Acid-loving plants: Flowers that will thrive in your acidic soil
Just like humans, all plants are a little different, and where some fail to thrive, others will blossom. The clearest example of this is watering. Some plants will wilt and make it very obvious that they need regular deep watering to thrive. Others however, are perfectly pleased with just an occasional rain shower. Something that might be less obvious to the naked eye, however, is soil type preference. While most plants prefer a soil or growing media that's neutral or very slightly acidic, there are some beautiful plants out there that actually grow best in a properly acidic soil. Intrigued? Read on!
Identifying your soil type
So, how do you know if your soil is acidic? Unlike drainage or soil composition, pH isn't something you can gauge just by looking at or feeling your soil. You'll need to buy a pH Testing Kit from your local Flower Power Garden Centre, then take a soil sample from your garden bed for testing. For more details on the testing process, read this article. If your soil reading is 7.0, your soil is neutral, and anything higher than this is alkaline. If your reading is 6.0 or below, your soil is definitely acidic. While this soil type won't work for all plants, there are some that will absolutely thrive in it. See the below list for our favourite acid-loving blooms. If you're thinking you might like to grow these plants, but your soil reading is neutral or alkaline, you can always make it more acidic by adding sulfur or composted animal manure.
If container gardening is more your thing, our Supersoil Professional Gardenia, Camellia & Azalea Potting & Planting Mix is specially formulated with the right pH to help your acid-loving plants thrive.
Our favourite acid-loving plants
If you've tested your soil and received an acidic reading, these gorgeous plants will grow very happily in your garden!
Azaleas will add striking evergreen foliage to your garden, but that's only one of the many reasons you'll love them. From late winter right through spring, you'll spot them blooming in gardens everywhere in a wide range of shades and petal formations - think whites, pinks, reds and bicolours with ruffled or stacked petals, the combinations are almost endless. Some azaleas also spot-flower throughout the year, so you could wake up at any time to surprise blooms.
Whether you prefer to grow your plants in a garden bed or a pot, there's an azalea variety for you. Just ensure that you plant in well-draining acidic soil in a semi-shaded position - dappled sunlight is fine, as long as your plant is protected from the harsh afternoon sun. Keep the soil moist with an organic mulch, and keep your eyes out for petal blight and azalea lace bug - two major pests of this species.
Want to learn more about azaleas? Click here!
Elegant and refined, camellias add beauty to gardens year-round through their glossy evergreen foliage, which makes them perfect for hedging, screening, espalier, topiary and feature shrubs. When they burst to life in late summer (sasanquas) or late winter (japonicas), the flower show is almost unbeatable. Choose a mix of varieties and you can have camellia blossoms gracing your garden almost year-round.
Camellias come in a vast range of colours, from pure whites, creams and lemon yellows through all shades of pink to the deepest crimson reds, and much like azaleas, their petal formations can vary, with single, semi-double, double, irregular and formal styles available to choose from. Camellias are also a great, low-irritant option for those with pollen allergies, however they still produce an attractive nectar for bird and insect life to feed on.
Despite their fragile-looking beauty, camellias are surprisingly hardy plants, and require minimal care once established. As long as they have acidic soil, they will grow happily in large pots as well as in a garden bed. They don't require a lot of water - however, you might want to provide a little extra when buds are developing. Just keep your eyes peeled for scale and hungry possums, who will dine on the buds and ruin your flower show.
Elegant, weeping pieris makes a striking addition to any garden. Hailing from Japan and also known as andromeda or lily of the valley shrub, this evergreen bush can grow anywhere from 1-3m in height - meaning there's a perfectly-sized variety available for your garden. From late winter through spring, you'll see masses of pendulous blossoms in shades from whites through to deep pinks and plums, held on drooping flower spikes and resembling a cluster of bells. Some varieties have colourful foliage or new growth, and so make an even greater impact on the garden year-round.
Because of its affinity for filtered light, pieris works really well for underplanting large trees in your garden, or otherwise mass-planted in a shadier garden bed. Just ensure you keep your plants sheltered from wind and frost as they can be sensitive to the elements. If you're more of a container gardener, smaller varieties of pieris are great for growing in pots. Pieris likes a moist, well-draining acidic soil, but once established doesn't require a lot of water.
Very closely related to azaleas, rhododendrons share many of the same properties, meaning that care needs are largely the same. Well-drained acidic soil, dappled sunlight and a sheltered aspect make the ideal growing conditions for these gorgeous plants. As small shrubs, they're also great for growing in pots.
Particularly popular are vireya rhododendrons, which are also known as tropical rhododendrons, and which in their natural south-east Asian habitat often appear as epiphytes on trees. While their evergreen foliage may be sparser than other rhododendron varieties, this is made up for in the cooler months. Between autumn and spring, clusters of the most eye-catching, trumpet-shaped blooms appear, in vibrant hues befitting their tropical nickname. Orange, yellow, coral and red are popular, along with shades of white and pink. While some varieties are unscented, others are heavily perfumed.
General care for acid-loving plants
A low pH will get these plants off to the best start, but it's not the only thing they need. Generally speaking, your acidic soil should be well-drained and rich in nutrients, to give the plants the energy they need for flowering. All of these plants grow well in cooler climates, in sun to partial shade, as long as they're somewhat sheltered from frost and wind - especially when they're establishing. Once established these plants are quite drought-hardy but do enjoy the occasional deep drink of water. They're also hungry feeders - keep them happy with a regular application of specially-formulated fertiliser such as Neutrog Kahoona, and you'll enjoy bountiful blossoms through the cooler months!