ProblemSolver Plants for Clay Soil - Perennials
Amsonia tabernaemontana
Blue star

This Missouri native has narrow willow-like foliage that reaches 2-3' tall and wide and turns from an attractive green to an attractive yellow in the fall. The star-like flowers are a soft light blue and appear in late spring.

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Aster 'Wood's Purple'
Aster

‘Wood’s Purple’ is a compact aster that typically grows in a mounded clump to 12-18” tall. Small, semi-double, blue-violet to purple flowers bloom in late summer to early fall. Glossy dark green leaves have excellent disease resistance. Attracts butterflies.

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Baptisia australis
Blue false indigo

Another plant native to Missouri, blue false indigo is spectacular in spring bloom. It prefers a deep, rich soil but is deep-rooted and once established can tolerate some dryness. Clumps will grow to 3-4 feet tall and wide.

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Boltonia asteroides var. latisquama 'Snowbank'
False aster

This boltonia cultivar is noted for its compact habit (typically grows 3-4' tall) and grayish-green leaves. The flowers are tiny, pure white, daisies that cover the plant with a profuse bloom from late summer to early autumn. Attracts butterflies.

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Ceratostigma plumbaginoides
Plumbago

Excellent ground cover, reaching 6-10" tall with bright blue summer blooms and fabulous bronze-red fall color.
Chelone oblique
Turtlehead

This species of turtlehead is a Missouri native perennial that typically grows 2-3' tall. Hooded, snapdragon-like deep rose flowers appear from late summer into autumn. Flowers purportedly resemble turtle heads.
Echinacea purpurea
Purple coneflower

Who doesn't love this Missouri native and now with so many cultivars and hybrids are available (crosses with other species) the color choices are broad from purple to white to yellow, orange and red. An adaptable plant that is tolerant of drought, heat, humidity and poor soil. Divide clumps when they become overcrowded (about every 4 years). Attracts birds and butterflies.

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Geranium sanguineum
Bloody cranesbill

A spreading perennial that has cup-shaped pink to purple flowers, borne singly in summer above, deeply divided, dark green leaves. Good fall color. See individual cultivars for more detailed information.

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Heliopsis helianthoides 'Prairie Sunset'
False sunflower

This false sunflower cultivar typically grows 3-5’ tall. It is noted for its purple stems and purple-veined foliage and features daisy-like flowers with yellow rays and darker yellow-brown center disks. Maroon tinting at the base of the ray flowers forms a distinctive ring around the center disk. Flowers bloom from early summer to early fall. Good fresh cut flower. Attracts butterflies.

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Hylotelephium 'Herbstfreude' AUTUMN JOY
Stonecrop

Stonecrops, both the sedums and hylotelephiums, are very tolerant of hot, dry locations in full sun. AUTUMN JOY is an older cultivar but it is still a good choice for its rosy pink buds that turn to red on 2 foot mounds of green foliage. Other cultivars now expand the color range.  Attracts butterflies.

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Iris 'Caesar's Brother'
Siberian iris

Siberian irises, when not in bloom, resemble an attractive ornamental grass. Unlike the bearded irises, the foliage is nice all summer and make an excellent change of texture for the perennial garden. 'Caesar's Brother' is a tall cultivar which produces deep purple flowers in late spring on rigid stems rising to 40" high. Attracts butterflies.

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Juncus 'Blue Dart'
Rush

'Blue Dart' features attractive, linear, blue to blue-green foliage. Tolerates light shade, but performs best in full sun. Needs ample moisture, but also does surprisingly well in slightly moist soils that do not dry out.

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Liatris spicata 'Kobold'
Blazing star

'Kobold' is a compact clump-forming cultivar which typically grows 2-2.5' tall. It features fluffy, deep purple flower spikes. Flowers generally open top to bottom on the spikes. Blooms in summer. Attracts birds, hummingbirds and butterflies.

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Matteuccia struthiopteris
Ostrich fern

Ostrich fern is a clump-forming deciduous fern which typically grows 2-3' tall. The showy parts of this fern are the finely dissected, medium green fronds which, as the common name suggests, exhibit the feathery appearance of long ostrich plumes. The fronds usually depreciate as the summer proceeds becoming rather tattered by early fall. Finally, they lose their leaflets later in the fall as the plant goes dormant for the winter. Ferns do not produce flowers.

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Monarda bradburiana
Bee balm

As the common name implies monarda is loved by bees (also, hummingbirds and butterflies). It is well adapted to dry sunny locations, grows 1-2 feet tall and flowers May into June.

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Onoclea sensibilis
Sensitive fern

This large, somewhat coarse Missouri native fern grows up to 4' tall and features bright green fronds with leathery, triangular leaflets which have distinctively netted veins. Commonly called sensitive fern because the green vegetative fronds are sensitive to and suffer almost immediate damage from the first fall frost. Also sensitive to drought.
Pachysandra terminalis
Japanese pachysandra

Japanese pachysandra is a shrubby, evergreen ground cover which grows 8-12" high and spreads to form a dense carpet of rich, dark green foliage. Tiny white flowers are not particularly showy, but on close inspection are quite attractive.

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Penstemon digitalis 'Husker Red'
Beardtongue

'Husker Red' is a clump-forming perennial that typically grows 2-3' tall and features panicles of white flowers from mid-spring to early summer. Leaves are maroon (hence the cultivar name). Attracts birds and butterflies. Perennial Plant Association Plant of the Year (1996).

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Perovskia atriplicifolia 'Little Spire'
Russian sage

'Little Spire' is a compact Russian sage cultivar which typically grows to 2' tall (species typically grows to 3-4'). It features finely-dissected, aromatic, gray-green foliage and whorls of violet-blue flowers. Flowers June to frost. Silvery foliage can provide good winter interest in warm winter climates.

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Phlox divaricata subsp. laphamii
Phlox

Woodland phlox is a spreading, Missouri-native, spring wildflower which typically reaches 12-15" tall. Can form large colonies over time as the leafy shoots spread along the ground rooting at the nodes. Blue flowers are fragrant and attract birds and butterflies.

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Phlox paniculata 'David'
Garden phlox

'David' is a garden phlox cultivar that typically grows in an upright clump to 3-4' tall. Fragrant, tubular flowers are pure white and appear in mid to late summer sometimes lasting into early fall. Good fresh cut flower. Attracts hummingbirds and butterflies.

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Rudbeckia fulgida
Black-eyed Susan

Native to Missouri this coneflower likes moist soil but will tolerate some drought. It typically grows to 3' tall and has a prolific bloom production over a long mid-summer to fall bloom period. Attracts butterflies.

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Rudbeckia hirta 'Indian Summer'
Black-eyed Susan

The is a cultivar of a common Missouri native wildflower with daisy-like flowers. ‘Indian Summer’ blooms throughout the summer producing huge flowerheads (6-9” diameter) with bright yellow to orange-yellow rays and domed, dark chocolate-brown center disks that add bold, stunning color to borders. Attracts butterflies.

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Scutellaria incana
Skullcap

Skullcap is a Missouri native wildflower that grows to 3' tall. Small purplish blue flowers appear in summer. Square stems are hoary (covered with minute white hairs), hence the sometime common name of hoary skullcap. Skullcap refers to the skull - or helmet - shaped calyx of the flower.

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Solidago rugosa 'Fireworks'
Rough goldenrod

This goldenrod cultivar grows 36-42" tall and features tiny, bright yellow flowers borne in dense plumes September-October. Lacy flower plumes purportedly resemble fireworks, hence the cultivar name. Goldenrods have been wrongly accused of causing hay fever which is actually an allergic reaction caused by wind-borne pollen from other plants such as ragweed. Attractive to bees and butterflies. Good cut flower.

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Symphyotrichum novae-angliae 'Purple Dome'
New England aster

This dwarf cultivar typically grows 18-24" tall and up to 3' wide with a low, bushy habit. Features a profuse bloom of dark purple flowers which can entirely cover the plant with bloom from mid-August until early October. No staking is required. Attractive to birds and butterflies.

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Symphyotrichum oblongifolium
Aromatic aster

Native to Missouri this aster is well adapted to dry, sunny locations. It typically grows 1-2 feet tall and features small, daisy-like flowers with violet blue rays and yellow center disks. Leaves are fragrant when crushed. Attractive to butterflies.

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