Trees for acidic soil
An essential factor for sustainable gardening is choosing the right plants for the right places based on your site and situation. We recommend choosing types of plants that are well suited to the acidity of your soil, rather than trying to change it. Any change to acidity will only be temporary and need to be repeated over time. 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. There are plenty of trees that are well suited to growing in acidic soil (or an ericaceous compost if you choose to grow them in containers), including Japanese maple trees, beech, holly topiary standards and monkey puzzle trees.
Japanese Maples are slow-growing deciduous trees known for their graceful habit, autumn colour and beautiful, pointed leaf shapes. Many varieties have the species name palmatum after the hand-like shape of the leaves, whilst dissected varieties have fine, deeply-cut foliage that has an almost feathery appearance. Native to Japan and China, they have a beautiful dome-like habit when mature and work well in containers, smaller gardens or when used as an under-storey to larger shrubs and trees. Beech trees are iconic, stately, awe-inspiring specimens that define the British landscape, particularly in the autumn when the deciduous leaves are shed in majestic shades of yellow and brown. Beech form a multi-branched, dome-shaped crown of shiny leaves towering above the landscape. Most varieties will reach 12m+ (Common Beech 30m+) while some weeping varieties top out at 4-8m. The emergence of their rich green or purple foliage in April is a sure sign that spring has arrived and an attractive sight in many a springtime wood. If you have the space, the eye-catching Monkey Puzzle Tree is one of the most recognised conifers due to its unique structure and growth habit with bright-green pointed leaves. It’s perfect as a specimen plant in large gardens, will slowly reach over 12 metres tall and loves an acidic soil.