Plants for Clay Soil–The Asteraceae Family

One of the reasons for naming this blog Gardening in the Mud is that, like many of you reading this, I live in an area where the developer bulldozed off all the rich top soil from the former farmland and left the homeowners with nothing but slimy, muddy clay for gardening. The soil has almost no air pockets, and you need the power of a shovel just to dig a planting hole for a new perennial. Although I will be writing separate posts on how to cope with, or improve, clay soil, if you’re looking for a group of reliable plants that you can tuck right into the clay without further effort, the Aster Family (also known as the Composite Family) offers some excellent selections.

Liatris spicata image courtesy of Bluestone Perennials

When we think of composites, we tend to think of daisies–and many composites are daisies, or have daisy-like flowers–but there are others, such as Liatris (Blazing Star) that have distinct, undaisy-like forms. Solidago (Goldenrod), Eupatorium fistulosum (Joe Pye Weed), and Achillea (Yarrow) are other members of the Aster Family that definitely don’t resemble daisies.

Some asters prefer a moist soil and others are drought tolerant, but the common characteristic of all asters is their preference for sun. Site them to make sure they receive at least a full morning of sun.

The following list of Aster Family members includes a few varietal names that offer especially nice habits and flowers, and all are reliably hardy in Zones 5 and 6:

  • Achillea (Yarrow)
  • Aster novae-angliae ‘Purple Dome’ (New England Aster)
  • Boltonia (False Aster)
  • Centaurea montana (Mountain Bluet)
  • Coreopsis (Tickseed)
  • Echinacea (Coneflower)
  • Echinops (Globe Thistle)
  • Erigeron (Fleabane)
  • Eupatorium fistulosum (Joe Pye Weed)   
  • Gaillardia (Blanket Flower)
  • Helenium (Sneezeweed)
  • Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’ (Sunflower)
  • Heliopsis helianthoides (Oxeye Sunflower)
  • Leucanthemum vulgare (Oxeye Daisy)   
  • Liatris (Blazing Star)
  • Rudbeckia (Black-Eyed Susan)


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