Forum home Plants

North facing bank, clay soil

nutcutletnutcutlet Posts: 27,411

Hi all

I have a north facing bank, the soil is very heavy, more or less subsoil with some compost thrown in. It dries out and cracks in summer and although I'll water to get something established, long term watering is not an option. I need more shrubs on it. Something pretty reliable as I find working on slopes painful and don't want to be on there too often. Successes so far have been 2 varieties of Ribes.

Lonicera x purpusii hasn't died but isn't great, same with Hydrangea petiolaris/anomala. Losses include Physocarpus 'Diablo' and Hydrangea 'Annabelle'. The soil only sees oblique sun in the middle of summer but the growing parts of the shrubs will get about half day sun. 

All suggestions gratefully received.

In the sticks near Peterborough


  • Have you tried the plant search on here? It comes up with a few bonnie plants for heavy clay soil in partial shade and shade image

  • Alan4711Alan4711 Posts: 1,657

    Saw a bank in Wales with 5 different heathers growing in  it, it was  all tastefully mixed in large patches  just  stunning

  • nutcutletnutcutlet Posts: 27,411

    Thanks folks. I should have said in the post Alan, it's very alkaline. 

    Even weeds don't do that well so I'm probably expecting too much of it. If Ribes are doing well, get some more. Bulbs, snowdrops and narcissi do well. fill in with them. I just wanted a couple of shrubs to perform later in the season than the ribes


    In the sticks near Peterborough
  • Lion SLion S Posts: 263

    You might try Viburnum burkwoodii, Corylus avellana, and Weigela species. I'd also be inclined to try Pyracantha, Osmanthus, Cornus mas, Sambucus, Cotoneaster and Crataegus monogyna.

  • nutcutletnutcutlet Posts: 27,411

    Thanks flowerchild, I'll leave the pyrancantha and the hawthorn, too painful if I do have to be working on it, but I like the others. Might be an idea to make it less 'garden' and more wild and go with the hazel. It seeds in there anyway and I might as well let it. I'm looking to make things less labour intensive as I get older but I keep making more work. Can't stop growing stuff from seed and it all needs a home.

    In the sticks near Peterborough
  • Hi

    I have a bank just the same, couldn't get a fork it in, so hard- that was summer of 2011,, so used a spade to chip away at it and then added a scak of sharp sand and had a bucket of home-made compost which made it easier to dig.  Then planted up with Red hot pokers and Cristophiii Allims - both which flowered for the first time this year- 2012-lovely.  Also planted a couple of Kniphofias in 2010 on the level rather wet clay and they are growing huge and had flowers for the first time 2012.  they were only young plants about 6in when I planted them- now 2-3 ft across.  They don't need any care, have survived the frost & ice of 2010 which was down to  -17 in York sometimes.

    This autumn I have added some ornamental grasses so hoping they will flourish. In the more shady area I have added hostas, ferns and primroses. The soil is now very good and as on a slope does drain well even though clay.  Would swear by adding a sack of sharp sand- £2 ish from B& Q in the building section (not builders sand has to be Sharp sand)  I can't believe the difference in the soil!  On the same sloping bank where I didn't add sand the soil is currently claggy and wet after all the rain and frost.

    PS. Hemoracalis (Day lillies) grow really well if they can have some summer sun on my North facing, clay soil.

    Hope this helps...


  • nutcutletnutcutlet Posts: 27,411

    thanks dizzy, kniphofias are something I wouldn't have thought of.  I have a few hostas in but they haven't been there long enough to asses yet. Everything got plenty of water last summer so they haven't been through the drying and cracking thing. 

    In the sticks near Peterborough
  • RHS website recommends incorporating composted bark to improve soil structure.  I have done this on v. heavy clay much as you describe & it works a treat!  (Was composted wood chip though from felled Leylandii.)  Also, try foxgloves, I know they're not shrubs but they are low maintenance!  I've not had success with hostas on this type of soil!

Sign In or Register to comment.