How your plants grow depends on a lot of factors and one of those is soil. While most gardeners try to avoid acidic soil, there are in fact plenty of plants that do well in this condition.
What are acid-loving plants: An acidic soil is actually a good thing as there are many plants, mostly perennials, that thrive in the condition. You can choose gorgeous flowering bushes such as rhododendrons and blue hydrangeas. As for trees, you can choose dogwoods, magnolias, and many evergreen varieties. It’s also important to look to native plant species, such as bunchberry, to see what naturally grows in your area. To see if you have acidic soil, you can purchase a testing kit or even create your own DIY experiment. Soil acidity is measured on the pH scale, with 7 being a neutral level. For plants that grow in acidic soil, this means the score will be between 3 and 7.
What is Soil Ph?
The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14 and measures how acidic a substance is. The lower the score, the more acidic, and the higher the score, the more basic it is. 7 is a neutral score.
The average range of soil is between 3 and 10 on the pH scale. There are several factors that determine the measurement of soil.
The starting matter can influence your garden, as can water content. If there are nearby pine trees that drop their needles, this can quickly make the soil more acidic.
You can also add more organic material, such as compost, to create soil that is less acidic.
Plants that Love Acidity
If you are lucky enough to have a holly plant in your garden or even your neighborhood, your Christmas decorations can take on a lovely, natural look to them. Holly plants have gorgeous, bright red berries on them which, while toxic to humans, seem to be fine for birds.
Holly plants do very well in acidic soil and as a perennial, the shrub will last for years.
A sure way to know that spring is finally here is by looking to the dogwood trees. With both white and pink varieties of flowers, dogwood trees bloom in an amazing display of color.
You can also find dogwood shrubs that, similar to their tree counterparts, prefer acidic soil.
When you plant daffodils in the fall, you will be rewarded with springtime of absolute delight. With many shades of yellow, daffodils will surely bring out the sun in your garden.
These bulbs prefer neutral to acidic soil and are relatively easy to care for. You can even leave them in the ground and they will continue to pop up each spring.
Unlike other fruit and vegetables, blueberries actually do very well in acidic soil. In fact, they like soil levels between 4.3 and 5.5 pH, which is quite low.
There are many varieties of blueberries and you should purchase a few to help with pollination.
With proper care and nutrients, you can have a rhododendron bush that takes over your entire yard, if given enough time. Full of spectacular color, this is a staple plant in many areas.
Rhododendrons love acidic soil and their spring colors help get out of the doldrums that winter often brings.
A sister-plant to roses, camellias have a lush pink color to them and quickly populate on their bushes. They make for great additions to the back of your garden or in spaces where you want to fill in.
Camelias do well in acidic soil and are a great choice if you can’t get other plants to bloom. Just be careful as their vibrant blossoms fade quickly when exposed to rain.
Never has the name of a plant been so representative of its shape. Bleeding Hearts have flowers in the shapes of hearts, with small white tips that dangle downwards.
This is an especially great plant to have as it ticks a lot of hard-to-find boxes. It can grow in acidic soil, loves shade, and is even deer-resistant.
Just when you think your garden is done producing in the fall, bottlebrush shrubs can really wow you. These shrubs produce white flower clusters that look just like a bottlebrush.
They prefer full sun and moderately moist soil and do well in warmer climates, although can be hardy enough for some winters.
Also known as floss flower, blue ageratum is an annual and is part of the same family that asters belong in. The blue color is especially nice as it is not a very common color with flowers.
If you don’t like blue, there are actually other colors you can choose from. Blue ageratum grows best in warmer climates.
While not the most common plant, Japanese pachysandra is great if you have acidic soil and need a plant that deer won’t munch on. It primarily grows in the northeastern part of the United States.
With deep green leaves and soft white flowers, this is a nice ground cover if you aren’t having luck with any other plants. Plus, once it starts growing, it needs very little care.
A member of the rhododendron family, azaleas are the smaller cousins of the family. You can find a wide range of colors of these flowers and they are excellent perennial shrubs.
Azaleas do best in shade to partial sun and prefer temperate to warm climates.
Unfortunately, different hydrangea varieties need different soil requirements. If you want very blue flowers, they should be planted in acidic soil while pink flowers need more neutral soil.
Often forgotten in comparison to the more common hydrangea, oakleaf hydrangeas have a cone-like protrusion of soft white blossoms. This variety prefers acidic soil.
So often we try to force new plants into our garden when really, we should simply consider what would grow naturally. One such plant is the bunchberry.
With cute white flowers in the middle of the plants, this shrub does great with acidic soil. It is also very cold-hardy and is perfect for areas with extreme winters.
One of the first signs of spring is the vibrant and fragrant blossoms from a magnolia tree. These trees do really well in acidic soil although if you have neutral soil, they will still do well.
You should plant magnolia trees in sun or part shade areas of your garden. They need moist soil that is also well-draining.
Most evergreen trees prefer acidic soil, which makes sense as once they drop their needles, this will turn the soil underneath them very acidic.
If you are looking at specific species of evergreen trees that thrive in acidic soil, consider Colorado blue spruce and easter white pine trees.
Another fall bloomer, viburnum bushes produce small, delicate white flowers. These flowers grow in bunches and are contrasted against their dark green leaves. The plants also produce berries.
Viburnum bushes prefer full sun but can be ok in partial shade. They also need soil that is moist but well-draining.
How does soil become acidic?
Water is incredibly important in a garden but if it is too much, important nutrients can be taken away from your soil. If there is not enough calcium, magnesium, or potassium, then your soil will become acidic.
What you put in your garden is important and we often forget just what has gone into our compost bin, and then later our garden.
Make sure there is a good mix of green and brown material in your compost to keep your soil well-balanced.
Tips For Testing For Soil pH
You can decide to either purchase a soil testing kit or perform an at-home test on your own. While soil test kits are more accurate, they are also more expensive, so this can be a personal decision.
When using a testing kit, always read the instructions. While most are easy to use, some may have specific requirements.
How to test for soil pH at home
Although you won’t get specific results, you can still test your soil pH levels in a fun, at-home science experiment.
- Take one cup of soil from your garden and place half in one bowl and half in another bowl. Within each bowl, mix ½ cup of water and mix around until it forms into mud.
- Take one bowl and add ½ cup of vinegar. Because vinegar is an acid, if the mixture starts to fizz up, then your soil is basic.
- With the other bowl, add ½ cup of baking soda. In this case, baking soda is the basic so if your mixture fizzes, it means the soil is acidic.
- If there is no reaction in either bowls, it means your soil is neutral.
Even though acidic soil can seem like it isn’t anything you want, in reality, many plants thrive in it. You can test your soil with a bought kit, or even on your own, and then find plants that do well in this environment.