Growing Acid-Loving Plants

Some of the most beautiful flowering and foliage shrubs including Japanese maples, camellias and rhododendrons thrive in acid soils.
Related To:
Rhododendron Produces Rose Pink Buds

Rhododendron Produces Rose Pink Buds

Photo by: DK - Gardening Step by Step © 2011 Dorling Kindersley Limited

DK - Gardening Step by Step , 2011 Dorling Kindersley Limited

When to Plant: fall or early spring
At Their Best: spring
Time to Complete: 2 hours

Materials Needed:

  • organic matter, such as finished compost
  • shovel
  • all-purpose fertilizer for acid-loving plants
  • selection of acid-loving shrubs, Japanese maple, flowering dogwood, Korean rhododendron

Space the Plants

You can use any Japanese maples or rhododendrons for this design but they may have different growth habits from these, so check labels for sizes and allow space between plants for a few years' growth.

Add Organic Matter

Choose a partly shaded site, sheltered from cold, drying winds. Before planting, dig a bucketful of well-composted organic matter into each square yard of soil. Water the plants well and plant.

Caring for Acid-Lovers

Each spring, apply an all-purpose fertilizer for acid-loving shrubs, and mulch annually to aid soil moisture retention. In spring, after flowering, trim back lightly any wayward growth.

Plant in Containers

Ruby Red Azalea Shrubs

Ruby Red Azalea Shrubs

Photo by: DK - How to Grow Practically Everything © 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

DK - How to Grow Practically Everything, 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

If you have an alkaline soil but would like to grow acid-loving plants, try planting them in containers filled with ericaceous soil, which is specially designed for them.

Create the Right Conditions

Choose a large container or build a raised bed for acid-loving shrubs, such as camellias, azaleas, and rhododendrons. Fill your planters with ericaceous soil and, each spring, replace the top layer of soil from the bed or pot with fresh soil mixed with a fertilizer for acid-loving plants.

Azaleas come in a range of fiery shades that set off simple white containers beautifully. If leaves start to yellow, which is a sign of iron deficiency, give them a dose of fertilizer for acid-lovers.

Combine Plants

Combine the spring shrubs in this design with summer-flowering blue hydrangeas, mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia) and fragrant summersweet (Clethra) to extend the season. Alternatively, create a conifer and heather garden, which will thrive in acid conditions.

Enkianthus deflexus, 10 feet high and wide (image 1); Grevillea rosmarinifolia, 6 feet high, 8 feet wide (image 2); redbud 'Forest Pansy', 30 feet high and wide (image 3); winter heath, 6 inches high, 18 inches wide (image 4).

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