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Grow with KARE: Plants for clay soil

A lot of us in Minnesota have the problem of clay soil, but there are perennials, shrubs and trees that are suited for it!

I was chatting with Justine, our Kare Saturday show producer, about the lilacs she planted last year. The topic of clay soil came up. Justine and I both battle it. She lost some lilacs, and my butterfly milkweed either didn't come up at all ... or struggled to do so.

Clay soil isn't for every plant but there are some that tolerate it very well. Try these in your clay soil!


  • Columbine
  • New England aster
  • Blue false indigo
  • Blackberry lily
  • Feather reedgrass
  • Purple coneflower (Is there anything this plant can't do?)
  • Rattlesnake master
  • Wild cranesbill
  • Oxeye
  • Daylily
  • Blazingstar
  • Perennial flax
  • Bee balm
  • Wild quinine
  • Russian sage
  • Gray headed coneflower
  • Black-eyed susan
  • little bluestem
  • Stonecrop
  • Cupplant
  • Golden alexander


  • Black chokeberry
  • Red osier dogwood
  • Dwarf bush honeysuckle
  • Lilac (although Justine's didn't fair too well!)


  • River birch
  • Shagbark hickory (I plan to plant one of these soon!)
  • Hawthorne
  • Honeylocust
  • European larch
  • Tamarack
  • Crabapple
  • Poplar, Cottonwood
  • Bur oak
  • Pin oak
  • Willow
  • Basswood, Linden
  • Elm

Perennials and shrubs were suggested by the University of Minnesota. Trees were suggested by research from the University of Maine.

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