Plants for alkaline soil

How to Grow Vegetables in Alkaline Soil

head of cabbage of the cabbage image by Romashchenko Anatoly from Fotolia.com

Alkaline soil often is clay, making it heavy, wet and difficult for many plants to thrive in. The pH of alkaline soils is above 7.0. Because many vegetables prefer a neutral or slightly acidic soil pH, adding ingredients such as sulfur to the soil will bring the pH down and make it more acidic. Some vegetables do well in alkaline soil, including cabbage, Brussels sprouts, mustard, turnips, Chinese cabbage and more. Tomatoes won’t grow well in alkaline soil, but with all the cabbage family plants that do, perhaps you won’t miss them.

Test your soil with an inexpensive pH soil test kit. If the pH is above 7.4, the soil is alkaline. If it is below 7.0, you’ll be able to grow most vegetables without amending your soil and changing your pH. Decide if you want to lower your soil’s pH: if you’re determined to grow tomatoes, for example, you must do so. If you’re happy growing mainly cabbage family vegetables, you needn’t bother.

Apply sulfur to the soil to lower the pH. Measure your planting area to determine its number of square yards, which will dictate how much sulfur to add. For each square yard, dig in 4.6 oz. of ground rock sulfur.

Add composted leaves and any other plant materials, sawdust, wood chips and peat moss to also help make your soil more acidic. Even if you have decided not to grow acid-loving vegetables like tomatoes, adding these ingredients will benefit all the types of veggies you plan to grow.

Plant vegetables that do well in more alkaline soil after the soil dries out a bit and your final spring frost has passed. Veggies you can expect to grow well in alkaline soil with a pH between 7.0 and 8.0 include cauliflower, cucumbers, celery, cabbage, Chinese cabbage, mustard greens, turnips and turnip greens and Brussels sprouts. If your soil tested slightly acidic (ph 6.0 to 6.8), you’ll be able to grow asparagus, kale, broccoli, beets, onions, bok choy, tat soi, spinach and Swiss chard. All other vegetables require soil pH to fall under 6.8.

Best Vegetables to Grow By Soil pH Level

Understanding the pH level of your soil is one of the most important factors for a successful vegetable gardener. The chart below shows the desired pH level of various popular vegetables. It is important to try to match the ideal pH level with the vegetables you are growing. If you use raised beds in your garden you might consider adjusting the pH level independently. For example you could grow broccoli and carrots in one bed at pH 6.5, while growing cucumbers and tomatoes in an adjacent bed at pH 5.5. Learn More about the pH Scale

pH Level

Vegetables

Above 7

Asparagus

6–7

Broccoli, beets, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, lettuce, onions, peas, peppers, spinach

5–6

Beans, cucumber, raspberries, rhubarb, squash, Swiss chard, tomatoes

4–5

Blueberries, potatoes, strawberries

Vegetables that Grow Well in Acidic Soil

There are a handful of fruits and vegetables that require low pH or acidic soil. Listed above we have blueberries, potatoes, and strawberries. Each of these plants can be grown in soil that ranges from 4-5 on the pH scale. These three plants also tend to do best in cooler climates. For example, the cool climate and acidic soil of Idaho makes a perfect location for growing potatoes.

Vegetables that Grow Well in Alkaline Soil

Highly alkaline soil can be difficult to work with for vegetable gardeners, but there are a handful of veggies that prefer slightly alkaline soil. Most notable, asparagus prefers to grow in soil as high as 7 on the pH scale. This is significantly higher than most other vegetables. Other veggies you might consider growing in alkaline soil include broccoli, beets, and carrots. If all else fails, lower the pH level of soil is a fairly easy process for most gardeners as we explain below.

How to Organically Raise Soil pH

The most common method for organically increasing the pH level in soil is to mix granulated limestone into the soil, a process known as “liming”. Limestone is a very alkaline substance, so it can quickly raise the pH in your garden. Every type of soil is slightly different, so it is important to add small amounts at first. Adding too much limestone to your soil has the potential to create major pH imbalances that will prevent your garden from thriving. This is an excellent method of organic gardeners and is the most commonly used method of home gardeners.

How to Organically Lower Soil pH

Organic gardeners typically turn to elemental sulfur when decreasing soil pH. Keep in mind that using elemental sulfur to lower pH can be a time consuming process taking up to a few months in some cases. Make sure to test your soil early in the season a plan ahead if you intend on making any changes.

Garden Soil Basics

How to Test your Garden Soil

25 Fruits And Vegetables To Grow In Acidic Soil

If you have acidic soil, defined as soil with a pH under 7.0, you might wonder which vegetables and fruit you can grow. Blueberries come to mind, of course, but unless you have very acidic soil, you can grow most vegetables and fruits. Read on to learn the soil pH requirements of common fruits and vegetables.

Acid-Loving Vegetables

Most vegetables grow best in a neutral or near-neutral soil pH, although they’ll tolerate slightly acidic soil. A few vegetables, though, actually prefer acidic soil. If you’ve got soil with a low pH, you’ll definitely want to plant these crops, which include:

Radishes. These fast-growing root crops thrive in soil with a pH between 4.5 and 5.5. Plant them in early spring or fall and give them full sun, consistent water, and well-draining soil. Harvest them when they’re young, because larger radishes become woody and hot.

Sweet Potatoes. These flavorful tubers are loaded with vitamin A. They grow best in soil with a pH between 4.5 and 5.5. Sweet potatoes need a long growing season and are difficult to grow in the north. If you live in a mild climate, though, you should have success.

Parsley. Parsley is a fast-growing annual herb that tolerates soil pH between 5.5 and 6.5. You can buy nursery transplants, but it grows quickly from seed. Plant it after the last frost in full sun and cover it with a light dusting of soil. Keep the soil consistently moist. In frost-free areas, you can grow parsley almost year-round.

Peppers. Peppers, including bell peppers and chili peppers, prefer a soil pH between 5.5 and 6.5. Related to tomatoes, they have similar growing requirements, including full sun, consistent moisture, and rich, well-draining soil. Plant them after the last frost.

Potatoes. Potatoes adapt to more alkaline soils – after all, they’re one of the main crops grown in southern Idaho, which is known for its alkaline soil – but they prefer a soil pH between 4.8 and 5.5. Plant them in early spring from certified disease-free seed potatoes.

Rhubarb. Rhubarb is generally used as a fruit in jams and pies, but it is technically a vegetable. This perennial vegetable grows best in soil with a pH between 5.5 and 6.5. Plant it in full sun at the edge of the garden where it can grow for many years.

New Natural Fertilizer Doubles Garden Production!

Acid-Tolerating Vegetables

The list of acid-loving vegetables might be short, but many vegetables tolerate an acidic soil. They won’t thrive in very acidic soil, but most gardeners can successfully grow them.

Beans. Beans are a warm-season crop so wait to plant them until after the last frost. They grow best in full sun in soil with a pH between 5.5 and 7.0. Bush beans need no trellising and produce a heavy crop in a few weeks, making them ideal for canning. Pole beans need a trellis. They produce pods over a longer period of time. Over the course of the entire season, they produce three times more yields than bush beans, according to Cornell University. If you have room, plant both. Plant bush beans for canning and pole beans for fresh eating.

Broccoli. Like most brassicas, broccoli grows best in cool, but sunny, weather. It prefers a soil pH between 5.5 and 7.0. Plant broccoli in mid-spring or late summer for a fall harvest. If you have trouble with flea beetles or other pests, cover the soil with floating row covers after planting.

Cabbage. Another member of the brassica family, cabbage also tolerates a soil pH between 5.5 and 7.0. Cabbage needs a longer growing season than broccoli, but it also prefers slightly cool temperatures.

Carrots. Fast-growing carrots need light, well-draining soil with a pH between 5.5 and 7.0. Amend heavy soils with compost or grow them in raised beds. You might also want to select short varieties if you have heavy or rocky soil.

Cucumbers. Cucumbers grow best in full sun and light, rich soil with a pH between 5.5 and 7.0. Plant them in hills of three plants with the hills spaced 2 feet apart or in rows spaced 18 inches apart. If space is limited, trellis cucumbers.

Onions. Onions tolerate soil pH as low as 5.5, making them a suitable crop for moderately acidic soil. Plant them in spring from sets for fastest growth. They need consistent water and full sun.

Squash. Another member of the cucurbit family, squash also prefer a soil pH between 5.5 and 7.0. Summer squash mature in about 50 to 60 days. Winter squash need a long, warm growing season of 80 to 100 days.

Sweet corn. Sweet corn also tolerates a soil pH between 5.5 and 7.0. More important than soil pH is soil fertility, since sweet corn is notoriously greedy. Add lots of manure before planting and provide additional fertilizer during the season. Sweet corn also needs full sun and moist soil.

Tomatoes. Technically a fruit, tomatoes are subtropical plants that demand warm, sunny conditions. They need fertile, well-draining soil with a pH between 5.5 and 7.0. Tomatoes are prone to disease problems, especially in mild, humid climates. Select disease-resistant varieties and space them so air circulates freely.

Turnips. Turnips aren’t grown as often as they should be. These humble vegetables are valued for their roots, as well as their greens, which can be used like chard or kale. Plant them in rich, light soil with a pH between 5.5 and 7.0. You can lightly harvest the greens throughout the growing season and pull up the roots when they reach the size of a golf ball.

Acid-Loving Fruits

The most well-known acid-loving fruit is blueberries, which grow best in soil with a pH between 4 and 5, but there are many other fruits that prefer acidic soil. Try the following:

Blueberries. Blueberry plants make beautiful landscape shrubs, in addition to their culinary value. Plant them in an area that gets full sun, in moist, well-draining soil. Fertilize them with an acidic fertilizer.

Cranberries. These tart relatives of blueberries need moist conditions to thrive. They prefer a soil pH between 4.2 and 5.

Currants. Currants produce small, tart fruits that are ideal for pies, preserves and wines. They need cool temperatures, full sun, and a soil pH between 5.5 and 6.5. They also need consistent moisture.

Elderberries. Elderberries were once so common that early settlers considered them ditch weeds. The plants thrive in soil with a pH between 5.5 and 6.5. Select American varieties rather than European varieties for best fruit production, and plant them in full sun.

Gooseberries. When you think of gooseberries, you probably think of very tart, green fruit and thorny plants. Newer varieties are sweeter and come in colors ranging from white to pink. Some varieties are thornless. Gooseberries need cool temperatures and a soil pH between 5.5 and 6.5.

Fruits That Tolerate Acidic Soil

Many fruits tolerate a wide range of soil pH, including moderately acidic soils. Try the following:

Apples. Apples don’t grow well in hot, humid climates, but they’re an ideal crop for areas with cold winters and mild summers. They tolerate a soil pH between 5.5 to 6.5.

Grapes. Grapes need five years or more to start producing fruit, but a healthy vine can outlive you. Plant grapes in full sun, in light, well-draining soil with a pH between 5.5 to 6.5. Trellis them and prune them every year to keep them healthy.

Raspberries. Raspberries are highly perishable and expensive to buy at the grocery store, but they’re easy to grow at home. They need consistent moisture, reasonably cool temperatures, full sun, and a soil pH between 5.5 and 7.0.

Strawberries. Commercial, conventionally-grown strawberries are among the most pesticide polluted crops, according to the Environmental Working Group – a good reason to grow them at home. They also tolerate a wide range of soil pH – 5.5 to 6.5. Plan to replace your strawberry plants every three years.

Every gardener knows the feeling – you plant your garden at the start of the season imagining a lush and colorful array of flowers or large, succulent veggies, only to be disappointed by the results. Why did it happen? Should you have added anything to the soil? Here, we look at which garden plants need lime.

Science bit

Before we look at which plants need lime, first we need to have a look at the science to help you understand why we use lime. This is important when deciding which plants need lime and how much you should use.

If you think back to your school chemistry lessons, you might remember something about acids and bases – this is the relevant science here.

An acid is something with a pH value of less than 7 while a base (or an alkaline) is something with a pH value of above 7. A pH value of exactly 7 is neutral. Following on from this, soils are also classified as acid, alkaline or pH neutral.

All plants have preferences for growing conditions, which include things like temperature, sunlight rainfall and so on. These are determined by where the plant grows naturally in the wild. Similarly, plants also have preferences for soil acidity or pH level.

Why Garden Plants Need Lime?

This is where the lime comes in. Lime is a natural alkaline, and adding it to acidic soils raises the pH of the soil towards pH neutral. If you continue to add lime, the soil will eventually end up with a pH value of above 7 – that is, it will become alkaline.

Most plants actually prefer a slightly acidic soil of between about pH6 and pH7. However, when soil has a pH of less than 6, the minerals in the soil become insoluble and inaccessible to the plants trying to grow there.

So in essence, we use lime to alter the pH level of the soil to make it easier for plants to thrive.

It is important to understand this point. Lime is not a fertilizer and should not be used as such. It is used for the very specific purpose of altering the pH level of the soil to make it more suited to the plants you are attempting to grow there.

Since plants do not all flourish in soil of the same acidity, you need to understand which plants require which levels of acidity and then to add lime accordingly.

Similarly, you should bear this in mind when you are planting your garden since if you put acidic soil-loving plants next to plants that prefer soils with higher pH levels, it will be impossible to keep everyone happy.

For this reason, a little forethought when organizing your garden will make things easier for you later on.

Now let’s have a look specifically at some of the types of plants that will benefit from lime and which won’t

Which Garden plants to lime?

If you are growing a vegetable garden, the plants that benefit from the application of lime include legumes such as broad beans and peas. English spinach, onions, garlic, parsnips and asparagus are also vegetables that will improve with the addition of some lime.

Note also that apple trees may not achieve their full potential in soils that are too acidic.

In terms of your flowers, you can add lime to ornamental gardens where you grow plants like delphiniums, buddleia, gypsophila etc.

If in doubt, try to find out the acidity preference of the vegetables or flowers you want to grow. Plants that prefer a pH level closer to 7 or even an alkaline soil will benefit from the addition of lime.

Which Garden plants not to lime?

There are also some plants from your vegetable garden that will react badly to lime. You shouldn’t add lime to potatoes or sweet potatoes, and nor should you use lime if you are trying to grow tomatoes or capsicums.

Many types of berries prefer acidic soils, and blueberry bushes, raspberries and strawberries won’t do well if you apply lime. The same is also true of grapes.

In terms of flowers, there are many that also dislike lime. These include such species as rhododendrons, azalea, magnolia, daphne, Japanese maples and more.

Again, it is impossible to give an exhaustive list, but by finding out the pH preference of any particular plant, it should be easy enough to determine whether or not it will benefit from lime.

Guidelines for lime to your garden

If you decide you need to apply lime to your garden, you can buy it from your local garden center, where it is available as either finely ground limestone or as dolomite. The difference is that dolomite also contains magnesium, making a good choice if your soil is also lacking this mineral.

Another cheaper option is “builder’s lime” – this can be found in hardware stores, costs less and should only be used in about half the quantities as when using lime from a garden center.

When should you apply lime? The best time to apply lime is in the fall. This is because high-nitrogen fertilizers commonly applied in spring react with lime, making everything less effective.

When used in fall, the lime will have time to dissolve into the soil, helping prepare it for the new growing season when the winter ends.

And one final tip that we’ve already touched on: remember to arrange your garden in a way that groups plants that have similar pH preferences. This way, you will be able to add lime in certain areas where it will be beneficial while leaving areas that don’t need it un-limed.

Only add lime when needed

The most important thing to remember is that lime is not a fertilizer – it is only used to raise the pH level of the soil. For this reason, there are some plants that will positively thrive if you add lime, but at the same time, others with become unhappy if you remove the acidity they crave from the soil.

SOUND GARDENER: A lime primer: When to use it, which plants need it

Sun | Home & Garden

Chris Smith — Oct 30th, 1999

Q: I understand local soils tend to be acidic and that you’re supposed to sweeten them with lime. What’s bad about an acid soil? Does it burn plant roots?

A: The problem with acid soil isn’t that it burns roots. In fact, most plants do best in slightly acidic soil with a pH between 6 and 7; figure that 7 is neutral on a 14-point logarithmic scale. Numbers below 7 are in the acid range and those above 7 are in the basic range.

As soil pH dips below 6, though, mineral nutrients start to form insoluble compounds. That’s a problem because plants have to absorb minerals dissolved in water; they can’t access them in insoluble form.

Liming an acid soil raises its pH and helps prevent the minerals plants need from forming insoluble compounds. Keeping nutrients available and supplying calcium and magnesium are the principal benefits of the practice.

Q: What’s the difference between regular lime and dolomitic lime? Someone told me I should be using the dolomitic kind around here.

A: Regular or agricultural lime is calcium carbonate. Dolomitic lime contains magnesium as well as calcium carbonate. Since local soils tend to be deficient in magnesium, dolomitic is the lime of choice.

Q: What time of year should I lime my lawn to prevent the growth of moss?

A: Don’t bother liming your lawn to prevent moss growth. It doesn’t work. Although moss thrives in acid soil, it grows just fine in limed soil, too. Eliminating what shade you can and maintaining sufficient fertility for the turf to outcompete the moss will give you much better odds of success.

Q: Is there a best time of year to apply lime to lawns and gardens?

A: There is, and it’s now. Even though lime looks and feels like flour, it needs a good three to four months to dissolve into your soil. It might as well dissolve in winter when plants are dormant or making only slow growth.

By spring, when plants begin rapid growth, the lime will have done its work of making a wide range of plant nutrients available.

Q: Does wood ash contain lime?

A: Yes. It’s about 45 percent calcium carbonate.

Q: My pellet stove generates quite a bit of ash over the winter. It looks like toxic stuff, but my stove maintenance guy says throw it on the plants; it’s good for them. Is it? Would acid-loving plants, rhodies specifically, like it or dislike it?

A: Assuming the pellets are manufactured of wood and nontoxic glues, they should be all right to use around plants as a half-strength alternative to lime. To be on the safe side, I’d check the ingredients of the pellets and ask for any information the manufacturer has about the use of their ash as a soil amendment.

Acid-loving plants, including rhodies, azaleas and blueberries, can be counted on to dislike ash, though with only half the vehemence they’d express if lime were applied near them.

Q: Will lime or wood ash sweeten up my compost?

A: In a chemical sense, it will. The smell of your compost, though, may be anything but sweet. As the pH of a heap is raised by lime, ammonium nitrogen turns into ammonia gas. Depending on how much lime or ash you add, you could wind up with a pungent pile.

Incidentally, finished compost typically has a pH between 6 and 8, close to neutral on the pH scale. You don’t really need to make it sweeter with lime. While an occasional sprinkling of wood ash in your compost is unlikely to generate much ammonia, disposing of a winter’s worth of it could cause some problems. If you have a lot of wood ash, simply scatter it in your garden where you won’t be growing acid-loving plants and till it under next spring.

Chris Smith is a longtime Kitsap County gardener. He cannot answer individual questions but will answer questions of general interest in his column. e-mail: [email protected]

— 12/31/1969

75 Alkaline Friendly Plants

75 Alkaline Friendly Plants

So why is a soil considered alkaline? Well, it is defined by pH. So, what exactly is soil pH?

• The pH soil scale ranges from 0 to 14.
• A pH of 7 is neutral, which is neither acid nor alkaline.
• A pH below 7 is acid.
• A pH above 7 is alkaline.

A pH of 5.5 is 10 times more acidic than a pH of 6.5. A pH of 8.5 is 10 times more alkaline than a pH of 7.5. A soil test will determine pH.

You can test your soil’s pH with through your local County Cooperative Extension Office (in New York State there is a Cornell Cooperative Extension in every county), or using a store bought soil tester or kit. You should test your soil before beginning any new landscape or vegetable growing project.

Here are some of the best soil ph tester kits you can buy online (I went with the reviews):

• Soilster

• MoonCity
• Luster Leaf (This is Home Depot, so you can get it in-store too)

From the USDA:

Soil testing of the garden site is essential. Soil tests provide valuable information about fertility and pH and provide the basis for fertilizer and liming recommendations. Plan on soil testing the season before the garden is planted, preferably before the ground freezes. This allows for planning of fall applications of nutrients and lime to prepare the garden site for spring planting. Another benefit of fall testing is that fertilizer prices are more likely to be discounted during that season.

Many plants do well in acidic, slightly acidic, neutral, near neutral soils, alkaline soils; in other words, they will grow fairly well in some to all ranges as long as they are not extreme. Some plants prefer a highly acidic soil.
Soil is more likely alkaline due to the limestone parent material when soils were formed. If the pH of your soil is greater than 7.5, then the soil may contain a large amount of free calcium carbonate. Wood ash will raise the soil pH and make the soil more alkaline.

If you are looking for a list of acid-loving plants, check out my list of 75 Acid Loving Plants!

Below is a list of alkaline friendly plants you can grow in alkaline soil. All of these plants listed below have some alkaline soil level requirements. Some love alkaline soil more than others – they range from liking slightly alkaline soil to loving very alkaline soil. It was interesting to me how many vegetables went on this list, and how few flowers or fruits. I cannot say I grow too many alkaline friendly plants, mostly chives, oregano, and beans.

• Artichoke
• Arugula
• Asparagus
• Aster, New England
• Beauty Bush
• Beans
• Beet
• Bigroot Geranium
• Bluebell
• Boston Ivy
• Broccoli
• Broccoli Rabe
• Brussels Sprouts
• Cabbage
• California Lilacs
• Campanula
• Cantaloupe
• Cauliflower
• Chinese Cabbage
• Celeriac
• Chives

• Chokeberry
• Cilantro
• Clematis Vine
• Cockscomb
• Collard
• Crab Apple
• Crocus
• Emerald Gaity Shrubs
• Endive
• Escarole
• Fennel
• Forsythia
• Green Velvet Boxwood
• Hebe ‘Great Orme’
• Honeysuckle
• Horseradish
• Hyacinth
• Iceland Poppy
• Jack Frost
• Japanese Wisteria
• Jerusalem Artichoke
• Kale
• Kohlrabi
• Lemon Mint
• Lettuce
• Lilacs
• Lima Beans
• Marjoram

• Mock Orange
• Mustard
• Nectarines
• Okra
• Onion
• Oregano
• Parsnip
• Peaches
• Peas
• Photinia Berries
• Radicchio
• Radish
• Rhubarb
• Sage
• Shasta Daisy
• Snapdragon
• Spiraea
• Summer Squash
• Swiss Chard
• Tarragon
• Tomatillo
• Trumpet Honeysuckle
• Watercress
• Watermelon
• Weigela
• Worcester Gold

More reading:

• 10 Common Household Items to Use as Garden Fertilizers
• 20 Fabulous Bulbs to Plant in the Fall for Spring Blooms
• Tips for Growing an Herb Garden Year Round
• Vegetables That Are Perfect to Plant in Late Summer

Sources:

• Farmer’s Almanac
• Horticulture Magazine
• Iowa State
University of Minnesota
USDA
• Wildflower Information

Do you have a favorite alkaline friendly plant?

• Disclosure: the links in this post may be affiliate links.

• For more Gardening posts on Ann’s Entitled Life,

• If you enjoyed this post, be sure to sign up for the Ann’s Entitled Life weekly newsletter, and never miss another article!

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Best Plants For Alkaline Soil – Which Plants Like Alkaline Soil

High soil pH can also be man-made from too much lime or other soil neutralizer. Adjusting soil pH can be a slippery slope, so it’s always best to test the soil’s pH level and follow instructions to the “T” when using anything to change soil pH. If your soil is highly alkaline, adding sulphur, peat moss, sawdust, or aluminum sulfate can help neutralize it. It’s best to adjust soil pH slowly, over time, avoiding any quick fixes. Rather than messing with products to alter the soil pH, you can simply add plants suitable for alkaline soil.

What are Some Alkaline Tolerant Plants?

Gardening with alkaline soil isn’t a challenge when you use alkaline tolerant plants. Below is a list of many suitable plants for alkaline soil.

Trees

  • Silver Maple
  • Buckeye
  • Hackberry
  • Green Ash
  • Honey Locust
  • Ironwood
  • Austrian Pine
  • Burr Oak
  • Tamarisk

Shrubs

  • Barberry
  • Smoke Bush
  • Spirea
  • Cotoneaster
  • Panicle Hydrangea
  • Hydrangea
  • Juniper
  • Potentilla
  • Lilac
  • Viburnum
  • Forsythia
  • Boxwood
  • Euonymus
  • Mock Orange
  • Weigela
  • Oleander

Annuals/Perennials

  • Dusty Miller
  • Geranium
  • Yarrow
  • Cinquefoil
  • Astilbe
  • Clematis
  • Coneflower
  • Daylily
  • Coral Bells
  • Honeysuckle Vine
  • Hosta
  • Creeping Phlox
  • Garden Phlox
  • Salvia
  • Brunnera
  • Dianthus
  • Sweet Pea

Herbs/Vegetables

  • Lavender
  • Thyme
  • Parsley
  • Oregano
  • Asparagus
  • Sweet Potato
  • Okra
  • Beets
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Cucumber
  • Celery

As you can see, there are a number of plants that will tolerate alkaline soil in the garden. So if you don’t want to fool around with changing the pH levels in the soil, it is quite possible to fins a plant suitable for planting in an alkaline garden.

Growing acid-loving plants in an alkaline garden

If you’ve ever been on a garden tour with people from various locations, you’ll eventually hear someone say, “Oh, I wish I could grow blue hydrangeas like that. Mine are always pink.” I know this because I’ve said it myself.

If your hydrangeas (which actually prefer acidic soils, but are very adaptable) naturally bloom pink, you’ve got alkaline soil. Just like curly or straight hair, we seem to want what we don’t have. But that’s why perms and soil acidifiers were invented.

Changing the color of your hydrangeas isn’t the only reason you might have for wanting to manipulate your soil’s pH. After all, the color of a plant’s blooms usually has nothing to do with the health of the plant itself. The pH of the soil in which you grow some plants does.

pH matters

All soils have a pH, ranging from 1 to 14. Seven is considered to be neutral, with lower numbers being acidic and higher ones alkaline, and it’s an important consideration when trying to grow certain plants. The majority of plants will grow just fine in neutral to slightly alkaline soils, but some, like azaleas, rhododendrons, blueberries, and hollies, prefer acidic soil. While they may survive in alkaline soils, they likely won’t thrive.

Jobe’s Organics Soil Acidifier can help change your pH situation. This granular soil amendment consists of all natural ingredients and adds sulphur to the soil. Sulphur is often recommended over other acidic products such as aluminum or iron sulfates, as it lowers the pH by reacting with natural bacteria.

Jobe’s Organics Soil Acidifier can be used with plants that are grown in the ground or with plants grown in a container. It may be a bit easier to adjust the pH of the soil with container-grown plants, and most acid-loving plants grown by backyard gardeners can be grown this way. Some of the newer varieties of blueberries have been bred specifically for containers.

And then there are those hydrangeas. Though they adapt to alkaline soils better than most acid loving plants, you might see the foliage taking on a lighter shade of green, with darker veining. This is a sign of chlorosis. Often plants that prefer acidic soil conditions will have chlorotic leaves if the soil pH is too high. Use of a soil acidifier can lower the pH, promoting darker green foliage, and in the case of hydrangeas, it can change the color of their blooms to purple or blue instead of pink.

Of course, you could just grow plants that naturally prefer whatever native soil conditions your garden has, but thanks to Jobe’s Organics Soil Acidifier, you don’t have to limit yourself in that way. Easy-to-follow directions are on the package. Jobe’s Organics® Soil Acidifier comes in a granular form that you mix in with your soil. Be sure to water well after you add it according to package directions.

Whether or not hydrangeas will bloom blue or pink largely depends on the pH of the soil. By using Jobe’s Organics® Soil Acidifier , it’s possible to alter the pH of alkaline soil to be more acidic, and thus change the color of hydrangea blooms from pink to blue.

Kylee Baumle is well into her second career as a garden writer, as well as being a Registered Dental Hygienist for the past 39 years. An indoor gardener since her college days, she also tends to an acre of land in rural northwest Ohio.

So, You Have Alkaline Soil…

So you have alkaline soil… What next?

Throughout the Panhandle, a common problem that often arises is finding a way to raise soil pH. This is due to the fact that we often encounter sandy, acid soils in this region. An often overlooked issue is explaining the process of gardening in a soil that tends to be more alkaline in nature.

Soil pH is measured using a scale from 0 to 14. On this scale, a value of 7 is neutral, pH values less than 7 are acidic, and pH values greater than 7 are alkaline. Soil pH directly affects the growth and quality of many landscape plants. Extreme pH levels can prevent certain nutrients from being available to plants. Therefore, a high pH may make it difficult to grow certain plants.

Often alkaline soils occur in the home landscape as a result of calcium carbonate-rich building materials (i.e., concrete, stucco, etc.) that may have been left in the soil following construction. Soils that contain limestone, marl or seashells are also usually alkaline in nature. There are a few measures that can be taken in order to combat high pH. Incorporating soil amendments containing organic material is the most common method implemented to reverse alkalinity. Peat or sphagnum peat moss is generally acidic and will lower pH better than other organic materials. Adding elemental sulfur is another common practice. A soil test will need to be performed often in order to add the correct amount of sulfur to reach an optimal pH level.

Lowering the pH of strongly alkaline soils is much more difficult than raising it. Unfortunately, there is no way to permanently lower the pH of soils severely impacted by alkaline construction materials. In these circumstances, it may be best to select plants that are tolerant of high pH conditions to avoid chronic plant nutrition problems.

Some plants that will tolerate alkaline soils:

  • Shrubs

    • Glossy Abelia (Abelia Xgrandiflora)
    • Sweet Shrub (Calycanthus floridus)
    • Flowering Quince (Chaenomeles speciosa)
    • Burford Holly (Ilex cornuta ‘Burfordii’)
    • Indian Hawthorne (Rhaphiolepis indica)

Firebush is wonderful butterfly attractant. Photo courtesy of UF/IFAS.

  • Perennials

    • Larkspur (Delphinium carolinianum)
    • Pinks (Dianthus spp.)
    • Firebush (Hamelia patens)
    • Plumbago (Plumbago ariculata)

Zinnias come in a variety of colors, shapes and sizes. Photo courtesy of UF/IFAS.

  • Annuals

    • California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica)
    • Zinnias (Zinnia spp.)
    • Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus)

by tavandiver

Posted: February 25, 2014

Category: Horticulture

Tags: Annuals, Garden Design, General Gardening, Native plants, Ornamental Shrubs, Panhandle Gardening, Perennials, soil

Plant Lists
Plants that Tolerate Alkaline Soils

” Native Plants
” Ornamental Plants
” Trees
” Seedlings available at the Forestry Department nurseries
” Plants that Tolerate Alkaline Soils
” Plants that Tolerate Acidic Soils

Soil pH ranges from neutral (7) to acid (below 7) to alkaline (above 7). Extreme pH levels in either direction negatively affect the availability of key nutrients required by plants.

Moderately alkaline soils (>7 to 9) are typically found in regions with low rainfall such as those of Jordan. Irrigation with graywater may increase the alkalinity of soils due to the presence of sodium, potassium, or calcium salts in the graywater, particularly from laundry detergents. Although most garden plants prefer neutral to slightly acidic or slightly alkaline soils, there are many plants that grow well in alkaline soils, and many of them are drought tolerant. The following list provides a selection of such plants.

Botanical name Acacia cyanophylla
English common name Mimosa
Arabic common name أكاشيا
Group Evergreen tree

Botanical name Acacia farnesiana
English common name Sweet Acacia
Arabic common name عنبر
Group Deciduous tree

Botanical name Acacia greggii
English common name Catclaw Acacia
Arabic common name ____
Group Deciduous tree

Botanical name Agave palmeri
English common name Foxtail Agave
Arabic common name أجاف
Group Succulent

Botanical name Albizia julibrissin
English common name Silk Tree
Arabic common name ألبيزيا
Group Deciduous tree

Botanical name Aloe nobilis
English common name Golden-tooth Aloe
Arabic common name ألوي
Group Succulent

Botanical name Bougainvillea sp.
English common name Bougainvillea
Arabic common name مجنونة
Group Evergreen vine

Botanical name Brachychiton populeneus
English common name Bottle Tree
Arabic common name بدة العفريت
Group Evergreen tree

Botanical name Buddleia davidii
English common name Butterfly Bush
Arabic common name طرف العروس
Group Deciduous shrub

Botanical name Caesalpinia gilliesii
English common name Bird of Paradise Bush
Arabic common name شوارب النمر
Group Deciduous shrub

Botanical name Ceratonia siliqua
English common name Carob
Arabic common name خروب
Group Evergreen tree

Botanical name Cereus peruvianus
English common name Apple Cactus
Arabic common name صبر
Group Cactus

Botanical name Chamaerops humilis
English common name European Fan Palm
Arabic common name شميروبس
Group Evergreen tree

Botanical name Cortaderia selloana
English common name Pampas Grass
Arabic common name حلفا
Group Ornamental grass

Botanical name Cupressus arizonica
English common name Smooth Arizona Cypress
Arabic common name سرو فضي
Group Evergreen tree

Botanical name Cupressus sempervirens
English common name Italian Cypress
Arabic common name سرو عمودي
Group Evergreen tree

Botanical name Dodonaea viscosa
English common name Purple Hop Bush
Arabic common name دودينيا حمراء
Group Evergreen shrub

Botanical name Eucalyptus camaldulensis
English common name Red River Gum
Arabic common name كينا
Group Evergreen tree

Botanical name Grevillea robusta
English common name Silk Oak
Arabic common name جرافيليا
Group Evergreen tree

Botanical name Iris sp.
English common name Bearded Iris
Arabic common name سوسن الصحراء
Group Evergreen perennial

Botanical name Lantana camara
English common name Lantana
Arabic common name أم كلثوم
Group Semi evergreen shrub

Botanical name Lantana montevidensis
English common name Trailing Lantana
Arabic common name أم كلثوم زاحفة
Group Perennial

Botanical name Laurus nobilis
English common name Sweet Bay
Arabic common name غار
Group Evergreen tree

Botanical name Lavadula angustifolia
English common name Lavender
Arabic common name لافندر
Group Evergreen shrub

Botanical name Lonicera japonica
English common name Japanese Honeysuckle
Arabic common name ياسمين عراقي
Group Evergreen vine

Botanical name Malephora crocea
English common name Ice Plant
Arabic common name ___
Group Succulent

Botanical name Myrtus communis
English common name Myrtle
Arabic common name ريحان، آس
Group Evergreen shrub

Botanical name Nerium oleander
English common name Oleander
Arabic common name دفلة مقزمة
Group Evergreen shrub

Botanical name Nolina sp.
English common name Mexican Grass Tree
Arabic common name أرجيلة
Group Perennial

Botanical name Oenothera sp.
English common name Evening Primrose
Arabic common name ___
Group Perennial

Botanical name Olea europaea
English common name Olive
Arabic common name زيتون
Group Evergreen tree

Botanical name Opuntia ficus-indica
English common name Prickly Pear
Arabic common name صبر
Group Cactus

Botanical name Parkensonia aculeata
English common name Jerusalem Thorn
Arabic common name بركنسونيا
Group Deciduous tree

Botanical name Pennisetum setaceum
English common name Fountain Grass
Arabic common name حلفا حمراء
Group Ornamental grass

Botanical name Penstemon sp.
English common name Beard Tongue
Arabic common name ___
Group Perennial

Botanical name Phoenix dactylifera
English common name Date Palm
Arabic common name نخلة
Group Evergreen tree

Botanical name Pinus halepensis
English common name Aleppo Pine
Arabic common name صنوبر حلبي
Group Evergreen tree

Botanical name Pistacia atlantica
English common name Betoum
Arabic common name بطم أطلسي
Group Deciduous tree

Botanical name Prosopis sp.
English common name Mesquite
Arabic common name الغاف
Group Deciduous tree

Botanical name Punica granatum
English common name Pomegranate
Arabic common name رمان
Group Deciduous tree

Botanical name Robinia psuedoacacia
English common name Black Locust
Arabic common name روبينا
Group Deciduous tree

Botanical name Rosmarinus officinalis
English common name Rosemary
Arabic common name حصالبان
Group Evergreen shrub

Botanical name Salvia microphylla
English common name Sage
Arabic common name ميرامية زينة
Group Evergreen shrub

Botanical name Senecio cineraria
English common name Dusty Miller
Arabic common name فضية
Group Evergreen shrub or perennial

Botanical name Sophora japonica
English common name Japanese Pagoda Tree
Arabic common name صوفورا
Group Deciduous tree

Botanical name Tamarix aphylla
English common name Tamarisk
Arabic common name إثل
Group Deciduous tree

Botanical name Tecomaria capensis
English common name Cape Honeysuckle
Arabic common name تكوماريا
Group Evergreen shrub or vine

Botanical name Vitex agnus-castus
English common name Chaste Tree
Arabic common name كف مريم
Group Deciduous tree

Botanical name Washingtonia filifera
English common name Washingtonia
Arabic common name واشنتونيا
Group Evergreen tree

Botanical name Yucca aloifolia
English common name Spanish Bayonet
Arabic common name حربة
Group Evergreen shrub
Botanical name Ziziphus spina-christi
English common name Jujube
Arabic common name سدر
Group Deciduous tree

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“Soil above a PH 7.0 is considered alkaline find out what will grow and flourish in this soil type with this guide of alkaline loving plants.”

Alkaline Soil..

Alkaline soil is usually limey or chalky and often stoney and can be a challenge for gardeners that grow in this often free draining soil that is not very nutrient rich but there is a vast array of beautiful alkaline loving plants such as Helianthemum, Dianthus and showy Delphiniums to name but a few that thrive in this soil type. If you want to try to lower the PH level of the soil large quantities of organic material may help but long term could prove a waste of time and to change a whole garden would prove an impossible task, raised beds with good quality topsoil could be an alternative if you want to grow acid loving plants. If acidic loving plants are planted in alkaline soil the result would be poor growth and yellow leaves and they would look very sick indeed. The soils ph can be altered if it is one or two acid loving plants you are wanting to grow by adding chemical compounds to acidify the soil. There are many products available on the market sulphate of iron is a common acidifying compound along withe aluminium sulphate these usually come in powder form and are added to the soil. It is possible to grow a variety of acid loving plants in pots and containers using ericaceous compost if your soil is to alkaline. When the plants are fed ensure you use an ericaceous plant food a liquid feed is ideal and easy to use for all container grown plants.

Below is a list of plants that are suitable for gardens with alkaline soil…

Larger Shrubs
Acer
Aucuba
Buddleja
Chamaecyparis
Forsythia
Ginko
Hebe
Hydrangea
Juniperus
Ligstrum
Mahonia
Photinia
Sambucus
Syringa
Weigela
Medium to low growing shrubs
Berberis
Buxus
Ceanothus
Choisya
Cistus
Cotoneaster
Crataegus
Daphne
Deutzia
Euonymus
Fuchsia
Garrya
Helianthemum
Hydrangea
Juniperus
Lavender
Perovskia
Philadelphus
Photinia
Pyracantha
Rose
Spirea
Perennials
Acanthus Mollis
Achillea
Aconitum
Anchusa
Anemone
Anthemis
Arabis
Armeria
Aster
Astrantia
Astilbe
Aubrieta
Aquilegia
Bergenia
Brunnera
Campanula
Chrysanthemum
Corydalis
Cyclamen
Delphinium
Dianthus
Digitalis
Echinops
Erodium
Erynigium
Gaillardia
Geranium
Helenium
Helleborus
Heuchera
Iberis
Lavender
Leucanthemum
Linaria
Oenothera
Osteospermum
Poppy
Potentilla
Peony
Rudbeckia
Saxifraga
Scabiosa
Sempervivum
Sidalcea
Solidago
Salvia
Sedum
Verbascum
Viola
Wall flower
Grasses
Carex
Deschamsia
Festuca
Miscanthus
Bulbs
Allium
Bluebell
Crocus
Hyacinth
Lily
Annuals
Alyssum
Calendula
Celosia
Cosmos
Gazania
Godetia
Lobelia
Morning glory
Nemisia
Petunia
Poppy
Verbena
Zinnia
Herbs
Rosemary
Sage
Thyme
Climbers
Hedra
Jasmine
Parthenocissuss
Passiflora
Trees
Acacia
Acer
Ash
Callistamon
Carpinus
Corylus
Eucalyptus
Fagus
Laburnum
Malus
Prunus
Quercus
Sorbus
Fruit
Apple
Blackcurrant
Grape
Red currant
White currant

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