You may think that dirt is dirt and any plant can grow just fine in any medium with just a bit of fertilizer, water, sunlight, and love. Unfortunately, you’d be incorrect. Many plants must be planted in a specific type of soil to achieve their greatest height or bear fruit and many will not even grow at all, without the appropriate soil type.
When determining your soil type, the best thing you can do is feel them – each one has a distinct feel when wet and dry. Let’s look at a few different soil types and what grows best in them.
It’s the most plentiful type and a bear to work with as a gardener. You can recognize clay soil by its lumpy, sticky nature when wet, as well as how heavy it is. If you find it in your yard, do not worry! There are things you can do to make your life a bit easier. First, control the drainage around the area. Clay soil is very good for plants because its heavy nature holds more nutrients than other types. However, controlling the water is key.
Our favorite plant for clay soil:
Aster. These perennials are hardy, green plants that have flowers that range from white, to pink to violet.
Sandy soil is grainy to the touch and looks like…well…sand. It drains very well, dries out rapidly and is easy to cultivate crops in because it is light. However, because of its good drainage and sandy nature, it may lack key nutrients. Plants may need a bit of fertilizer to truly take off.
Our favorite plant for sandy soil:
Lavender. Wonderful to smell, see and drink (in tea!), lavender loves sandy soil and doesn’t need water often. Perfect for the low-maintenance garden.
Silty soil is like sandy, except that it is a bit heavier and maintains moisture much better. Silty soil is an excellent soil to plant in if it is well managed. It tends to compact very easily and your plants need some air down there at the roots!
Our favorite plant for silty soil:
Hakonechloa grass. A very slow growing plant, this grass provides beautiful fall colors, including gold, yellow, and reds.
Dark in color, peaty soil is exactly what you think it is. It’s a soil that contains a high concentration of organic matter – this increases the airflow and retains quite a bit of water. However, because of the acidic nature of the soil, many nutrients are lacking.
Our favorite plant for peaty soil:
Blueberries. That’s right – blueberries love extremely acidic soil and grow, essentially, like weeds given the right conditions.
You’ll immediately recognize this if you have chalky soil because you’ll see rocks, stones, and other minerals within it. Chalky soil tends to be very alkaline and drains well. This means, unfortunately, that nutrients are almost non-existent and a fertilizer is required.
Our favorite plant for chalky soil:
Lilac. If you’ve got the space, a lilac tree loves stony soil and produces beautiful purple flowers.
The perfect soil, far and away. It maintains its structure well, is not overly heavy, retains water easily, while simultaneously draining well. Additionally, it has lots of nutrients. Unfortunately, most of us don’t have loamy soil and if we do, it’s because it has been developed in our raised beds or gardens over many years.
Our favorite plant for loamy soil:
Wisteria. Wisteria is an absolutely beautiful plant that produces violet to white flowers and climbs easily up trees, homes and other structures.
Once you have a good idea of what kind of soil you have, you can select plants that fit in that area!