When you plant your garden, the first thing you should do is have the soil tested. The test will include the soil pH of the area of your garden where you want to plant. The pH is a scale from 0 through 14. From 0 to below 7, the soil is acidic. Above 7 the soil is alkaline. 7 is the neutral range where most plants will grow. Those soils that fall in the middle range can be changed a bit with soil amendments to make them more acidic or alkaline. To understand pH check out this site.
TheGardenLady gets soil kits that are sold through the Master Gardener office or county agricultural extension office because I believe they do the most comprehensive testing. Of course you can buy soil testing kits and do it yourself. The results of the extension’s test tell you what your soil type is and what amendments you need to get the garden soil ready for the type of plants you want to grow. Soil pH affects the solubility of minerals or nutrients that in turn affects the plant’s growth.
If you use the Master Gardener or extension soil test kits, after you receive your test results you can go to the Master Gardener or extension office to have them explain your test results and they will give you free advice on amending your soil to make your soil meet the soil pH requirements the plants need. You can amend soil that is in the neutral pH range but you should know that there is a limit to how much you can change the soil pH. If your soil is very alkaline, it is expensive and not practical to change the soil pH to make it acidic.
If you know that your soil is acidic below are five fruit-bearing plants that do best in acidic soil:
I have been trying to get a complete list of acid loving plants, trees, bushes, etc., but am only getting partial ones. Can you please help me? I would greatly appreciate it.
A number of readers have been interested in getting information on acid loving plants. There are many lists of acid loving plants, trees and bushes, but unfortunately TheGardenLady does not know of a complete list. Perhaps someone should compile such a list. Not only am I not aware of any single list as you are requesting that is complete, but “authors sometimes give different pH preferences for the same crop.” This site has a starting list. Unless a reader of this blog knows a source, this GardenLady believes that you will have to do your own research to create such a complete list because there are too many plants to find a complete list on line and most lists generally serve only as a guide since many other plants may grow well in acid soil conditions besides the ones on any list.
The best and most extensive list of plants with the plant’s cultivation requirements such as soil pH and other information about plants is The American Horticultural Society A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants by DK publishers (there is also the English edition) This huge tome is over 1000 pages of plant listings. Otherwise you may have to use the many partial sources on line and start combining the information to create your own list.
Japanese Spindle (Euonymus japonicus) cultivar leaves by mauroguanandi
TheGardenLady received this question from Carol.
I just bought a golden euonymus.Â Is that an acid living plant.
What a pretty accent shrub you will have with your golden Euonymus (probably Euonymus japonicus ‘Aureo-marginatus’). This pretty shrub is easy to grow in that it likes average soil and can adapt to most soils. It is not fussy about soils or pH. For this reason it is considered a low maintenance shrub.
What it needs is well draining soil. It does not tolerate wet, swampy conditions. During the first year, you should water your euonymus weekly unless you have a period of heavy rain. But if there is a drought it should be watered more frequently. As it matures the euonymus will tolerate more drought. But it does not like drought, so if there is a long period without rain, you should water even the mature plant.
I was told to dilute vinegar in water and use that on gardenia’s with yellowing leaves. Do you agree?
Gardenias by Jim-AR
Gardenias love acidic soil. If they are indoors, gardenias should be planted in an acidic soil that has a pH level of 4.5 to 5.5. If growing outdoors, have the soil tested before planting the gardenia to see that it has the right pH.Â See here.
Gardenias can have a host of problems. They are difficult plants to raise, especially when indoors. They suffer from a number of problems, yellow leaves just being one of the problems. Of three common things that can cause yellowing leaves is improper watering, too low light and the plants needing acid fertilizer.
Overwatering can cause the leaves to yellow.
The gardenia plant should be fertilized monthly between April and November with an acid fertilizer especially if you are using well or tap water. Some people recommend using distilled water because it is not alkaline.Â See here.
It is fine to use diluted vinegar on your gardenias. The Vinegar Institute recommends using diluted vinegar on gardenias (also azaleas and rhododendrons) in hard water areas at a rate of 1 cup of vinegar to a gallon of tap water (see here). The vinegar will help to release iron in the soil.
On Garden web, a reader has suggested anotherÂ solution to get iron into your plant that she says has been proven successful for her plant.
I live in MI and have removed 3 of 6 evergreen trees between my neighbor’s house and mine. I would like to plant something between the 3 that are left to have a little more privacy – are there any acid tolerant ornamental grasses that could be used?
By removing half of the evergreen trees you have opened up the area for more sun. Most grasses like light and at least 6 hours of sun (see here) . Michigan has some interesting grasses that should grow nicely for you (see here)Â and since landscapers are recommending grasses for high interest but low maintenance you might find some that will work for you (see here).
Many ornamental grasses tend to be tolerant of a wide range of soil types and prefer a pH between 5 and 7. So have your soil tested to see if you can grow the grasses you like.
TheGardenLady received this question from Vincent.
Do succulents like acid soil….specifically coffee grounds added to the soil?
You do not tell me which succulents you are interested in growing nor whether your succulents are potted house plants or outdoor, garden grown, plants. In containers, the plants are in smaller amounts of soil so one has to be a little more careful with the soil pH than if grown in your garden or in a field.
It also depends on the type of succulent you are growing. Succulents need the pH of the soil where the succulent originated – that is, its original habitat in the wild. If the succulent came from an alkaline area, like Ariocarpus fissuratus Living rocks which comes from Mexico – it will want alkaline soil. If it is in the Echevierias family – Hens and chicks – it hates lime.Â See here.
Most succulents are grown succussfully in a neutral soil pH. Good drainage is of primary importance so a porous soil is needed.
TheGardenLady would not recommend adding coffee grounds to the soil without knowing which succulent you are growing.
TheGardenLady received this question from Jennifer.
I have a shady area under my pine trees where nothing grows except weeds. I want to plant some blueberries and other acid loving plants there. Do you have some suggestions on plants that would love very acidic soil and full shade?
When one has a very shady area under a tree, one can always do what is referred to as limbing-up a tree, which is cutting off lower branches to allow more light or space under the tree to have more room for plantings.
Blueberries like most vegetables, herbs and fruit want lots of sun. So though you can use the pine needles to mulch the blueberries, it would really not be advisable to plant blueberries under the pine trees. Blueberries want to be planted in full sun.
Azaleas or rhododendrons would look beautiful under your pine trees. Consider native azaleas to compliment the area and for uniqueness. There are many plants even some with flowers that will also grow happily in this dry shade area with acidic soil .
Enrich the soil by adding humus and mulch and work it into the soil under the tree without hurting the tree roots. Even if you love the shape of your evergreens and are reluctant to cut off branches you can still have plants that will be happy under the pine trees.
Some good shade plants that will work are hostas, foam flowers –Tiarella cordifolia, sweet woodruff – Galium odoratum, lily of the valley, woodland flowers like Celandine Poppy or Wood Poppy-Stylophorum diphyllum, as well as many of the ferns like:
Autumn Fern (Dryopteris erythrosora) – Hardy in USDA zones 5-9. Easy to establish. Rabbit and deer resistant;
Lady Fern (Athyrium filix-femina) Hardy in zones 3-8. Rabbit resistant;
Japanese painted fern (Athyrium niponicum ‘Pictum’) – Hardy in zones 3 to 8;
Christmas Fern (Polystichum acrostichoides) – Hardy in zones 3-8. Very easy to grow.Â Can take very dry to moist soils.
Clematis likes soil that has a pH close to neutral (6.6-7.0). You have to add enough lime to ensure that your soil is not too acidic.Â Generous amounts of bone meal and compost should be added to the soil. Clematis likes soil that drains well, so coarse builder’s sand should be added to soils that have a high clay content.
Lilacs also like a rich, well-drained soil with a neutral pH. They will grow happily in soil with a wider pH range- from 5.8-7.8 pH.
If the writer of this question is from the New England area where soils are often very acidic, soils will require modification for optimal lilac or clematis growth.
But do not try to change the pH of your soil by guessing. If you live in the US., contact your county agricultural extension service or your local Master Gardener Office for soil-testing information. You will get a soil testing kit that you will fill with soil for the test and when the results are returned, you will learn if your soil needs to be altered. The test results will be sent to you with instructions for altering soil pH to meet the needs of your plants. And if you don’t understand the instructions, you can visit the Master Gardener Office where the Master Gardeners will explain the instructions to you.