ProblemSolver Plants for Clay Soil - Shrubs
Aesculus pavia
Red buckeye

Red buckeye is a Missouri native clump-forming shrub or small tree that typically grows 10-20’ tall. Showy 4-10” long panicles of red to orange-red tubular flowers appear in spring and attract hummingbirds. Shiny, dark green leaves are attractive in spring and early summer, but usually begin to decline by August. Seeds are poisonous and are avoided by most wildlife.
Aronia arbutifolia 'Brilliantissima'
Chokeberry

This red chokeberry cultivar is a deciduous shrub which typically grows slowly to 6-8' tall and is noted for its attractive glossy red berries and red fall foliage color. Clusters of white to pinkish flowers appear in spring, followed by abundant glossy red fruits that appear in dense clusters along the branches and persist throughout fall and well into winter.Fruits are sometimes used to make tasty jams and jellies. Tends to sucker.

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Berberis thunbergii f. atropurpurea 'Rose Glow'
Japanese barberry

'Rose Glow' is a deciduous barberry cultivar that grows 3'-6' tall. First leaves are purple, but new shoots emerge as a rose-pink mottled with bronzish to purplish red splotches. The reddish-brown stems have sharp thorns. Flowers are not showy. Bead-like, bright red berries form in fall and often last through the winter. The berries are attractive to birds.

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Betula nigra 'Little King' FOX VALLEY
River birch

This river birch cultivar is a compact multi-stemmed shrub that typically grows to only 10' tall with a 12' spread. The orangish to brownish bark exfoliates at an early age to reveal a somewhat lighter shaded brownish inner bark. Leathery, diamond-shaped, dark green leaves turn a respectable yellow in fall.

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Buddleja davidii 'Black Knight'
Butterfly bush

'Black Knight' is a butterfly bush cultivar featuring almost black flowers. It is a deciduous shrub with an arching, spreading habit and typically grows 6-8' tall if not cut back in late winter and 4-5' tall if cut back. The long spikes of dark purple flowers are present from June to September and sometimes to first frost. Flowers are fragrant, and, as the common name suggests, very attractive to butterflies. Popular fresh cut flower.

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Callicarpa americana
Beautyberry

Beautyberry is a loose open shrub valued for its spectacular fruits. It reaches 3-6 feet but may be cut back severely in early spring for better fruit production. The relatively insignificant flowers develop into prolific bright violet to magenta berry-like drupes which encircle the stem. These fruits remain attractive for a long time although they are generally gone before severe winter weather.
Calycanthus floridus
Carolina allspice

Carolina allspice usually grows 6-9' tall and suckers. It features very fragrant, brown to reddish-brown flowers in May. These give way to brownish, urn-shaped seed capsules that persist throughout the winter. The lustrous, dark green leaves turn golden yellow in fall and are aromatic when bruised. Best to purchase this plant when in flower because the quality and intensity of the fragrance can vary widely from plant to plant. Also commonly called sweetshrub and strawberry bush in reference to the fragrance of the blooms which has been described as combining hints of pineapple, strawberry and banana.

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Chaenomeles × superba 'Texas Scarlet'
Flowering quince

‘Texas Scarlet’ is a hybrid flowering quince noted for its bright red flowers and compact shape. It typically grows to 3-4’ tall and to 4-5’ wide. Single watermelon red flowers bloom before the leaves fully unfold in early spring. Flowers are followed by hard, yellowish-green fruits (2.5” quinces) that may acquire red tinges as they mature in autumn. Quinces are edible, but are usually considered too bitter as is and so are sometimes made into preserves and jellies.

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Clethra alnifolia 'Ruby Spice'
Sweet pepperbush

‘Ruby Spice’ is noted for its fragrant rose-pink flowers and its ability to bloom in the shade. It is a suckering, deciduous shrub that typically grows 4-6’ tall and features bottlebrush-like panicles (to 6” long) of extremely fragrant rose pink flowers that bloom for approximately 4-6 weeks in July and August. Shiny dark green leaves turn a generally attractive yellow/golden brown in fall. Flowers are very attractive to butterflies and bees.

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Cornus sericea 'Farrow' ARCTIC FIRE
Red twig dogwood

This dwarf redtwig dogwood cultivar is primarily grown for its bright red winter stems. It typically grows to 3-4’ tall and as wide with dense stems. It lacks the stoloniferous, spreading habit of the species. Effective in shrub borders where plants can be combined with evergreens or yellow twig dogwoods for interesting winter contrast.

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Cotinus coggygria 'Velvet Cloak'
Smoketree

‘Velvet Cloak’ is a purple-leaved, multi-stemmed shrub that typically grows 10-15’ tall and wide but can easily be kept more compact by annual pruning. Smoketrees get their common name from the billowy hairs attached to the spent flower clusters which turn a smoky pink to purplish pink in summer, thus covering the tree with fluffy, hazy, smoke-like puffs (when left unpruned). The deep purple leaves of this cultivar retain their color throughout the growing season and turn an attractive orange-red in fall.

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Deutzia gracilis 'Duncan' CHARDONNAY PEARLS
Slender deutzia

CHARDONNAY PEARLS is noted for its lemon-lime foliage which remains attractive throughout the growing season and for its pearl-white flower buds (hence the trade name) which open to a profuse bloom of fragrant white flowers in May. This is a compact shrub that grows to 2-3’ tall.

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Forsythia × intermedia 'Lynwood Variety'
Border forsythia

Sometimes commonly called 'Lynwood Gold,' this cultivar is a vigorous, heavy-blooming forsythia that is noted for a spectacular late winter to early spring bloom of bright yellow flowers that literally cover the shrub with bloom before the new spring foliage emerges. After flowering, it is a nondescript shrub typically growing 6-9' tall and as wide.Leaves turn yellow with purple tinges in fall.

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Hamamelis × intermedia 'Arnold Promise'
Witch hazel

This is an upright, vase-shaped cultivar with a spreading habit that typically grows 12-15’ tall. It is noted for its sweetly fragrant flowers and later bloom than most of the other x intemedia cultivars. Clusters of bright yellow flowers (each with four narrow, ribbon-like crinkled petals and a reddish-green calyx cup) bloom along the stems in February to March. Yellow-orange to yellow fall color can be quite attractive.

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Hamamelis vernalis
Ozark witch hazel

This Missouri native witch hazel typically grows 6' tall and flowers in mid to late winter (January-March in St. Louis). The flowers appear before the foliage in a variety of colors ranging from pale yellow to dark reddish purple. Leaves emerge light green with reddish-bronze tints in spring but quickly mature to medium to dark green and turn golden yellow in fall.

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Hibiscus syriacus 'Diana'
Rose of Sharon

'Diana' is a Royal Horticutural Society of Great Britain Award of Garden Merit plant. It is a sterile Rose of Sharon cultivar that produces very few if any seed pods and grows 5-8 feet tall. The showy flowers are pure white with no eye and appear over a long bloom period July to October.

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Hydrangea arborescens 'Annabelle'
Smooth hydrangea

'Annabelle' is a deciduous shrub with a rounded habit and typically grows 3-5' tall. It features white flowers clustered in huge rounded heads typically 8-12" across. The flowers appear in June for up to two months, sometimes with a small repeat bloom in the fall. 'Annabelle' is a naturally occurring cultivar of a Missouri native species which was discovered in the wild near Anna, Illinois.

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Ilex verticillata 'Nana' RED SPRITE
Winterberry

This is a female cultivar that requires a male (usually 'Jim Dandy') to produce the fruit for which it is noted. Winterberry hollies are deciduous shrubs noted for the profusion of red berries coating the twigs in fall and winter. This cultivar is a large-berried, slow-growing dwarf that is typically only 2-3' tall. Glossy medium green leaves drop in early autumn with no appreciable fall color. Berries persist into early spring unless consumed by birds.

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Itea virginica 'Henry's Garnet'
Virginia sweetspire

This Virginia sweetspire cultivar is an erect, rounded shrub that typically grows 3-4' tall. It features fragrant, tiny white flowers in long cylindrical clusters covering the shrub with bloom in early summer. Dark green leaves turn an attractive garnet red in autumn, sometimes persisting on the shrub until December. Can spread to form colonies by root suckering if left unchecked.

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Lagerstroemia 'Acoma'
Crape myrtle

This crape myrtle cultivar is one of several mildew resistant hybrids developed by the National Arboretum in Washington, D.C., all of which have been given Native American tribe names. It is a deciduous multi-stemmed shrub, featuring dark green foliage, exfoliating bark and crepe-papery panicles of white flowers from mid-summer to early fall. Fall color is dull red to reddish purple. In the South, this cultivar can easily be grown as a woody shrub with a maximum size of 10' tall and 11' wide. In the St. Louis area where winter injury is a problem, plants will grow much smaller.

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Magnolia 'Ann'
Magnolia

‘Ann’ is one of the Little Girl series (‘Ann’, ‘Betty’, ‘Jane’, ‘Judy’, ‘Pinkie’, ‘Randy’, ‘Ricki’ and ‘Susan’) of hybrid magnolias that flower about 2-4 weeks later than other magnolias, thus reducing potential damage to flowers from late spring frosts. ‘Ann’ is primarily noted for its compact shrubby habit, slightly fragrant purple-red flowers and late bloom (mid-April to early May). It is a slow-growing, deciduous shrub or small tree that typically reaches 8-10’ tall and wide.Flowers may sporadically repeat bloom in mid summer. Leaves turn yellow in fall.


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Malus sargentii 'Tina'
Sargent crabapple

This Sargent crabapple cultivar is a dwarf shrub that typically grows only 4-5' tall. Pink buds open to a profuse spring bloom of fragrant, white flowers that are followed by small, red crabapples which mature in the fall. The pea-sized fruits are long-lasting and attractive to birds.

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Physocarpus opulifolius 'Seward' SUMMER WINE
Ninebark

SUMMER WINE is noted for its deeply cut, wine-red foliage and its dense mounded growth habit. Foliage color tends to green up in hot summer climates as the summer progresses. Flat clusters of small pinkish-white flowers appear in late spring. Exfoliating bark provides winter interest.


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Rhus aromatica 'Gro-Low'
Fragrant sumac

This fragrant sumac cultivar is a dense, low-growing shrub which spreads by root suckers and typically grows only 1-2' tall but spreads to 8' wide. Glossy medium green leaves turn attractive shades of orange and red in autumn. Both leaves and twigs are aromatic when bruised (hence the species name). Small clusters of red berries appear in late summer and may persist into winter. Fruit is attractive to wildlife. Although the leaves resemble poison ivy, fragrant sumacs are NOT poisonous.

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Sambucus nigra 'Eva' BLACK LACE
Black elder

BLACK LACE is noted for its deeply cut dark purple foliage. It is a large, upright, shrub that typically matures to 6-8’ tall.Tiny lemon-scented pink flowers appear in large flattened clusters (to 10” across) in June, then give way to clusters of black elderberry fruits in late summer. Fruits of species plants have been used to make jams and jellies, but are not considered to be as flavorful as the American elderberry (Sambucus canadensis). Species fruits have also been used to make elderberry wine. Fruits are attractive to wildlife.

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Spiraea japonica 'Gold Mound'
Japanese spirea

‘Gold Mound’ is, as the cultivar name suggests, noted for its attractive golden foliage. Leaves emerge golden in spring, but gradually fade to a gold-green as the summer progresses. Fall color may include interesting yellows, oranges and reds. This is a compact mounded cultivar that grows 42” tall and 48” wide. Small pink flowers in flattened clusters appear in late spring.


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Syringa vulgaris 'Sensation'
Common lilac

'Sensation' is an upright lilac which grows 8-15' tall. Sweetly fragrant, deep purple to wine red flowers with white edges cover this shrub in late April to early May (St. Louis).

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Viburnum dentatum 'Christom' BLUE MUFFIN
Arrowwood viburnum

BLUE MUFFIN is a compact shrub that typically matures to 3-5’ tall and as wide. White flowers in flat-topped clusters appear in mid to late spring. Flowers give way to pea-sized blue berries that mature in late summer. Berries are attractive to birds. Fall color is attractive shades of orange to burgundy-purple.

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Viburnum prunifolium
Blackhaw viburnum

This Missouri native is a large, upright, multi-stemmed shrub that may be grown as a small, single trunk tree. As a shrub, it typically grows 12-15' tall with a spread of 6-12', but as a tree may reach a height of 30'. Non-fragrant white flowers in flat-topped clusters appear in spring. Flowers give way in autumn to blue-black, berry-like drupes which often persist into winter and are quite attractive to birds and wildlife. Glossy dark green leaves turn attractive shades of red and purple in fall. Fruits are edible and may be eaten off the bush when ripe or used in jams and preserves. 
Weigela florida 'Alexandra' WINE AND ROSES
Weigela

WINE AND ROSES won the Pennsylvania Horticulture Society Gold Medal Plant Award for 2000. It is a densely-rounded shrub which typically grows 4-5' tall with a slightly larger spread. It is primarily grown for its profuse reddish-pink spring flowers and its purple foliage. Sparse and scattered repeat bloom often occurs as the summer progresses. Glossy, burgundy-purple leaves turn very dark purple in autumn. Hummingbirds are attracted to the flowers.

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