Some soils are just naturally acidic, and while lime can be added to neutralise them, the best option is to grow plants that actually like an acidic environment. It is far cheaper and easier to grow the types of plants that like this type of soil than it is to try to adjust the natural pH level of your soil in order to grow a wider range of plants.
The vast majority of vegetables prefer a slightly acidic soil, and there are some fabulous flowering plants that adore it. If you are unsure of the pH level of your garden soil, there are two things you can do.
How to Tell If Your Soil Is Acidic
1. Buy a soil pH testing kit, and measure the acidity or alkalinity of your soil. 7 is neutral. Above 7 is alkaline, and below is acidic.
2. Acid soil affects the whole area, so look at the type of plants that are growing well in the neighborhood. Conifers, rhododendrons and azaleas are among the wide range of acid loving plants, as well as daffodils, snowdrops and tulips in the spring. The presence of wild ferns and brackens also show acid soil. Perhaps you see them growing on waste ground nearby.
Azaleas first came from Japan, but any azalea you can get your hands on will reward you with wonderful floral displays year after year. Deciduous bushes, they don't look like much at all until late spring/early summer when they flower. When flowering is over, they will produce leaves that help sustain the plant until the following spring/summer when they once again burst forth in a riot of color.
Azaleas are well worth having in any garden, but as acid-loving plants, they really need that ericaceous soil to thrive. Azaleas come in a wide range of colors, not just yellow.
Rhododendrons need keeping in check in acid soils, they love it so much. You can make hedges out of them, or just allow them to grow into a big bush where they will reward you with magnificent displays of color every summer. Evergreen, they make ideal garden plants providing boundaries or backing to your garden floral display.
Bees love the flowers of rhododendrons too, which is an added bonus. Every gardener needs bees to pollinate flowers, fruits and certain vegetables. Available in a wide range of colors, you can't go wrong with this superb plant in your acid-soil garden.
The flowers of the camellia plant remind you of roses. From the same family as both azaleas and rhododendrons, camellias are well worth the effort of tracking down and buying, as they provide a wonderful floral display in the spring.
Some people think they are hard to grow, probably because they tend to be frost tender, but if your garden has acidic soil, camellias will feel completely at home as they are among the top acid-loving plants.
Pieris Japonica or Japanese Pieris is a spectacular plant to grow. There are loads of different varieties for you to grow in your acid soil. Some of them also produce masses of beautiful flowers, but all of them are grown mainly for their leaf colors which are really showy in the spring.
While it is a dark-leaved evergreen perennial plant, the new leaves of Pieris shrubs first appear as pale yellow through to deep red, making Pieris a must for the flower garden.
Note: If you wish to grow Pieris, and your soil is alkaline, then you must plant it in containers containing ericaceous compost.
All hydrangeas seem to prefer soil that is acidic, but they can be grown in neutral soil too. They can even take slightly alkaline soil too, but are best grown in ericaceous soil in containers if your garden soil has a naturally high pH reading.
Most hydrangeas are pink, blue or white. If you grow pink hydrangeas in acid soil, they will turn blue. You could end up with a wonderful showy display of pink, lilac and blue flower-heads all on the same bush.
Note: Hydrangeas love water, so they are best grown in areas with high rainfall.
Daffodils and narcissus are a delight in the garden in springtime, with their happy yellow heads bobbing in the breeze. Highly-scented, daffodils also make great cut flowers for the vase where they will fill your home with their heady perfume.
Grown from bulbs, they are among the top acid-loving garden flowers. Given the ideal situation, they will happily spread both through bulblets and by seed.
The bonnie blooming heather deserves a home in any acidic soil. Heathers make great edging plants if planted near to pathways, where they can be allowed to spread. Not only do they smother weeds, but the arrival of their flowers in summer also attracts bees and other pollinators.
Acid-loving plants such as heather should have a home in any garden that has acidic soil.
Magnolias are trees, but they start out quite small and are slow-growing. It would take many years for a magnolia tree to outgrow even the smallest of gardens. Well worth growing, magnolias put on a magnificent flowering display in the spring. Their flowers are pink/creamy white (magnolia color!) and have an unusually large cup shape.
Acid-loving plants, magnolias will grow well in your acid soil.
Who can resist the delight of seeing a riot of yellow, orange and red nasturtiums growing in a garden? They simply live to flower, and they do so in such profusion! Nasturtiums, or Tropaeolums to give them their correct title, are annual flowers that produce such an abundance of seed they are sure to return the following year.
They thrive especially well in acidic soils, so get planting!
An old favorite of the traditional cottage garden, marigolds have so many uses they are a must for any garden! Quite apart from any health benefits or gardening uses for marigolds, they are gorgeous, bright and attractive flowers to grow, and will fit in anywhere. They make such great companion plants, you can plant them in the vegetable patch or the flower border, and they won't look out of place.
They are annuals, but it takes a severe frost to kill them, so most years they will come back of their own accord. While marigolds are tolerant of all soil types, they much prefer and will give you the greatest return if planted in acid soil. Obviously, they are acid-loving plants at heart.
Acidic Soil Poll
© 2013 GardenExpert999
Esther on August 30, 2018:
Do Rhododendrons need to be grown in shade or can they tolerate full sun
GardenExpert999 (author) from Scotland on May 03, 2014:
The majority of acid loving plants grow best in soils that have a pH of 6 - 6.5. Azaleas prefer a little lower, possibly 5.5 - 6. Blow 5.5 hardly anything will grow as the soil is generally too acidic.
:-( on May 03, 2014:
i am sorry but this did not help me because i would like to know at what pH scale do they grow at
GardenExpert999 (author) from Scotland on June 04, 2013:
Thanks Frank, your comment means so much!
Francesco Menchise from Brisbane Australia on June 04, 2013:
Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us, I believe that this is one of the best hubs on gardening that I have seen, with so many beautiful photos and it is easy to understand. I am going to follow you hubs from now on.