cold hardy to USDA zone 3.

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