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What Grows Well In Red Soil – A Complete List

There are up to 70,000 different kinds of soil in the United States alone. Each soil has unique properties, nutrients, and minerals, and different things can grow in different soils. Red soil is one of those 70,000 kinds of soil. The reason it is called red soil is for its red color. The red color comes from un-hydrated iron oxides and is rich in iron and aluminum.

Red soil comes from warm, moderate temperatures and generally humid climates. Vegetables that thrive in these conditions also thrive in this soil. Red soils are highly clay-based, naturally very dense, and hold water very well. However, its density can be a problem for the roots of plants to grow. Red soil is also naturally packed with many nutrients, so you do not have to feed additional nutrients as often.

Continue reading below if you’d like to learn more about red soil and everything that can grow in it.

Nutrients Packed In Red Soil

Red soil is nutrient-rich, so you don’t have to fertilize as much when planting in it. These are some of the nutrients found in red soil:

  • Iron Oxide
  • Nitrogen
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium

Where Is Red Soil in the United States?

While red soil is mostly found in places like South America, Africa, Asia, India, and some parts of Australia, some places in the United States have an abundance of red clay soil. Red soil is mainly found in the Southern United States. States like Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina, North Carolina, etc., have mainly red soil. These states are known for growing tobacco and cotton because those crops do so well in the red clay.

There are some places on the west coast where you can find red clay. Northern California, Southern and Western Oregon, and a little bit of Western Washington are all places where you may find the red soil.

Vegetables and Other Crops That Grow Well In Red Soil

Lots of vegetables can do very well in red soil, as long as they are the right ones. Other crops such as cotton, wheat, tobacco, rice, etc., do wonderfully in red soil because they are strong, shallow roots and like the moisture levels that stay within the soil itself. Here is a list of some (not all) of the vegetables (and more!) that can be happily grown in red soil.

Potatoes Lettuce
Sweet PotatoesChard
KaleArugula 
PeanutsSugarcane 
Broccoli Cabbage
Brussel Sprouts Cotton 
BeetsWheat
RadishesRice
Green BeansTobacco 

Fruits That Grow Well In Red Soil

Fruits with shallow roots grow very well in red soil because of its ability to hold water. However, things like fruit trees don’t like the clay because it’s harder for their roots to dig down as deep as they are supposed to go. Here are some fruits that grow very well in red soil.

  1. Grapes
  2. Banana
  3. Mango
  4. Papaya
  5. Raspberries
  6. Watermelon

Flowers That Can Grow In Red Soil

Flowers are just another thing on the list of many things that can grow in red clay soil. Let’s take a look.

  1. Black-Eyed Susan
  2. Bee Balm
  3. Echinacea
  4. Daylilies
  5. Butterfly Weed
  6. Goldenrod
  7. Sea Holly
  8. Sunflowers
  9. Aster
  10. Yarrow

You will find that most of these are perennials that love to live their whole lives in red clay.

Tips for Growing in Red Soil

Now that we know most of the things that can happily grow in red soil, let’s talk about growing in red soil. It is slightly different from growing in regular dirt because of its density and ability to hold water. Let’s go over all the tips and tricks to growing in red soil.

  1. Amend Your Red Soil
    • Although red soil is known for being so nutrient packed, it is still important to amend the soil to help with the pH and to help with the consistency. 
      • Best Amendments for Red Soil 
        • Perlite – Perlite is great for breaking down plant matter and really helps with drainage issues in soil.
        • Compost – Any good organic compost will help with adding nutrients and give the soil an extra layer while breaking down the clay.
        • Garden Lime – Garden lime is a rock powder. It will benefit the red soil by raising it pH levels and help the soil be less clumpy. 
  2. Mulch
    • You will find that mulch will be your best friend when you are working with red clay. Having mulch on your garden during the summer will keep the sun from drying out the clay too much and giving it that cakey, thick texture that is not good for plants. At the same time, mulch gives plants lots of nutrients. 
  3. Cover Crop
    • Cover crop is great to use for any type of soil during the off seasons, but especially for the red soil. Cover crops does exactly what it sounds like; it covers the ground to protect it from all sorts of things like weeds, bugs, disease, and when you are ready to plant, tilling all that organic matter into the ground does wonders for your soil. Cover crop helps protect the clay from ever being bare and facing the risk of drying out and becoming unworkable. 
  4. Moisture Levels
    • It is much easier to work with red clay when it’s dried out. Working in wet clay will create hard clumps that stay hard and basically turn into rocks, which is not good for root growth. Wet soil is also hard to work in. It sticks to everything–shovels, hands–it’s basically like playing in the mud. 
  5. Watchful Watering
    • Of course, plants still need water, but it is easy to overwater in the clay. Because it doesn’t drain as well as normal soil, you will want to wait a little bit longer than you normally would to water. However, don’t let your plants get too dry either.
  6. Don’t Overwork or Step on Red Soil
    • Once your plants are in the ground, it is important to try and keep off of the red soil as much as possible. Any impact will cause the soil to clump up and become harder and harder, making it harder to grow in and work with. You also do not want to overwork the soil for the very same reasons. 

Final Thoughts

Red soil is very interesting. Its color is beautiful, and you can use it for a lot more than just farming. Red clay is widely known for being great for making pottery and ceramics. It is also used to make bricks for buildings. Although it can be difficult to grow anything in it, with the proper care and the right hands, many things can thrive and throw in the dense clay soil.