What Plants Are Acid Loving
Every kind of soil brings its own opportunities, and there’s a fantastic range of plants that thrive on acid soils.
As well as the usual ericaceous plants such as camellias, rhododendrons, and heathers, it suits trees including magnolias, acers, and Sorbus, as well as shrubs like hydrangeas, witch hazels, enkianthus, and liriodendron.
When you add in woodland groundcover plants, you have a wide palette to create a lush, varied garden.
Whatever soil you have, my advice is to go with it. If you try to fight it in the long term, you will always struggle.
What Plants are Acid Loving? A simple soil test with a shop-bought kit will tell you the pH of your soil – if the pH is below 7, it is ideal for acid-loving plants.
This design, which should suit any soil below pH 7, is for an informal yet stylized combination of plants, which not only thrive in acid conditions but look great together.
I selected them to create year-round interest, with a yellow-flowered magnolia, blueberry
bushes, plus fems and hostas, and perennials for seasonal color.
It shows just how much you can pack into a small area. And don’t worry if your test gives a value above pH 7; substitute the magnolia with Camus mas, and the blueberries
with Ceratostigma willmottianum for an equally impressive display.
The key plants you’ll need
- Magnolia denudata ‘Yellow River.’
I love this slow-growing magnolia. It has a spreading habit and bright citrus-yellow
buds that open into creamy,
scented, goblet-shaped flowers.
Height x Spread 1am x 1am
Alternatives Magnolia x
soulangeana or the yellow
azalea Rhododendron luteum.
Vaccinium’Duke’ and ‘Bluecrop’
Blueberries make attractive
bushes with white, bell-shaped
flowers and fabulous autumn
color.‘ Duke’ fruits around June,’ Bluecrop’ from July to August, H XS 2m x 1.SmAlternatives Ceratostigma
willmottianum or Callicarpa bodinieri ‘Profusion’.
3. Astrantia ‘Hadspen Blood.’
Ideal for adding a dash of color to the dappled shade beneath the magnolia, this astrantia
bears its star-like, dark red flowers from June to August.
H x s 60cm x 45cm
Alternatives Astrantia major’Claret’ or Epimedium x rubrum
Happy in the shade, where its pale foliage will provide a lift, this hosta’s leaves darken before
it produces violet flowers.
H x s 50cm x 100cm Alternatives Hosta fortune aureomarginata or H. ‘Patriot’
5. Crocosmia ‘George Davison’
Easy to grow in the sun or part shade, where its golden freesia-like flowers will attract
hoverflies and bumblebees.
H x s 60cm x 60cm
masoniorum or C.’Solfatare’
6. Dryopteris wallichiana
A magnificent tough evergreen fern from the Himalayas which can cope with dry shade once established. Fronds are a fresh green, set off by dark midribs.
H x s 90cm x 80cm
Alternatives Both Dryopteris
affinis and Athyrium filix-Femina
will thrive on damp soils
How to create your acid-loving border
Add spring and autumn bulbs into this adaptable scheme to deepen and extend the color. Palette.
Check your soil’s pH to make sure it is suitable – acid soil will score below 7. Dig over the entire area well and add plenty of organic matter such as leaf mold, plus grit on heavier soils.
Avoid mushroom compost- it contains lime and is very alkaline. Place out the plants in their allotted spaces.
Dig a generous hole and plant the magnolia to the same depth as it was in its pot, firming in well. Hammer in a stake at an angle, outside the root ball, spread, and attach to the trunk with tree ties.
Working away from the magnolia, plant your way backward, putting in the other container-grown plants, teasing out any pot-bound roots, and forking over compacted areas behind you. Water with rainwater once planted.
If you have a small garden
The key decision will be whether or not you have room for the magnolia. The eventual spread will be around 10 meters, but it is very slow-growing and can be pruned if needed.
If you don’t have room for it, think about combining the other plants under an existing deciduous tree, Or choose a shady spot in acidic soil – the ferns would look good
at the base of a fence or wall, reduce the quantities to suit the area you choose.
For a larger area
Left unpruned, the magnolia’s branches will eventually extend up to 10 meters. If you do have room to play with,
I would let it spread and add in other varieties and larger drifts of hostas, ferns, crocosmias, and astrantias to introduce depth into the color palette.
I’d also look to extend the season with plenty of spring and autumn bulbs that enjoy
the same acid conditions, such as Cyclamen hederifolium, snowdrops, and Anemone nemorosa.
Maintaining your border throughout the year.
Spring As the new fronds of the ferns emerge, snip off old foliage to make room
for fresh new growth.
Feed all the plants with a fertilizer containing sequestered iron and water well.
Mulch with leaf mold or use chipped pine bark or pine needles, which are more acidic – if you only have limited supplies, use mainly around the magnolia and blueberries.
Summer Keep an eye on the blueberries and harvest the fruits before they fall to the
Make sure you keep all the plants moist for the first season or two – ideally, use rainwater, not water from a tap, especially in the case of the blueberry bushes.
Autumn Remove the hosta, astrantia, and crocosmia leaves once they have
When all the leaves have fallen from the deciduous tree and blueberries, rake them up and compost. Plant any spring bulbs into the scheme.
Winter Prune the magnolia to shape in the first year. Maintain an open, multi-branching
tree in subsequent years by cutting out dead, diseased, or crossing branches.
After a couple of years, prune blueberries by removing old, unproductive growth down to the base – but remember, the fruit on last year’s wood, so leave a few old stems for a good crop next year.