10 Plants for Gardens With Acidic Soil

If the pH in your garden or landscape is below 7, grow these acid-loving flowers, trees and shrubs.

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Photo By: Bushel and Berry

Photo By: ProvenWinners.com

Photo By: Longfield Gardens

Photo By: Longfield Gardens

Photo By: DoreenWynja.com for Monrovia

Photo By: Bailey Nurseries, Inc.

Photo By: Ball Horticultural Compamy

Photo By: Bailey Nurseries, Inc.

Photo By: Bailey Nurseries, Inc.

Photo By: Bailey Nurseries, Inc.

Blueberries

Blueberries like love acidic soil. A soil test kit, available online or from a hardware store or garden center, makes it easy to determine whether your soil is acidic or alkaline.

Start by taking dry soil samples from different areas in your planting site. Mix them with the chemical solution in the test tubes from the kit, and mark the tubes so you’ll know where each sample came from. (The pH may not be the same throughout your site.) Now compare the solution colors to the chart in the kit. Dark green indicates alkaline soil (the pH is above 7), while yellow or orange means the sample is acidic (the pH is below 7). Bright green means neutral soil, or a pH of 7.0. To increase your soil’s acidity, use sphagnum peat around your blueberries or apply a high-acid fertilizer.

Rhododendron

Medium to very acidic soils are fine for rhododendrons. Like azaleas, these shrubs can tolerate a pH of 4.5 to 5.5 or 6.0, and they flourish in woodland gardens, forested areas or beds where leaves and other organic materials have decayed. blooms in spring and is hardy in USDA zones 5-9. Give your "rhodies" a fertilizer labeled for rhododendrons and follow the directions on the package. Be careful not to feed too heavily or too often; excess fertilizer can damage and even kill your plant.

Trillium erectus

When you take a walk through the Eastern woods in early spring, watch for colorful popping up through the leaf litter. This native wildflower, also known as wakerobin, thrives in shady, acidic sites where the soil is moist and contains plenty of organic matter. Resist the urge to dig up these pretty plants; leave them in nature, and purchase from a commercial source instead.

Fern

Most ferns thrive in slightly acidic soil, although this frilly is adaptable enough to grow in a slightly alkaline site. It's a good idea to re-test your soil periodically, so you can monitor any changes in the pH and add more amendments as needed. Soil gradually becomes more acidic over time, as rainfall leaches away its calcium content and organic matter decomposes. Applying fertilizer also slowly increases soil acidity.

'Black Tulip' Magnolia

Magnolias like (Magnolia x soulangiana 'Jurmagl') prefer acidic soil, full sun and a well-drained planting site with plenty of good organic matter. Since magnolias can become quite large, and digging around their roots can damage them, make sure you give your plant the best possible site in your landscape or garden. Magnolias don't transplant well once they're established.

Fothergilla

Commonly known as witch alder, or dwarf fothergilla, Fothergilla gardenii is a deciduous shrub native to the Southeastern U.S. For best results, give these slow-growing, compact plants a home in evenly moist, acidic soil. Fothergillas can take full sun to shade and open their bottlebrush-shaped flowers in spring.

Camellia

Camellias like add bright color to the garden in winter and spring, when few other plants are in bloom. They thrive in acidic soil, but you can also grow them in containers of ericaceous compost (a compost for acid-loving plants). If the leaves on your camellia start to yellow, the problem may be that your soil is too alkaline. After the flowers finish, apply a fertilizer made for azaleas or camellias and follow the product directions.

Kousa Dogwood

Versatile dogwoods can grow in many kinds of soil, whether they're sandy or heavy in clay. But these spring-flowering trees do best in slightly acidic soil that's rich in humus. If your soil test indicates you need to increase the acidity, mulch around your tree with organic matter, add peat moss to the soil, or dig in some garden sulfur (be careful not to damage the dogwood's roots). You can also ask your local county extension service agent for advice. The dogwood pictured here, Cornus kousa 'Satomi,' is also known as a Japanese or Chinese dogwood.

Pieris japonica

Pieris japonica, also called Japanese pieris or Japanese Andromeda, is a slow-growing, evergreen shrub that blooms in late winter and early spring. It prefers slightly acidic to acidic soil. Unlike many garden plants, it doesn't adapt well to neutral or alkaline sites, becoming susceptible to disease and insect attacks. Over time, a weakened plant may die. 'Mountain Fire,' shown here, stays compact enough to grow in containers.

Crabapple

Although flowering crabapples adapt to a range of soils, they perform best in loamy, acidic sites that drain easily. According to the Virginia Cooperative Extension Service, most soils east of the Mississippi river are naturally acidic. Camelot (Malus x 'Camzam') is a deciduous, dwarf tree that's hardy in USDA zones 4-7. Its white, springtime flowers are followed by red fruits that attract birds in the fall.

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