Clay Soil Plants – Lists

Native Plants Suitable for Clay Soils

By Dan Songster (ver. 2021.Nov.03)


We hear all the time about native plants needing well drained soils and for many natives that is absolutely true. We may try incorporating organic composts into the landscape often causing more problems than solving. Or we try adding the course sand, gravel, and decomposed granite recommended by some experts, with some success with the odd manzanita or woolly blue curls.

Perhaps you are at the point where you are curious about what native plants actually thrive in clay soils. Hmmmm….Why not try them? What a novel idea! Here are a few of my favorites.



  • Achillea millefolium-Yarrow
  • Adenostoma fasciculatum ‘Nicholas’-prostrate form Chamise
  • Baccharis pilularis Twin Peaks’ or ‘Pigeon Point’-Prostrate Coyote Brush
  • Carex pansa or praegracilis-Sedge
  • Ceanothus griseus horiz. ‘Yankee Point’-Yankee Point Lilac (Also C. ‘Anchor Bay’)
  • Erigeron sp-Seaside Daisy
  • Eriogonum  fasciculatum  California Buckwheat
  • Fragaria sp-Both “woodland” and “Beach” strawberries
  • Salvia spathacea-Hummingbird Sage



  • Artemesia californica including ‘Montara’-California Sagebrush
  • Encelia californica-Coast Sunflower
  • Eriogonum fasciculatum-California Buckwheat
  • Galvesia speciosa-Island Snapdragon
  • Juncus species-Rush
  • Muhlenbergia rigens-Deergrass
  • Sages-Many! Salvia apiana-White Sage, S. clevelandii, S. leucophylla, S. mellifera, etc


PERENNIALS (Sometimes referred to as sub-shrubs)

  • Epilobium canum-California Fuchsia
  • Romneya coulteri-Matilija Poppy
  • Solidago velutina  ssp. Californica-California GoldenRod
    Sisyrinchium bellum-Western Blue-eyed Grass
  • Thalictrum fendleri var. polycarpum-Meadow rue
  • Verbena lilacina-Lilac Verbena



  • Ceanothus species (‘Concha’, ‘Wheeler Canyon’, etc.)-California Lilac
  • Eriogonum giganteum-St. Catherine’s Lace (Also-Many of the other Buckwheat)
  • Frangula californica (Rhamnus c.)-Coffeeberry
  • Heteromeles arbutifolia-Toyon
  • Isocoma menziesi-Coast Goldenbush (and most of its friends Hazardia, Grindelia, etc)
  • Prunus ilicifolia-Hollyleaf Cherry
  • Rhus integrifolia-Lemonadeberry (also R. ovata-Sugarbush)



  • Calocedrus decurrens-Incense Cedar
  • Cercis occidentalls-Western Redbud
  • Cercocarpus betuloides-Western Mountain Mahogany
  • Cupressus forbesii-Tecate Cypress
  • Chilopsis Iinearis-Desert Willow
  • Juglans Californica-California Walnut
  • Prunus illicifolia ssp lyonii-Catalina Cherry
  • Quercus agrifolia-Coast Live Oak (and others) **Limit summer water
  • Sambucus nigra ssp. caerulea-Blue Elderberry



  • Hespeoyucca whipplei-Foothill Yucca, Our Lord’s Candle
  • Nolina cismontana-Peninsular beargrass