High soil acidity is usually caused by the breakdown of organic matter, so it’s often found in woodland, due to the abundance of fallen leaves. For example, beech woodland has an average soil pH of 3.5-4.5.
You can test the pH of of your own soil using a soil testing kit (on a scale of 1 to 14, acid is between 1 and 7). If it’s slightly acidic, you can grow a huge range of plants. But the more acidic the soil, the more limited your choice will be.
To find out how to keep ericaceous plants happy, check out our advice on how to garden on acid soil.
Related content: 10 Flowers for Clay Soil, Testing Soil pH (Video), Find Out Your Soil Type.
Browse our choice of plants that thrive on acid soil, below.
All magnolias will relish growing in acidic soil. The pink chalice-shaped flowers of Magnolia x veitchii open in early spring on bare branches. Young leaves are tinged purple, turning green as they mature. Grow it in moist but well-drained, neutral to acid soil, in sun or part shade.
Lilyturf, Liriope muscari, is an evergreen perennial with neat, low, grassy foliage and prolific flowers shaped like elongated grape hyacinths, and in a similar blue. It tolerates dry soil, shade and acid soil.
Japanese anemones are incredibly versatile and grow almost anywhere, except in waterlogged soil. Flowers come in either white or shades of pink. ‘Pretty Lady Susan’ is a variety that has a compact habit.
Although predominantly beetroot coloured, trillium flowers can also be white, yellow or purple. Unlike many trilliums, Trillium erectum has plain green, rather than variegated leaves.
Also known as California lilac, ceanothus is perfect for acidic soils in sunny locations. This variety makes a compact shrub with glossy, oval, dark-green leaves and blue flowers in late spring.
Also known as summer heather, Calluna vulgaris is a low-growing perennial heather that flowers from late summer to late autumn. To prolong flowering, trim off the old flower spikes.
Best in acid or neutral soils, Pieris japonica is an essential spring border shrub. ‘Firecrest’ is a cultivar with dark green, leathery leaves, tinged pink in spring, and drooping white flowers.
Bilberries (Vaccinium myrtillus)
A European relative of the American blueberry, the bilberry is found on heaths, moors and woodlands. Small, white, tubular flowers in spring are followed by blue-black berries in summer.
Camellias thrive in acid soil, producing an abundance of colourful flowers from late winter through to spring. The variety pictured, ‘Water Lily’, produces large, double, rose-pink blooms from April.
Gardening on alkaline soil?
If you’ve alkaline soil in your garden, don’t let that stop you from growing ericaceous (acid-loving) plants. Raised beds and containers can be filled with ericaceous compost, and kept acidic with applications of sulphur or ferrous sulphate.