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What Type of Soil Do I have?

Get to know your soil! Identifying and understanding the type of soil you have in your garden will help you choose the right plants for your plot. Soil largely determines which plants can be grown successfully – no matter how much weeding and tending you put in! Luckily, our soil guide is here to help…

Clay Soil

What is a clay soil?

Clay soils are dense and sticky, often comprised of more than 30% fine soil particles. They are slow draining and take longer to warm up. It’s a common misconception that clay soils are bad, because they retain a lot of moisture and nutrients rather than letting them drain away. But this is not the case! Because they are usually rich in plant nutrients, they make a great foundation for a wide range of plants. One consideration to bear in mind is to avoid letting this clay dry out. This is noticeable when it forms cracks and a concrete-like, almost undiggable substrate.

How can I identify clay soil?

A good test to see if you have clay soil is to roll a handful of soil into a ball. If it looks like a dough with no cracking, it is likely that your soil is made up of clay.

What plants are well suited to clay soil? 

Examples include:

Magnolia stellata - Plants for clay soil

Chalk Soil

What is a chalk soil?

Very alkaline, chalk soils are commonly shallow, stony and free draining, largely made up of calcium carbonate. They benefit from plenty of organic matter and fertiliser.

How can I identify chalk soil?

If soil is very chalky, it is generally identifiable by the eye, as they often have visible bits of chalky stone. You can also place your soil in a jar of vinegar. If the mixture froths, then calcium carbonate (chalk) or limestone is present.

What plants are well suited to chalk soil? 

Examples include:

Syringa meyeri ‘Palibin’ - Plants for chalk soil

Loam Soil

What is a loam soil?

Loam soils are made up of a mixture of clay, sand and silt, taking the best characteristics from each. Considered a very good soil, they can accommodate a vast array of plants and benefit from a regular addition of organic matter.

How can I identify loam soil?

Not sure if you have loam soil? Fill a jar 1/3 full of soil and mix with water and a tablespoon of dishwashing detergent. Shake the jar for a couple of minutes and leave overnight. If the water is murky with bits of suspended soil, you have a loam-based soil.

What plants are well suited to loam soil? 

Examples include:

Epimedium rubrum - Plants for loam soil

Sand Soil

What is a sand soil?

Anything classed as a sandy soil is open-structured, meaning they drain quickly and find it hard to retain nutrients. Think Mediterranean plants which thrive in stony, porous soils and can handle drought, or be prepared to use ample organic matter and fertilisers.

How can I identify sand soil?

Sandy soil looks exactly as you would expect, although it may be slightly darker in colour. It is gritty, will crumble if moulded and will fall between your fingers.

What plants are well suited to sand soil? 

Examples include:

Veronicastrum virginicum ‘Fascination’ - Plants for sand soil


You can see which soil types each of our lovely plants are suited to in their product descriptions.

Happy gardening!