30 Native Plants For Clay Soil

Clay Soil!  It has a bad reputation among gardeners and flower aficionados due to how dense and compact it can get.  However, it actually holds some of the best nutrients for growing plants!  If you have clay soil, the best thing you can do is to grow flowers that will THRIVE in clay!  I’ve compiled the list of flowers that will thrive in Clay Soil.

Aromatic Aster

One of the shorter Asters that are native to North America, Aromatic Aster is one of the last flowers to bloom.  In fact, it will start blooming in Early Fall, and continue well past frost. I’ve even had them bloom into November (USDA zone 6).  A valuable nectar source for late season pollinators, this is a beautiful flower that is also ecologically important.

Blanket Flower (gaillardia x grandiflora)

The blanket flower is a native (cultivar) perennial that blooms from June until frost with bright red/yellow/orange flowers.  It laughs in the face of clay soil, and will stay upright through storms.  This full sun loving plant is visited heavily by bumblebees and other pollinators.

Blue Lobelia

The Great Blue Lobelia is a short perennial that blooms deep purple-blue flowers in summer. It does great in moist to medium moist soil, which includes clay, and will attract a wide variety of pollinators including large butterflies, hummingbirds, and bumblebees.

Blue Vervain (Verbena hastata)

Blue Vervain is a native perennial that does great in clay soil that is moist to medium moist. Often found along ponds, creeks, and drainage ditches, it attracts a wide variety of bees in Summer. It also has a very long blooming period, with the flowering stalks blooming from bottom to top.

Beebalm (monarda didyma)

Also known as Crimson Beebalm, or Scarlet Beebalm, this beautiful flower will begin blooming in early Spring and last until Mid-Summer.  Like Wild Bergamot it will bring in a large variety of pollinators.  But beebalm is also a favorite of hummingbirds!  Beebalm has shallow roots and can grow in moist to medium conditions.  So, clay soil is no problem!


Ironweed is a tall, erect butterfly magnet that grows great in clay and moist soils.  Reaching heights of 5-6′ tall, this sun loving plant gives dark purple blooms late in the season.  Attracting many different pollinators, I’ve noticed that Ironweed seems to be a favorite of Monarch Butterflies migrating to Mexico.

Tall Sunflower (helianthus giganteus

helianthus giganteus

Also known as Giant Sunflower, this perennial sunflower grows very tall throughout the season, reaching heights of 8′.  It is one of the last sunflower varieties to bloom providing late season nectar/pollen to bees and butterflies.  The birds love to eat the seeds too!  Just make sure to give it some space, and in an area where it can be exposed to wind.  Exposure to wind while growing tall will help strengthen the stalks.

Cup Plant

Cup Plant bee Silphium perfoliatum

Like butterflies?  Look no further than the Cup Plant!  This sunflower-like perennial grows 5-8′ tall and likes to have about 2′ of space all around.  It will give you a super bloom that lasts for about a month in Mid-Summer.  The Cup Plant also adds interest in that the leaves along the stalk form a cup that captures rain water.

Compass Plant

Similar to the Cup Plant, the Compass Plant can reach heights of 8′ tall.  The Compass Plant has no problem growing in clay soil, as it evolved on the prairie.  Blooming for 3-4 weeks in mid-Summer, the Compass Plant will provide sunflower-like blooms that are very showy.  The Compass Plant got its name from the orientation of the leaves in mid-day sun.  During hot temperatures, the leaves would orient in a North-South direction to help conserve water.  So, early settlers noticed this and gave the plant it’s common name!

Native Hibiscus

Our native hibiscus (Halberd leaf rose mallow) is a perennial native to Eastern North America. It does great in clay and moist to medium-moist soil. Blooming large white to pink flowers in Summer, it is truly a beautiful specimen.

Maximilian Sunflower

This is probably the most prettiest sunflower I’ve ever seen. Maximilian Sunflower grows in almost any soil type, including clay. It can get a bit tall, however the absolutely stunning blooms it provides in late summer is worth it. Truly one of the most gorgeous flowers you can grow.

Golden Alexander (Zizia aurea

Beautiful Golden Alexander adds interest and life to your garden in early Spring.  Blooming beautiful yellow colors on clusters of tiny delicate blooms, Golden Alexander will attract many different short-tongued bees and provide them with nectar & pollen.  It also is a host plant for the Black Swallowtail butterfly.

Plains Coreopsis (coreopsis tinctoria

A beautiful annual flower that looks great as an accent or mass planting, Plains Coreopsis gives color from June until Frost.  The thin stems are almost invisible against a backdrop of other plants, which can give the illusion that the blooms are floating in the air.  This is a very versatile plant in that it will grow in full or partial sun, and almost any soil that can drain.

Partridge Pea (chamaecrista fasciculate)

Having a short taproot that can punch through clay, Partridge Pea is a drought tolerant Native Annual Flower.  As a beautiful wildflower, Partridge Pea is a true favorite of bees!  In my Partridge Pea patches in my backyard microprarie, you can always here the buzzing of dozens of bumble and other bees.  I’m not exaggerating when I say that there are literally dozens of bees on these plants from sun up to sun down.

Partridge Pea will spread, so it is best suited to a more wild area.  But pulling unwanted seedlings in the Spring isn’t too hard, and only takes me about 30 minutes.  Also, Partridge Pea will fix nitrogen from the air to the soil, as it is a legume.  So, this flower makes it’s own fertilizer!

Common Milkweed (Asclepias syrica

Want Monarch Butterflies?  Then you need to grow some Milkweed!  This perennial blooms for a month or more in mid-Summer.  If in full sun, it can develop beautiful purple-white blooms that are loved by bees and other pollinators.  Milkweed has absolutely no problem growing in clay soil.

Note – this particular species of Milkweed does spread via rhizomes. So, know that it will creep into your lawn or other places. But – it does really well in clay.

Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias Incarnata)

Swamp Milkweed Bloom

This Native Perennial can grow in moist to medium clay soils.  It blooms for 1-2 months in mid-Summer, and is the host of the Monarch Butterfly.  This type of milkweed will not spread. Research has shown that you will get more caterpillars when you plant Swamp Milkweed on the outer edges of your garden too.

Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa)

Asclepias Tuberosa Butterfly Milkweed with bumble bee

As one of the shorter types of milkweed (2′ tall), Butterfly Weed brings beautiful orange flowers for 1-2 months during the Summer.  Also a host for the Monarch Butterfly, this native perennial is just gorgeous.  It’s short height makes it a versatile choice, as it can go in manicured flower beds or wild areas.  Take note that although it grows in clay, it will be slower growing and should be heavily amended with compost to ensure drainage.

Blue False Indigo (Baptisia Australis)

A true clay-busting native Perennial flower, Blue False Indigo roots are slow to develop, but they go deep!  The taproot will go 5-6′ down, right through clay.  This flower blooms in Spring, but the smooth soft foliage is looks nice throughout the season.

New England Aster

Providing tall purple flowers in late Summer / early Autumn, New England Aster is a valuable food source for late season pollinators and migrating Monarch Butterflies.  Typically growing 3-5′ tall, this flower provides beautiful purple flowers for 3-6 weeks.  One of the most common Asters, you may have noticed these growing in ditches or abandoned farm fields.

False Sunflower (Helianthus helianthoides)

Heliopsis Helianthoides, False Sunflower with butterflies

One of the longest blooming perennials, False Sunflower will bloom beautiful yellow flowers for up to 3 months!  Growing up to 4-5′ tall in optimum conditions, this wildflower may require some staking if not exposed to any wind.  But if you like cut flowers, this plant can supply you with blooms nearly all summer by itself!

Blazing Star (Liatris spicata)

This native perennial is a drought tolerant, clay busting, showy, and pollinator magnet!  Blooming for 1-2 months in late Spring to mid-Summer, the lovely purple stalks are long lasting!  My Blazing Star flowers are heavily visited by bees and smaller butterflies.  Also, after blooming you will see numerous songbirds landing on the stalks to eat the seeds.

Pale Purple Coneflower (Echinacea pallida)

Echinacea Pallida

One of the earliest blooming varieties of Echinacea, Pale Purple Coneflower will bloom for about a month in late Spring.  The taproot of Pale Purple Coneflower has no problem punching through hard, compacted clay soil.  Also, when the blooming period of Pale Purple Coneflower ends is about when the blooming period of it’s cousin, Purple Coneflower begins!

Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)

The most common of coneflowers, Echinacea purpurea blooms for 1-2 months in mid to late Summer.  Unlike other Echinacea varieties, Purple Coneflower has fibrous roots that have no problem growing in clay soil.  A favorite of bees and butterflys, this native perennial is not just showy but ecologically valuable.


Sneezeweed is a moisture loving plant that does great in clay soil. Don’t let it’s common name fool you though – this plant is not wind pollinated, and thus won’t make you sneeze! But you will enjoy seeing all the bees, butterflies, and birds that it attracts in late Summer.

Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia sp)

If you are in the market for a tough, clay busting native perennial that is loved by bees and butterflies, then Black-Eyed Susan’s are for you!  There are so many varieties of Rudbeckia available that there is one for almost any ecological condition.  For instance, a long lasting drought tolerant perennial like Orange Coneflower (Rudbeckia fulgida), a moist soil tolerant Sweed Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia subtemosa), or even the general biennial Rudbeckia hirta.  Combining different varieties can give you those beautiful yellow and black flowers for nearly all season.

Wild Bergamot (monarda fistulosa

wild bergamot Monarda fistulosa

Wild Bergamot is a long blooming perennial that is drought tolerant. And it attracts almost every kind of pollinator (bees, hummingbirds, moths).  Blooming for a month or more in mid-summer, this flower has one of the most unique and interesting blooms. I’m not exaggerating when I say that this flower is one of the busiest in my garden.

Winecup Flower (Callirhoe involucrata)

Callirhoe involucrata Winecup Purple Poppy Mallow blooming

A groundcover, Winecups or winecup flower blooms showy pink wine-cup like flowers for 4-6 weeks in early to mid Summer.  Afterwards, it will make seed and die-back for about a month, only to spring back to life in late Summer/early Fall.  Some years I am able to get a second bloom from this beautiful, drought tolerant plant.

A special note though:  Although the taproot has no problem growing through hard compacted clay, it needs to drain well.  This plant is susceptible to root rot.


Yarrow is one of the most prolific plants in the world, being native to nearly everywhere but Antartica. And, with that kind of range it is no surprise that it does great in clay soil. This perennial blooms for long periods of Spring and Summer, feeding pollinators.

Little Bluestem

If you like ornamental grasses, Little Bluestem is a great choice.  Being a medium sized prairie grass (typically 4′ tall), Little Bluestem will thrive in clay and is drought tolerant.

Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardii)

Bluestem Seed Heads Andropogon gerardii

As the name suggests, Big Bluestem is kind of like the big-brother to Little Bluestem.  Growing up to 8′ tall, this is a beautiful ornamental grass that can provide a focal point or central accent to any flower bed.  If in a wild setting, it also can provide cover for wildlife too!

Side Oats Grama (bouteloua curtipendula)

Sideoats Grama Flowers Bouteloua curtipendula

One of the more compact prairie grasses, Side Oats Grama reaches 3′ tall.  Although in fall/winter the central clump is only 1′ tall.  But, the neatest thing about it is that it is a grass that actually produces flowers!  Along one side of the blades, small delicate flowers will bloom for a number of weeks.  The individual flowers hang down from the blade and dangle in the wind, making this a really cool and beautiful grass.

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Joe Foster

Hi - I grew up outdoors in nature - hiking, fishing, hunting. In high school I got my first job at a garden center where I learned to garden and landscape. I've been growing plants from seed and designing native plant gardens for over 10 years. I hope to share some of my knowledge with you! You may have seen some of my videos I create on our YouTube channel, GrowitBuildit (more than 10 million views!). You can find my channel here: https://youtube.com/@growitbuildit Additionally I am a wood worker / DIY enthusiast. I enjoy designing/building projects (with hand tools when I can!). I hope to give you some tips and useful information!

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