Shrubs for alkaline soil
Alkaline or “sweet” soils are those with a pH of more than 7, commonly caused by a high content of limestone or chalk, which normally also means the soil is free draining and lower in nutrients than neutral, loamy soils. This section features the best shrubs for alkaline soils, including Arbutus, Berberis, box hedging, Ceanothus, Cotinus, Cotoneaster, Euonymus, Forsythia, Hydrangea, Lavender, Philadelphus, Potentilla, Spiraea, Syringa, Viburnum and Weigela. Berberis plants are dense, upright shrubs with sturdy branches, spiny margined leaves and thorny stems. Ceanothus are one of the most attractive blue-flowering shrubs producing tight thimble-like clusters of tiny flowers. Cotinus plants are large, deciduous free-flowering shrubs or small trees producing large plumes of feathery flower heads in summer. Cotoneaster are berrying shrubs that may be evergreen or deciduous and available in a range of different shapes and sizes. Many evergreen varieties of euonymus have beautiful variegated leaves, perfect for adding a splash of colour whether in bush or groundcover form. Hydrangeas have showstopping appeal, producing truly stunning globe shaped flowers in shades of white, pink, red and blue from July to September.
Choosing the right plants for the right place is key to getting the best from your garden and soil type is a key part of this. 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 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 types of plants that are well suited to the alkalinity of your soil, rather than trying to change it. Any artificial change will only be temporary and will need to be repeated over time. There are plenty of beautiful shrubs spanning a range of different types, shapes, sizes and uses that are well adapted to soils with a pH above 7.