Many factors contribute to whether or not a tree will grow in a given soil type. The pH factor, nutritional composition and water drainage of the soil all play a part. If we are to assume that all these factors are ideal, we can then look at the types of trees that will grow well in clay soils. With a little soil augmentation, the list can be expanded.
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Landscaping with ornamental trees can be challenging in clay soils, but several types of trees perform moderately well. Eastern redbud and Oklahoma redbud will do well in clay soils. The Japanese Ginkgo tree, Japanese cherry tree and the crepe myrtle are also good candidates for growing in clay soils.
Fruit and Nuts
For those with an interest in growing fruits, several species of trees thrive in clay soil. The crabapple tree, both ornamental and fruit producing, does well in clay soils. The black cherry favours clay soil as does the black walnut tree and the shagbark hickory tree. Fig trees actually thrive in heavy clay soil. The flowering quince does well in heavy clay.
The larger shade trees tend to need deep-growing roots in well-drained soil. However several types manage easily in clay soil. At least four types of oak can tolerate clay soil reasonably well. Among them are the bur oak, chinquapin oak, water oak and live oak. The soft maple, silver maple and sugar maple fall into this category, along with the willow and the yellow poplar.
If you prefer the cone-bearing trees, several species will make a home in clay soil. Douglas and balsam firs as well as the northern white cedar are good choices. This soil will support at least four types of pine, including jack, red, scotch and white; and three types of spruce, including Norway, white and black. The bald cypress also fits in this category.
Hedge Row Trees
Northern white cedars and the American arbor vitae are frequently used to create privacy hedges. They can grow quite tall, 40 feet or more and are highly tolerant of even heavy clay soils.
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