Plants for shade/clay/wet

mirka_ha(7)October 14, 2003

I have a shade area next to my deck, the soil there is clay and it is rather wet.

I would like to plant a shade garden there, but last year I planted lilly of the valley,

and they died.

It was before I realized, that there is a bad drainage there.

What plants could I grow in this spot???

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Woody_Canada(~USz5 - Canada)

In my 'wet corner' in shade and heavy clay, I have Ostrich ferns, Goatsbeard, tiarella, Filipendula, Lobelia cardinalis and Lobelia x gerardi. Hostas, foxgloves and a white corydalis grow on the somewhat drier edges.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2003 at 7:24AM
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I was told by a nursery owner to "get rid" of clay if possible. (I have it, too).

What I have been doing is scooping out shovelfuls when I plant a new area, putting compost/peat mix in its place and mixing compost in with the clay. It's a gradual process.

I lost an azalea in the clay last year. :(

Amend, amend, amend! Do you have a compost bin?

    Bookmark   October 15, 2003 at 7:40PM
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I do not have a compost bin.
I live in a town house and do not have that much
space for compost bin.
How deep do you dig when you plant the new area?
I think that the biggest problem is the poor drainage,
which make the place wet all the time.
We had so much rain this summer, that some days it was like a bog.
Woody_Canada you have hostas at your wet shady corner.
The description of most hostas I looked at (sum & substance) was for well drained shady places.
What hostas are you growing?

    Bookmark   October 15, 2003 at 10:24PM
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Wow, I wish I had a boggy area. I would love to be able to plant some of the moisture loving perennials like liguaria, lobelia, astilbe, ferns, etc. Before I got hooked on gardening, we had a low area near the house, so we decided to build a small pond there. Of course, we had to landscape it in, and my shade garden grew from there. But most is under a maple where I deal with dry shade. We do love our pond, though. It's nice to sit on the deck and listen to the water.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2003 at 7:16AM
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Woody_Canada(~USz5 - Canada)

My hostas are on the edge of the wet area so they aren't in as wet conditions as the ferns and Goatsbeard which are in the wettest area. In the spring, a hole dug in the 'wet corner' immediately fills with water. In mid-summer, the area can get quite dry so the plants there all have to be able to survive both conditions. I'm not sure anymore what variety of hosta they are but they are 'blue' hostas....

I have 1/4 acre and am disabled so ammeding the soil is not an option for me! I did have a few inches of good soil dumped on top of the clay in the spring of 2000 (the first garden season in this house...) When the leaves (and pine needles...) fall in autumn, I let them all stay on the soil and rot into the ground as it is too hard for me to add compost any other way. When I plant, I use mycorrhizal fungus supplement - I'm not sure if it is widely available in the US yet as I've not seen anyone refer to it on these forums - it's made by a Canadian company. It is a naturally occuring beneficial fungus that helps plants take up nutrients and moisture. The plants develop amazing root systems with it. I use it every time I plant - I figure it helps compensate for my frequently less-than-ideal planting approach and lousy soil conditions! I don't know whether it helps newly planted plants cope with wet clay conditions or not but I figure plants in those conditions need all the help they can get!

    Bookmark   October 16, 2003 at 2:44PM
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LinneaB(z8 Wa)

I also have shade, clay and a tiny space in front of a townhouse -- if you have a very-small garden, it is practical to buy compost/topsoil in bags from a nursery and either mix it with the clay or make mounds or raised beds on top of the clay.

Once I got to the point where things grew instead of dying, I did get a small compost bin, which I put next to the building under the eaves (nothing wants to grow there anyway) behind an evergreen shrub --

Some of the garden writers recommend that we spend as much on developing the dirt as we do on buying the plants -- but it isn't nearly as much fun!

    Bookmark   October 16, 2003 at 11:32PM
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Just keep adding a bit of compost every year. Gypsum helps break down the clay too.

Hostas prefer well draining soil but will tolerate a good deal of moisture.

Here are some shade & moisture tolerant plants.


    Bookmark   October 17, 2003 at 3:49PM
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Weed_Pickin_Momma(z7 AR)

I used to have hard, rocky clay soil where I lived. For years I tried and failed to grow anything there.. unless it loved hard compact clay! Finally, one year, I removed the clay soil from the bed completely to about 1 1/2 - 2 feet down. I had a huge mound of clay! I mixed the clay with 1/2 mixture of manure, peat moss and good, dark gardening soil and replaced it back into the flower bed. (it was alot of work but well worth the results.)
That year the bed flourished! The only problem is the weeds flourished in it also (darn weeds!), but I got them taken care of. This was in a full sun-part shady area. That turned out to be the best soil I had in the whole yard! It completely broke down the clay and was very rich and humus.
Where I live now, I have a wet, clay soil area under the front window where I have azaleas and impatiens growing. I had planted some Wal-mart purchased Star Gazer lilies there and thought for sure they would be so sodden with wet clay to grow there. The lilies have bloomed gorgeously for the past 3 years! They get to about 3' tall and the blooms are approx.7-8 " across. I have moved the lilies this year to a new raised bed under some pine trees. It gets a little drier there and the soil is garden soil.. I hope they do as well as they have!
I would do as mentioned above from Capegardengirl. Removing all of the soil as I did was a ton of back-breaking work, unless it is a smaller bed.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2003 at 3:41PM
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Thank you all for the advise!!!
Encouraged by that and 60% sale on perrennials at my favored nursery I planted:
Hosta sum and substance
Blue hosta Guardian Angel
Fragnant Summer hosta
Goats Beard
Lobelias red nad blue
More lilly of the valley one of them pink,
which I never saw before.

The soil look lot better since in August I damped there
bag of some clay breaker and raked the whole place.
I damped more soil and peat moss and raked one more time.
The soil looked a lot darker and there was a whole lot of
earth worms. I also found the lilly of the valley,
which I planted last year and thought it was dead.
So I replanted it with the new lillies of the valley.
I am really anctious to see how the plants will do
in the spring.
I will let you know.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2003 at 8:37AM
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JohnnieB(Washington, DC 7a/b)

Clay can make excellent soil as long as you incorporate plenty of organic matter. Be sure to mulch frequently with plenty of compost, shredded leaves, etc. to encourage worms to help improve the soil by pulling the organic matter down into the soil, aerating with their tunnels, and enriching it with their castings.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2003 at 9:53AM
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flowersandthings(MidAtlantic 6/7)

Oh lucky....... they're are so many primulas you can grow there....... big beautiful strong smelling ones...... look some up there primula florindae etc.
The lobelias as mentioned...... wonderful for hummingbirds as well...... look for queen victoria with beautiful bronze foliage........ lysimachia clethroides spread like a weed in clay....... lysimachia punctuata flag and siberian iris........ astilbe goats beard...... I think aruncuses its called...... camassia....... canna but they like sun....... and elephant ears but you'd have to pull them up........ ligularia...... the ostrich fern...... now plant plenty of those for fiddleheads...... also put the shadier plants toward the center or shadier spot and the sunnier plants toward the perimeter or sunnier spot...... Now if its deep deep shade........ you choices are severely limite...... look perhaps to native sources...... plants that grow in boggy woods....... :) .......

    Bookmark   August 17, 2004 at 1:25AM
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putchika(z7 VA)

I have to tell you-I have a shady back yard also but when you mentioned your Lily of the Valley-I smiled. My mother-in-law gives me these constantly and they always die! I feel your pain! Maybe they just don't like us? LOL

    Bookmark   August 19, 2004 at 4:48AM
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