Creeping, semi-evergreen fern that is large growing and has arching, oblong to triangular, gray-green, deeply pinnatified fronds, up to 5 feet long.Important Info : Also known as Phlebodium aureum.
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CharacteristicsCultivar: English Crested
Size: Height: 2 ft. to 2.5 ft.
Width: 3 ft. to 5 ft.
Plant Category: ferns and moss,
Plant Characteristics: spreading,
Foliage Characteristics: medium leaves, evergreen,
Tolerances: heat & humidity, slope,
Bloomtime Range: not applicable
USDA Hardiness Zone: 9 to 11
AHS Heat Zone: Not defined for this plant
Light Range: Part Shade to Sun
pH Range: 4.5 to 6.5
Soil Range: Some Sand to Loam
Water Range: Normal to Moist
FertilizingTools : Aerators
Most lawns benefit from being aerated once a year, especially if you know your soil is compacted. Aeration is a mechanical means of loosening compacted soil by punching or pulling plugs of soil from the ground. Aeration increases air, water and nutrients to plant roots. If you were able to view a cross section of turf several weeks after aeration, you would see the holes filled with little white roots. Two types of aerators are:
- Spike Aerator: star-shaped or nail-like spikes which punch holes in the ground.
- Hollow-tined or Plug Aerator: penetrates turf deeply, removing plugs of soil or sod. The plugs should be allowed to dry on top of the turf. Break up the plugs by dragging a mat or piece of lathe across the turf. The soil from the plugs topdresses the turf, returning micronutirents back to the turf. These micronutrients will help to breakdown any thatch layers in the turf. Aerators are typically used in the spring or late summer/fall.
How-to : Fertilization for Young Plants
Young plants need extra phosphorus to encourage good root development. Look for a fertilizer that has phosphorus, P, in it(the second number on the bag.) Apply recommended amount for plant per label directions in the soil at time of planting or at least during the first growing season.
How-to : Fertilization for Established Plants
Established plants can benefit from fertilization. Take a visual inventory of your landscape. Trees need to be fertilized every few years. Shrubs and other plants in the landscape can be fertilized yearly. A soil test can determine existing nutrient levels in the soil. If one or more nutrients is low, a specific instead of an all-purpose fertilizer may be required. Fertilizers that are high in N, nitrogen, will promote green leafy growth. Excess nitrogen in the soil can cause excessive vegetative growth on plants at the expense of flower bud development. It is best to avoid fertilizing late in the growing season. Applications made at that time can force lush, vegetative growth that will not have a chance to harden off before the onset of cold weather.
How-to : Fertilizing Houseplants
Houseplants may be fertilized with: 1. water-soluble, quick release fertilizers; 2. temperature controlled slow-release fertilizers; 3. or organic fertilizers such as fish emulsion. Water soluble fertilizers are used every two weeks or per label instructions. Controlled, slow-release fertilizers are carefully worked into the soil usually only once during the growing season or per label directions. For organic fertilizers, such as fish emulsion, follow label directions. Allow houseplants to 'rest' during the winter months; stop fertilizing in late October and resume feeding in late February.
LightConditions : Partial Shade
Partial Shade is defined as filtered light found beneath trees with high limbs. Partial shade usually offers some protection from direct afternoon sun.
Conditions : Dappled Light
Dappled Light refers to a dappled pattern of light created on the ground, as cast by light passing through high tree branches. This is the middle ground, not considered shady, but not sunny either. Dappled remains constant throughout the day.
Conditions : Part Sun
Part Sun refers to filtered light, with most sun being received during the afternoon hours. Shade usually occurs during the morning hours.
Conditions : Light Conditions
Unless a site is completely exposed, light conditions will change during the day and even during the year. The northern and eastern sides of a house receive the least amount of light, with the northern exposure being the shadiest. The western and southern sides of a house receive the most light and are considered the hottest exposures due to intense afternoon sun.
You will notice that sun and shade patterns change during the day. The western side of a house may even be shady due to shadows cast by large trees or a structure from an adjacent property. If you have just bought a new home or just beginning to garden in your older home, take time to map sun and shade throughout the day. You will get a more accurate feel for your site's true light conditions.
Conditions : Filtered Light
For many plants that prefer partially shady conditions, filtered light is ideal. Good planting sites are under a mid to large sized tree that lets some light through their branches or beneath taller plants that will provide some protection.
Conditions : Moderate Light for Houseplants
Place houseplants that require moderate light within 5 feet of an eastern or western exposure window.
Conditions : Moisture-loving Houseplants
Houseplants that require ample water, or those labeled as moisture-loving houseplants require that they be watered thoroughly until the soil is saturated and then drains freely from holes in the bottom of pot. Re-water when potting soil becomes dry to the touch an inch or so below the soil surface.
Conditions : Partial Sun, Partial Shade
Part sun or part shade plants prefer light that is filtered. Sunlight, though not direct, is important to them. Often morning sun, because it is not as strong as afternoon sun, can be considered part sun or part shade. If you live in an area that does not get much intense sun, such as the Pacific Northwest, a full sun exposure may be fine. In other areas such as Florida, plant in a location where afternoon shade will be received.
Conditions : Types of Pruning
Types of pruning include: pinching, thinning, shearing and rejuvenating.
Pinching is removing the stem tips of a young plant to promote branching. Doing this avoids the need for more severe pruning later on.
Thinning involves removing whole branches back to the trunk. This may be done to open up the interior of a plant to let more light in and to increase air circulation that can cut down on plant disease. The best way to begin thinning is to begin by removing dead or diseased wood.
Shearing is leveling the surface of a shrub using hand or electric shears. This is done to maintain the desired shape of a hedge or topiary.
Rejuvenating is removal of old branches or the overall reduction of the size of a shrub to restore its original form and size. It is recommended that you do not remove more than one third of a plant at a time. Remember to remove branches from the inside of the plant as well as the outside. When rejuvenating plants with canes, such as nandina, cut back canes at various heights so that plant will have a more natural look.
Conditions : Light and Plant Selection
For best plant performance, it is desirable to match the correct plant with the available light conditions. Right plant, right place! Plants which do not receive sufficient light may become pale in color, have fewer leaves and a "leggy" stretched-out appearance. Also expect plants to grow slower and have fewer blooms when light is less than desirable. It is possible to provide supplemental lighting for indoor plants with lamps. Plants can also receive too much light. If a shade loving plant is exposed to direct sun, it may wilt and/or cause leaves to be sunburned or otherwise damaged.
WateringConditions : Moist
Moist is defined as soil that receives regular watering to a depth of 18 inch deep, does not dry out, but does not have a drainage problem either.
Conditions : Wet
Wet is defined as year-round standing water, such as a concave area of the ground or pond.
Conditions : Wet Houseplants
Wet houseplants require constant moisture. Be sure to check moisture level daily and water pots thoroughly so that soil is completely saturated, but drains from holes in the bottom of the pot. Very few plants can tolerate these conditions. Because constant moisture is important, you may be able to get away with using a decorative pot that does not have holes in the bottom.
Conditions : Regular Moisture for Outdoor Plants
Water when normal rainfall does not provide the preferred 1 inch of moisture most plants prefer. Average water is needed during the growing season, but take care not to overwater. The first two years after a plant is installed, regular watering is important. The first year is critical. It is better to water once a week and water deeply, than to water frequently for a few minutes.
Conditions : Moist and Well Drained
Moist and well drained means exactly what it sounds like. Soil is moist without being soggy because the texture of the soil allows excess moisture to drain away. Most plants like about 1 inch of water per week. Amending your soil with compost will help improve texture and water holding or draining capacity. A 3 inch layer of mulch will help to maintain soil moisture and studies have shown that mulched plants grow faster than non-mulched plants.
Conditions : Outdoor Watering
Plants are almost completely made up of water so it is important to supply them with adequate water to maintain good plant health. Not enough water and roots will wither and the plant will wilt and die. Too much water applied too frequently deprives roots of oxygen leading to plant diseases such as root and stem rots. The type of plant, plant age, light level, soil type and container size all will impact when a plant needs to be watered. Follow these tips to ensure successful watering:
* The key to watering is water deeply and less frequently. When watering, water well, i.e. provide enough water to thoroughly saturate the root ball. With in-ground plants, this means thoroughly soaking the soil until water has penetrated to a depth of 6 to 7 inches (1' being better). With container grown plants, apply enough water to allow water to flow through the drainage holes.
* Try to water plants early in the day or later in the afternoon to conserve water and cut down on plant stress. Do water early enough so that water has had a chance to dry from plant leaves prior to night fall. This is paramount if you have had fungus problems.
* Don't wait to water until plants wilt. Although some plants will recover from this, all plants will die if they wilt too much (when they reach the permanent wilting point).
* Consider water conservation methods such as drip irrigation, mulching, and xeriscaping. Drip systems which slowly drip moisture directly on the root system can be purchased at your local home and garden center. Mulches can significantly cool the root zone and conserve moisture.
* Consider adding water-saving gels to the root zone which will hold a reserve of water for the plant. These can make a world of difference especially under stressful conditions. Be certain to follow label directions for their use.
PlantingHow-to : Preparing Garden Beds
Use a soil testing kit to determine the acidity or alkalinity of the soil before beginning any garden bed preparation. This will help you determine which plants are best suited for your site. Check soil drainage and correct drainage where standing water remains. Clear weeds and debris from planting areas and continue to remove weeds as soon as they come up.
A week to 10 days before planting, add 2 to 4 inches of aged manure or compost and work into the planting site to improve fertility and increase water retention and drainage. If soil composition is weak, a layer of topsoil should be considered as well. No matter if your soil is sand or clay, it can be improved by adding the same thing: organic matter. The more, the better; work deep into the soil. Prepare beds to an 18 inch deep for perennials. This will seem like a tremendous amount of work now, but will greatly pay off later. Besides, this is not something that is easily done later, once plants have been established.
How-to : Preparing Containers
Containers are excellent when used as an ornamental feature, a planting option when there is little or no soil to plant in, or for plants that require a soil type not found in the garden or when soil drainage in the garden is inferior. If growing more than one plant in a container, make sure that all have similar cultural requirements. Choose a container that is deep and large enough to allow root development and growth as well as proportional balance between the fully developed plant and the container. Plant large containers in the place you intend them to stay. All containers should have drainage holes. A mesh screen, broken clay pot pieces(crock) or a paper coffee filter placed over the hole will keep soil from washing out. The potting soil you select should be an appropriate mix for the plants you have chosen. Quality soils (or soil-less medias) absorb moisture readily and evenly when wet. If water runs off soil upon initial wetting, this is an indicator that your soil may not be as good as you think.
Prior to filling a container with soil, wet potting soil in the bag or place in a tub or wheelbarrow so that it is evenly moist. Fill container about halfway full or to a level that will allow plants, when planted, to be just below the rim of the pot. Rootballs should be level with soil line when project is complete. Water well.
How-to : Planting Perennials
Determine appropriate perennials for your garden by considering sun and shade through the day, exposure, water requirements, climate, soil makeup, seasonal color desired, and position of other garden plants and trees.
The best times to plant are spring and fall, when soil is workable and out of danger of frost. Fall plantings have the advantage that roots can develop and not have to compete with developing top growth as in the spring. Spring is more desirable for perennials that dislike wet conditions or for colder areas, allowing full establishment before first winter. Planting in summer or winter is not advisable for most plants, unless planting a more established sized plant.
To plant container-grown plants: Prepare planting holes with appropriate depth and space between. Water the plant thoroughly and let the excess water drain before carefully removing from the container. Carefully loosen the root ball and place the plant in the hole, working soil around the roots as you fill. If the plant is extremely root bound, separate roots with fingers. A few slits made with a pocket knife are okay, but should be kept to a minimum. Continue filling in soil and water thoroughly, protecting from direct sun until stable.
To plant bare-root plants: Plant as soon as possible after purchase. Prepare suitable planting holes, spread roots and work soil among roots as you fill in. Water well and protect from direct sun until stable.
To plant seedlings: A number of perennials produce self-sown seedlings that can be transplanted. You may also start your own seedling bed for transplanting. Prepare suitable planting holes, spacing appropriately for plant development. Gently lift the seedling and as much surrounding soil as possible with your garden trowel, and replant it immediately, firming soil with fingertips and water well. Shade from direct sun and water regularly until stable.
ProblemsPest : Thrips
Thrips are small, winged insects that attack many types of plants and thrive in hot, dry conditions (like heated houses). They can multiply quickly as a female can lay up to 300 eggs in a life span of 45 days without mating. Most of the damage to plants is caused by the young larvae which feed on tender leaf and flower tissue. This leads to distorted growth, injured flower petals and premature flower drop. Thrips also can transmit many harmful plant viruses.
Prevention and Control: keep weeds down and use screening on windows to keep them out. Remove or discard infested plants, keep them away from non-infested plants. Trap with yellow sticky cards or take advantage of natural enemies such as predatory mites. Sometimes a good steady shower of water will wash them off the plant. Consult your local garden center professional or county Cooperative extension office for legal chemical recommendations.
Pest : Fungus Gnats and Shoreflies
Fungus Gnats or Shore fliesare small pesky flies which can often be a nuisance inside the home. About the size of fruit flies, they can be seen running on the soil surface of pots. They seem to favor wet soil conditions and may thrive in mixes containing hardwood bark or manure. While the worm-like larvae can cause root damage and adults can transmit plant diseases, they rarely cause severe plant damage.
Possible controls: avoid over-watering soil. Another option: use labelled insecticidal drenches against the juvenile stages. Adults can be controlled with recommended insecticides, as well. Encourage natural enemies such as parasitic nematodes in the garden.
Pest : Mealybugs
Small, wingless, dull-white, soft-bodied insects that produce a waxy powdery covering. They have piercing/sucking mouth parts that suck the sap out of plant tissue. Mealybugs often look like small pieces of cotton and they tend to congregate where leaves and stems branch. They attack a wide range of plants. The young tend to move around until they find a suitable feeding spot, then they hang out in colonies and feed. Mealybugs can weaken a plant leading to yellow foliage and leaf drop. They also produce a sweet substance called honeydew (coveted by ants) which can lead to an unattractive black surface fungal growth called sooty mold.
Prevention and Control: Isolate infested plants from those that are not. Consult your local garden center professional or the Cooperative Extension office in your county for a legal insecticide/chemical recommendation. Encourage natural enemies such as lady beetles in the garden to help reduce population levels of mealy bugs.
Pest : Whiteflies
Whiteflies are small, winged insects that look like tiny moths, which attack many types of plants. The flying adult stage prefers the underside of leaves to feed and breed. Whiteflies can multiply quickly as a female can lay up to 500 eggs in a life span of 2 months. If a plant is infested with whiteflies, you will see a cloud of fleeing insects when the plant is disturbed. Whiteflies can weaken a plant, eventually leading to plant death if they are not checked. They can transmit many harmful plant viruses. They also produce a sweet substance called honeydew (coveted by ants) which can lead to an unattractive black surface fungal growth called sooty mold.
Possible controls: keep weeds down; use screening in windows to keep them out; remove infested plants away from non-infested plants; use a reflective mulch (aluminum foil) under plants (this repels whiteflies); trap with yellow sticky cards, apply labeled pesticides; encourage natural enemies such as parasitic wasps in the garden; and sometimes a good steady shower of water will wash them off the plant.
Pest : Slugs and Snails
Slugs and snails favor moist climates and are mollusks, not insects. They can be voracious feeders, eating just about anything that is not woody or highly scented. They may eat holes in leaves, strip entire stems, or completely devour seedlings and tender transplants, leaving behind tell-tale silvery, slimy trails.
Prevention and control: Keep your garden as clean as possible, eliminating hiding places such as leaf debris, over-turned pots, and tarps. Groundcover in shady places and heavy mulches provide protection from the elements and can be favorite hiding places. In the spring, patrol for and destroy eggs (clusters of small translucent spheres) and adults during dusk and dawn. Set out beer traps from late spring through fall.
Many chemical controls are available on the market, but can be poisonous and deadly for children and pets; take care when using them - always read the label first!
Pest : Aphids
Aphids are small, soft-bodied, slow-moving insects that suck fluids from plants. Aphids come in many colors, ranging from green to brown to black, and they may have wings. They attack a wide range of plant species causing stunting, deformed leaves and buds. They can transmit harmful plant viruses with their piercing/sucking mouthparts. Aphids, generally, are merely a nuisance, since it takes many of them to cause serious plant damage. However aphids do produce a sweet substance called honeydew (coveted by ants) which can lead to an unattractive black surface growth called sooty mold.
Aphids can increase quickly in numbers and each female can produce up to 250 live nymphs in the course of a month without mating. Aphids often appear when the environment changes - spring & fall. They're often massed at the tips of branches feeding on succulent tissue. Aphids are attracted to the color yellow and will often hitchhike on yellow clothing.
Prevention and Control: Keep weeds to an absolute minimum, especially around desirable plants. On edibles, wash off infected area of plant. Lady bugs and lacewings will feed on aphids in the garden. There are various products - organic and inorganic - that can be used to control aphids. Seek the recommendation of a professional and follow all label procedures to a tee.
Pest : Earwigs
Earwigs, which hide during the day and emerge at night to eat, usually target young leaves and flower petals in late spring. Normally, they do not pose a huge problem, but their pinch can hurt.
Prevention and control: Keep the garden tidy, eliminating hiding places. Control by reducing population. One way is to create a trap. Invert pots filled with dried grass on stakes. The earwigs will hide here during the day. Earwigs will also hide in moist balls of paper that have been placed on the ground, close to plants. Every few days, discard the paper balls. Heavy infestations may require the use of an insecticide. Select one that is labelled for earwig control and follow all label procedures to a tee.
Pest : Caterpillars
Caterpillars are the immature form of moths and butterflies. They are voracious feeders attacking a wide variety of plants. They can be highly destructive and are characterized as leaf feeders, stem borers, leaf rollers, cutworms and tent-formers.
Prevention and Control: keep weeds down, scout individual plants and remove caterpillars, apply labeled insecticides such as soaps and oils, take advantage of natural enemies such as parasitic wasps in the garden and use Bacillus thuringiensis (biological warfare) for some caterpillar species.
Pest : Gypsy Moths
The gypsy moth is known for defoliating trees and evergreen conifers. Oaks seem to be a favorite target. Larvae of the gypsy moth hatch from egg clusters on the bark of trees. The larvae are 2 inches long when mature, and black, with white lines and tufts of long hair.
Prevention and Control: Named for their ability to travel, the gypsy moth can be more of a problem in the eastern United States. If relocating from the east to the west, check garden equipment and lawn furniture for egg masses. Handpicking caterpillars is an option. Destroying egg masses in winter, before they have a chance to hatch, is a strong option. Insecticides can be used; seek a professional for a recommendation. If trees are too big for home equipment, contract with an arborist to make the applications. Better control will be achieved with young caterpillars. The older the caterpillar, the harder to control with insecticides.
Pest : Scale Insects
Scales are insects, related to mealy bugs, that can be a problem on a wide variety of plants - indoor and outdoor. Young scales crawl until they find a good feeding site. The adult females then lose their legs and remain on a spot protected by its hard shell layer. They appear as bumps, often on the lower sides of leaves. They have piercing mouth parts that suck the sap out of plant tissue. Scales can weaken a plant leading to yellow foliage and leaf drop. They also produce a sweet substance called honeydew (coveted by ants) which can lead to an unattractive black surface fungal growth called sooty mold.
Prevention and Control: Once established they are hard to control. Isolate infested plants away from those that are not infested. Consult your local garden center professional or Cooperative Extension office in your county for a legal recommendation regarding their control. Encourage natural enemies such as parasitic wasps in the garden.
MiscellaneousConditions : Slope Tolerant
Slope tolerant plants are those that have a fibrous root system and are often plants that prefer good soil drainage. These plants assist in erosion control by stabilizing/holding the soil on slopes intact.
Glossary : Border Plant
A border plant is one which looks especially nice when used next to other plants in a border. Borders are different from hedges in that they are not clipped. Borders are loose and billowy, often dotted with deciduous flowering shrubs. For best effect, mass smaller plants in groups of 3, 5, 7, or 9. Larger plants may stand alone, or if room permits, group several layers of plants for a dramatic impact. Borders are nice because they define property lines and can screen out bad views and offer seasonal color. Many gardeners use the border to add year round color and interest to the garden.
Glossary : Container Plant
A plant that is considered to be a good container plant is one that does not have a tap root, but rather a more confined, fibrous root system. Plants that usually thrive in containers are slow- growing or relatively small in size. Plants are more adaptable than people give them credit for. Even large growing plants can be used in containers when they are very young, transplanted to the ground when older. Many woody ornamentals make wonderful container plants as well as annuals, perennials, vegetables, herbs, and bulbs.
Conditions : Erosion Control
Plants that help to control erosion have fibrous root systems that help to keep soil intact. Leaves and the overall form of a plant can prevent erosion by breaking up water droplets before they hit the ground, lessening splashing and runoff.
Glossary : Low Maintenance
Low maintenance does not mean no maintenance. It does mean that once a plant is established, very little needs to be done in the way of water, fertilizing, pruning, or treatment in order for the plant to remain healthy and attractive. A well-designed garden, which takes your lifestyle into consideration, can greatly reduce maintenance.
Glossary : Mass Planting
Mass is one of the elements of design and relates directly to balance. Mass planting is defined as the grouping of three or more of the same type of plants in one area. When massing plants, keep in mind what visual effect they will have. Small properties require smaller masses where larger properties can handle larger masses or sweeps of plants.
Glossary : Some Sand
Some Sand refers to a soil that drains fast, but has lower water holding capacity due to the presence of a little organic matter. A good workable soil that needs added fertilizer due to lower fertility levels and adequate water. Usually gray in color. Forms a loose, crumbly ball that easily falls apart when squeezed in the hand.
Glossary : Sandy Loam
Sandy Loam refers to a soil that drains well, with excellent air space, and evenly crumbled texture when squeezed in the hand. A good workable garden soil that benefits from added fertilizer and proper watering. Dark gray to gray-brown in color.
Glossary : Loam
Loam is the ideal soil, having the perfect balance between particle size, air space, organic matter and water holding capacity. It forms a nice ball when squeezed in the palm of the hand, but crumbles easily when lightly tapped with a finger. Rich color ranges between gray brown to almost black.
Glossary : Some Clay
Some Clay refers to a soil that is loam-like, but heavier. Drainage is not bad, prolonged periods of rain cause bog-like conditions. Rich in nutrients, but needs the addition of organic matter to improve texture. Easily forms a ball when squeezed and requires a firm tap with finger to crumble. Light brown to slightly orange color.
Glossary : Semi-Evergreen
Semi-Evergreen: a plant that retains some or most of its foliage throughout the year.
Conditions : Site Conditions
When setting criteria for site conditions, check boxes that apply to your planting area. This will narrow the search for appropriate plants. Naturally, you'll need to select a USDA Hardiness Zone. Selecting a specific soil type and pH are just as important as light and water conditions because they enable a search that will find plants best suited to your site.
Glossary : pH
pH, means the potential of Hydrogen, is the measure of alkalinity or acidity. In horticulture, pH refers to the pH of soil. The scale measures from 0, most acid, to 14, most alkaline. Seven is neutral. Most plants prefer a range between 5.5 and about 6.7, an acid range, but there are plenty of other plants that like soil more alkaline, or above 7. A pH of 7 is where the plant can most easily absorb the most nutrients in the soil. Some plants prefer more or less of certain nutrients, and therefore do better at a certain pH.
Glossary : Plant Characteristics
Plant characteristics define the plant, enabling a search that finds specific types of plants such as bulbs, trees, shrubs, grass, perennials, etc.
Glossary : Foliage Characteristics
By searching foliage characteristics, you will have the opportunity to look for foliage with distinguishable features such as variegated leaves, aromatic foliage, or unusual texture, color or shape. This field will be most helpful to you if you are looking for accent plants. If you have no preference, leave this field blank to return a larger selection of plants.
Glossary : Landscape Uses
By searching Landscape Uses, you will be able to pinpoint plants that are best suited for particular uses such as trellises, border plantings, or foundations.
Glossary : Soil Types
A soil type is defined by granule size, drainage, and amount of organic material in the soil. The three main soil types are sand, loam and clay. Sand has the largest particle size, no organic matter, little to no fertility, and drains rapidly. Clay, at the opposite end of the spectrum, has the smallest particle size, can be rich in organic matter, fertility and moisture, but is often unworkable because particles are held together too tightly, resulting in poor drainage when wet, or is brick-like when dry. The optimum soil type is loam, which is the happy median between sand and clay: It is high in organic matter, nutrient-rich, and has the perfect water holding capacity.
You will often hear loam referred to as a sandy loam (having more sand, yet still plenty of organic matter) or a clay loam (heavier on the clay, yet workable with good drainage.) The addition of organic matter to either sand or clay will result in a loamy soil. Still not sure if your soil is a sand, clay, or loam? Try this simple test. Squeeze a handfull of slightly moist, not wet, soil in your hand. If it forms a tight ball and does not fall apart when gently tapped with a finger, your soil is more than likely clay. If soil does not form a ball or crumbles before it is tapped, it is sand to very sandy loam. If soil forms a ball, then crumbles readily when lightly tapped, it's a loam. Several quick, light taps could mean a clay loam.