Planting to suit the soil type

Gardeners often complain about their soil, but remember that in the wild there are few places where nothing will grow: it's just a question of plants and soil being compatible.

Plants for light, sandy soils

Broom (Cytisus)

Sandy soil won't retain moisture and has a low nutritional value, so it doesn't please heavy feeders such as roses. The good news is that the plants that grow well in it are naturally drought-tolerant, and ideal for our drier summers.

Try the following plants:

  • Alliums
  • Broom (Cytisus—above)
  • Centranthus
  • Convolvulus cneorum
  • Eryngiums
  • Euphorbia characias
  • Gypsophila
  • Hibiscus
  • Iris unguicularis
  • Lavatera
  • Lupins
  • Potentillas
  • Rock roses (Cistus)
  • Sempervivums
  • Verbascums

 

Plants for heavy clay soils

Cornus alba

A regular mulch with organic matter will make sticky clay soil so much easier to work while also retaining its high quota of nutrients. Roses will thrive in it, as will some of the most free-flowering shrubs and perennials.

Try the following plants:

  • Ajuga
  • Asters
  • Astilbes
  • Chaenomeles
  • Cornus alba (above)
  • Forsythia
  • Ligularia
  • Monardas
  • Pulmonarias
  • Salix babylonica‘tortuosa’
  • Sanguisorba
  • Roses
  • Weigelas
  • Viburnums (top image)

 

Plants for acid soils

Liriope

Rhododendrons and heathers growing in neighbouring gardens are sure signs that your soil is acid, and will be loved by woodland plants brought up on soil enriched with fallen leaves that has good water-retaining properties.

Try the following plants:

  • Azaleas and rhododendrons
  • Camellias
  • Crinodendrons
  • Eucryphia
  • Fothergilla
  • Hamamelis
  • Heathers (Calluna, Daboecia, Erica)
  • Iris laevigata
  • Japanese maples
  • Liquidambar
  • Liriope (above)
  • Pieris
  • Trilliums

Plants for alkaline soils

Sambucus

Alkaline soils are also usually dry, light and stony. These soils are perfect for creating beautiful wildflower meadows and Mediterranean maquis-style plantings, but there are plenty of traditional border plants that will thrive, too.

Try the following plants:

  • Astrantias
  • Buddleia
  • Bearded iris
  • Campanulas
  • Clematis
  • Dianthus
  • Laburnum
  • Lilacs (Syringa)
  • Lilium candidum
  • Philadelphus
  • Pulmonaria
  • Prunus
  • Sambucus (above)
  • Sedums
  • Verbena bonariensis