Plants for acidic soil

Acidic soils are those with a pH of less than 7. High acidity tends to be caused by the breakdown of lots of organic matter such as fallen leaves. The soil in woodland areas, for example, is acidic with beech woodland typically having a pH in the 3.5-4.5 range. Whilst the most scientific way to measure the pH of your soil is with a soil testing kit, the easiest and cheapest way is to see how samples of your garden soil react to the addition of, firstly, vinegar and, secondly, baking soda (using separate samples for each). See our article on understanding your soil for more details. We generally recommend choosing plants that are well suited to the acidity of your soil, rather than trying to change it. Any artificial change to acidity will only be temporary and will need to be repeated over time. There are plenty of plants spanning a range of different types, shapes, sizes and uses that are well adapted to acidic soils.

The selection of plants below will thrive in an acidic soil, including staple varieties for acidic soil such as rhododendrons, azaleas, camellia, pieris, heathers, ferns, magnolia and hydrangeas. Some good trees for acidic soils are Japanese maples, beech trees and Chamaecyparis conifers. Other, sometimes lesser thought of shrubs for acid soils include ceanothus with their attractive, thimble-like clusters of blue flowers in spring or summer; cornus shrubs which are deciduous and grown for their stunning, vibrant bark colours; pyracantha with its spiny stems and glossy berries; and witch hazel with their unusual, intricate spidery flowers in fiery shades of reds, oranges and yellows on bare stems in the winter. Fruit bushes such as blackcurrants and blueberries love acidic soils too, delivering a crop tasting better than anything you’ll find on the supermarket shelves. If you’re looking to grow acid-loving plants in a container, grow them in an ericaceous compost.

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