Evergreen Shrubs for Clay Soil with Poor Drainage

Clay soil with poor drainage can be a challenge to gardeners. But several evergreen shrubs will thrive in these conditions. Let’s look at some plants that are commonly used to soak up water and beautify areas with clay soil. Good choices for clay soil include boxwood, holly, and yew. These evergreen shrubs are all tolerant of wet conditions and will add year-round interest to your landscape.

Soil type

Evergreen Shrubs for Clay Soil with Poor Drainage
Might as well grab a potters wheel…

As with all plants, it’s essential to pay attention to your soil type so that you can select an appropriate variety of evergreen shrub for your yard. The best way to do this is by testing your soil and looking at recommendations in local gardening resources. Consult with a local nursery or garden center for assistance when in doubt. 

While it’s always possible to amend poor drainage by adding compost and other organic matter to the soil, this can be time-consuming. Working with plants native to your area and well suited to your soil type is often the easiest and most effective solution.

Evergreen Shrubs for Clay Soil with Poor Drainage

If you’re searching for an evergreen shrub for clay soil with poor drainage, you may like to consider one of the following plants:

Rhododendrons and azaleas

Evergreen Shrubs for Clay Soil with Poor Drainage

Rhododendrons and azaleas are two of the most popular choices for clay soil gardens. These shrubs have shallow root systems that make them ideal for areas with poor drainage. They produce beautiful flowers throughout the spring and summer months and grow best in slightly acidic soil, with a pH range of between 5.5 and 6.5. 

The western azalea (Rhododendron occidentale) is commonly grown in USDA zones 5 to 10 and does well in poor soil, including soil that’s compact and clay-like. These shrubs can grow up to 15 feet tall and have white or pink trumpet-shaped flowers. 


Evergreen Shrubs for Clay Soil with Poor Drainage

Various types f holly, such as native holly (Ilex opaca) or American holly (I. vomicifolia), do well in clay-like soils. Winterberry (Hiericum verticillatum) is also an excellent evergreen shrub that can be used in soil with poor drainage. Like most evergreens, these plants like a lot of water and will benefit from mulching.


Boxwood (Buxus sempervirens) and privet (Ligustrum spp.) are also good choices for clay soil with poor drainage, but you’ll need to ensure that the plants have a bit of extra space so their roots can grow without restriction. These evergreen shrubs can be grown as a hedge and will help give your yard privacy.  

Other hedge varieties that can grow well in clay-like soil include:

• Escallonia Macrantha

 • Euonymus fortunei  

 • Lonicera nitida


The yew is another excellent choice for moist soils. This versatile and hardy shrub has deep roots that help it to withstand wet conditions, while its soft needles provide year-round interest to the landscape. Yews also require little maintenance, making them an ideal choice for any gardener.

Smooth hydrangeas

Hydrangeas are native to North America and are hardy plants. They grow well in challenging conditions and can thrive in clay soil. These plants come in a variety of colors and are very easy to care for. 

Other evergreen shrubs for clay soil with poor drainage

Here are some other shrubs you may like to consider planting in clay soil. These plants are evergreen and look great year-round:

  • Strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo)
  • Roses (rosa)
  • Cotoneaster species
  • Butterfly bush (Buddleja)
  • Escallonia
  • Butterfly weed


Whether you are looking for year-round interest in your yard or simply want to find plants that thrive in wet conditions, there are many great evergreen shrubs for clay soil with poor drainage. 

Rhododendrons, azaleas, boxwood, holly, yew, and juniper are all excellent choices that can help you create a beautiful and vibrant yard regardless of the soil and drainage conditions. If you want to grow a hedge in clay soil, consider planting pivot, boxwood, or escallonia varieties.

With proper care and attention, these evergreen shrubs will thrive in your yard for years.