The dirty truth about soil

It may seem a rather dull topic, and I wouldn't blame you for not jumping with excitement at the prospect of discussing it, but knowing what type of soil you have in your garden can help you choose plants that will flourish. Who doesn't want that?

Types of soil

Firstly, you may be wondering what types of soil there are and more importantly, how do you know what type you have in your garden?

Each soil type has different characteristics so as long as you know what to look out for, determining soil type needn't be hard. We've got you covered!


Chalk and limestone soils are alkaline based and organic matter decays very quickly in these soil types so its important to mulch this soil with manure or compost and apply fertiliser to plants.

How to identify: You may be able to see visible clumps of chalk-like stone. If not, place some soil in a jar of vinegar and if the mixture froths, your soil contains chalk or limestone. 

Also known as 'heavy' soils, Clay soils retain moisture and are extremely fertile.

How to identify: Clay soil has a sticky and thick substance and is renowned for being hard to dig. Roll the soil into a ball. If it resembles dough with no cracking or flaking, it's likely your soil is mostly made up of clay.

Loam soils are a combination of sand, clay and silt. If this is the type of soil in your garden, count yourself lucky! Most plants thrive in this type of soil.

How to identify: Fill a jar a third full with your soil. Mix with water and liquid detergent, shake for a few minutes and leave overnight. If the water is still murky in the morning with suspended oil, your soil is loam-based. 

Sandy soils are easy to work with but will drain very quickly when watered so adding fertiliser and mulch to the soil with help it keep its moisture and nutrients.

How to identify: Sandy soil looks much like the sand you would find at the beach but darker in colour. It's gritty to the touch and will crumble if you try to mould it into a shape.


Soil that is particularly saturated with water often leads to root decay for a lot of plants, however, some plants thrive in permanently moist conditions.

How to identify: Dig a straight hole around 2ft deep and keep the hole from rainwater, leaving overnight. If water is found in the hole in the morning, you have a high-water table. If no water is found, fill the hole with water and leave for another day. If the water still remains, your soil has poor drainage and is 'wet'.

What plants are best for my soil type?
Now that you've determined what type of soil you have, it's time to get planting! See below for our recommendations for each soil type.

Plants for chalky soil

Echinacea Playful Meadow Mama- CLICK HERE TO BUY NOW

For chalky soil look out for plants that thrive in dry summers, need a lot of drainage and can cope with soil that is not very fertile, as these are perfect.

Plants such as Lilacs, Echinacea, Lavender, Dianthus and Geranium are perfect choices.

Avoid acid-loving plants such as Camellias, Azaleas and Rhododendrons.

Plants for clay soil


 Clay soil offers a lot of nutrients, so a large range of plants are happy in this kind of soil.

Plants such as Hydrangea, Mahonia, Viburnum and Rosa are perfect, though it still is recommended to work in some organic matter to improve the soil and get the very best out of your plants.

Plants for loam soil

Wisteria floribunda Alba- CLICK HERE TO BUY NOW

Loam soil is the best of all worlds as it is a combination of clay silt and sand so most plants will love this soil type.

As a result, there are plenty of plants to choose from if this is your soil type. Wisteria, Delphinium and Erythronium are but a few of the many options. 
Plants for sandy soil

Sedum Sunsparkler Dazzleberry- CLICK HERE TO BUY NOW

Choosing plants that can cope with dry infertile soils is paramount with this soil type. If not, you will ultimately just waste water, time and money trying to help your plants survive.

Choose plants such as Lavender, Buddleja, Verbena and Sedums.
Avoid Hydrangeas, Clematis and Roses as they like moist and fertile soil.

Plants for wet soil

Athyrium Silver Falls- CLICK HERE TO BUY NOW

A lot of plants will not tolerate soil that is constantly waterlogged but there are plants that will cope with permanently moist soil as long as there is some oxygen in the soil.

Good choices for wet soils are Hosta, Hydrangea and Athyrium.

Avoid plants like Lavender and Sedum as they are drought-tolerant plants, so they prefer their soil to be fairly dry.

Knowing your soil type is an absolute must of any gardener as it can save you so much time and money.  No longer do you need to buy plants that are inevitably going to fail!

And remember, no matter what your soil type, there is a plant out there for you!

Want to know more? You can view more information about soil type on our website by clicking HERE.

Happy gardening Haylofters!


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