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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Best plants for acid soil

There may be those who think a neutral soil is the perfect soil. Not too sweet, not too acid, just right, so, of course it should be perfect. Silly of them to think this. There are plants that like it neutral, yes, and even those that like it alkaline, but there are a great many others, a majority in fact, that like it a bit on the acidic side.  These like it only slightly acidic however. With this in mind let us discuss the best plants for very acidic soil.

Evergreen trees 

 Here is a huge collection of trees including Pines, Firs, Spruces and Yews all of which love acidic soil and thrive in it. They vary greatly in size and shape. Some, like the Juniperus Horizontalis (commonly called Blue Rug Juniper) barely gets higher than a half foot off the ground and the Colorado Blue Spruce practically scrapes the sky at 70-80 feet tall. These include  ground covers, shrubs and trees in varying shapes and growth habits. In this group  the choices are endless.


This is a lovely evergreen shrub with somewhat stiff leaves in a light to medium green color, depending, of course, on cultivar and there are plenty to choose from.  These are famous for the beautiful show they give us in spring when they burst into bloom with trumpet shaped flowers in an endless array of colors. These colors are vibrant pinks, reds, violets, white with some, the neon bright Klondike strain in particular, being highly fragrant as well.  They like the shade and do great under-planted amongst pines, firs and hemlocks all of which drop their needles to keep the soil acidic just like they prefer.


Another shade loving, evergreen shrub with extraordinary trumpet shaped flowers grown in huge clusters and in similar shades as the Azalea only a tad larger. Rhodos, as they are affectionately called, can get big so, give it plenty of room. It is not unusual to see a stand of these getting 15-25 feet tall and wider still in the wild. The leaves are large, glossy and leathery in a deep green with a lighter underside or at times tan colored. These lovely shrubs have the added benefit of being a temperature sensor. When the weather dips down to nasty levels, say in the 20's F, they tend to fold down their leaves in an effort to conserve energy, protect themselves and to warn us to stay indoors if at all possible. Heed their warning!

Mountain Laurel 

Also an evergreen shrub with a spring show, these have small, light green leaves and flowers shaped like stars. Extremely pretty, they bloom in pale- medium pink fading to white if allowed in part sun.


A lovely southern treat, this evergreen shrub originating from China is known for the beautiful double and semi-double Austin rose-shaped flowers  that start blooming, depending on cultivar, and there are hundreds if not thousands of them, in December and run through to their zenith in February and March.


Though grown for the houseplant trade, these don’t make particularly good indoor plants. In the shade garden, however, they thrive wonderfully in southern climes with acidic soil.

As for perennials which like acid soil, go with that which you’ve seen naturally growing in humus rich soil full of organic material and with ample rainfall preferably growing under evergreens. These include but are not exclusive to Hosta, Helleborus, Dog-Tooth Violets, Columbine, Foxglove, Virginia Bluebells, Lily-of the-Valley, Pachysandra, Trillium, Periwinkle and Japanese Anemone.

These are just a few of the many beautiful plants capable of living quite happily in acid soil. As with many things, however,  the truly vigilant gardener is in control and even the most acidic soil can be amended to be less so and therefore more appealing to a wider range of plants. If a soil test tells you no good news about the soil in your yard pulverized lime can be added and mixed in to the soil to sweeten it. Problem, if in fact you consider it a problem to be able to grow all these lovely plants, solved.

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