Acid-loving plants are plants that thrive in soils with a pH level between 5.0 and 6.0. If you’re growing these kinds of plants, you need to be careful about what kind of fertilizer you put on them—and how much.
Plants that prefer an acidic environment have a harder time getting nutrients from the soil than other plants do, so it’s important to make sure they get enough nutrients through the fertilizer you add to their soil. Acid-loving plants include azaleas and blueberries.
Most flowers that grow in peat bogs also need acidic soil, since these types of environments are naturally acidic. The trick to keeping acid-loving plants happy is to give them the right fertilizer. Fertilizers designed for plants that thrive in acidic soil help neutralize and correct high-pH problems. These plant foods encourage acidic soil and provide added iron and other micronutrients through specialized formulas.
Soil pH and Plant Health
Plant and soil health is linked to soil pH. When soil pH moves above the neutral point of 7.0 to the alkaline range, some nutrients get “tied up” so plants can’t utilize them. The same thing happens when soil pH moves below 7.0 to the range known as acidic.
When soil pH shifts, quantities of soil nutrients do not necessarily change, but their availability to plants does. Meeting plant needs starts with preparation. With the help of soil amendments, which modify the soil and its pH, the foundation plant needs can be provided.
Soil testing is the best place to start. An accurate soil sample from your planting area yields information on soil pH and other keys for plant health and growth. Soil testing laboratories will also recommend how to amend your specific soil for acid-loving plants.
Most plants grow best with soil in the slightly acidic range of 6.0 to 7.0, where major plant nutrients stay readily available. Acid-loving plants need larger quantities of these nutrients, so they thrive when soil stays near 5.5 pH. At these acidic levels, acid-loving plants can access the nutrients they need for optimal health, beauty, and performance.
What Is The Difference Between Soil Acidity And Alkalinity?
Soil acidity and alkalinity are two major components of soil chemistry. Soil acidity is the measure of how acidic or basic a substance is, whereas soil alkalinity refers to the ability of a substance to neutralize acids.
Soil acidity is measured on a pH scale from 0-14. Neutral pH is 7, soils with a pH below 7 are considered acidic and those above 7 are considered alkaline. Soil pH varies depending on several factors, including the type of soil, what kind of plants grow in it, and how much water was used during cultivation.
What Are The Effects Of Soil Acidity
Soil acidity can have a number of negative effects on plants.
First, it decreases the availability of plant nutrients like phosphorus. This means that plants do not obtain the adequate nutrients they need, which can lead to lower crop yields and more expensive farming practices.
Second, soil acidity can increase the availability of some elements to toxic levels. For example, iron toxicity is more common in acidic soils because it is more soluble in alkaline soils than acidic ones. This makes iron more available to plants and also increases its toxicity level, which can lead to iron overload and decreased plant growth rates.
Finally, soil acidity decreases beneficial microorganisms like fungi and bacteria that help break down organic matter into usable nutrients for plants.
Causes Of Soil Acidity
The primary causes of soil acidity are:
Rainfall and leaching:
The rainwater that falls on the soil contains carbonic acid, which is formed from carbondioxide in the air. As this water percolates down through the soil, it dissolves some of the minerals in the soil, making them more acidic. This process is called leaching. During leaching, minerals such as calcium are removed from the topsoil and deposited in deeper layers, resulting in an increased level of acidity in these deeper layers.
Rainfall affects pH. As water passes through soil it leaches basic nutrients such as calcium and magnesium from the soil, which are replaced with acidic elements such as aluminum and iron. For this reason, soils formed under high rainfall conditions are more acidic than those formed under dry conditions. Acid rain which is caused by pollution also has an influence on soil pH. Applying fertilizers containing ammonium or urea speeds up the rate at which acidity develops in the soil. The decomposition of organic matter also adds to soil acidity.
Acidic parent material:
Acidic parent material such as volcanic ash or limestone can be deposited by glaciers or carried into an area by wind and water erosion. These materials break apart into finer particles which slowly dissolve in groundwater to form weakly acidic solutions that leach through the soil profile. Also, some parent materials contain large amounts of aluminum and iron oxides, which are highly acidic and can contribute to overall soil acidity.
Organic matter decay:
Organic matter decomposes slowly when it becomes incorporated into soils because of its low CEC (cation exchange capacity). As a result, organic matter decomposition can increase soil acidity by releasing soluble organic acids such as acetic acid and lactic acid.
Harvest of high-yielding crops:
One of the causes of soil acidity is the harvest of high-yielding crops. Crops such as wheat, barley, and the like are known to be heavy feeders of nitrogen. When these crops are harvested, the roots and leaves are removed from the ground leaving behind large amounts of nitrogen.
The decomposition of this nitrogen by microorganisms causes an increase in acidity in the soil. This can be prevented by using cover crops or rotating pastures with other plants that do not require as much nitrogen to grow well.
Nitrification of ammonium:
Another cause of soil acidity is the nitrification of ammonium. This occurs when there is an excess amount of ammonium present in the soil due to crop growth or fertilizer application (Ammonia). This ammonium is converted into nitrite and then into nitrate by nitrifying bacteria which produces hydrogen ions (H+) that lower soil pH levels resulting in a more acidic condition called ‘sour soils’
List Of Acid-Loving Plants
Acid-loving plants aren’t picky; they just have special needs and requirements. These plants thrive in soils with low pH.
- Mountain Ash
- Mountain Laurel
- White Cedar
Azaleas, camellias, rhododendrons, and blueberries are just four of the plants that love to sink their roots in acidic soil. Gardeners label these plants “acid-loving,” but it’s not acid these plants seek. Rather, they crave the nutrients that low-pH, acidic soil provides. Give acidic-loving plants the soil, care, and nutrients they need, and they’ll reward you with beauty and bounty.
Recommended Acid-Loving Plants Fertilizers
Here are top fertilizers capable of enhancing the growth of acid-loving plants.
#1. Pine Needles
Pine needles serve two purposes for acid-loving plants: they act as a fertilizer, increasing the acidity of the soil, and also function as a suitable mulch or ground cover for the areas immediately surrounding the plant. The needles help retain moisture in the soil as well, resulting in an all-around better-growing environment for acid-loving plants.
#2. Organic Compounds
Peat moss, compost, and manure make an acidic soil fertilizer that can be mixed into soil that’s too alkaline. Compost that already contains coffee grounds will be more acidic, as an added benefit to your plants. These organic compounds, especially compost, contain other nutrients that also benefit the soil, such as nitrogen or magnesium, depending on what organic materials broke down to make the compost.
#3. Ironite Plus Plant Food 12-10-10
This is a product that tackles iron chlorosis with iron, sulfur, and extra minerals in a fast-acting form. It is a ready-to-spray solution, which delivers iron and other nutrients straight to needy leaves
#4. Pennington Epsom Salt
This formula delivers the needed magnesium to acid-loving plants such as blueberries. It is a magnesium sulfate product.
#5. Coffee Ground Fertilizer
Coffee is naturally acidic. So also are the grounds once they have been used. Coffee ground fertilizer is very good for roses and other acid-loving garden plants. Spread used coffee grounds on a cookie sheet or old newspaper page and allow them to dry completely in the sun for about 2-3 days.
This serves as an excellent soil amendment or fertilizer for acid-loving plants. They also break down over time, releasing more nutrients into the soil and even providing food for beneficial worms in the garden.
#6. Eggshell Fertilizer
Eggshell fertilizer can be applied to all kinds of plants. Gather egg shells and allow them to dry. Place the dried shell in the blender and grind until they are turned to a fine powder. Sprinkle in your garden. Eggshells are made up of calcium carbonate.
#7. Fish Tank Fertilizer
Fish tank fertilizer can be used as fertilizer for any plant. The dirty water from the fish tank is collected and used to water plants. Used fish tank water is full of nitrogen and other ingredients that plants need to thrive.
How Do You Reduce Acidity In Soil?
There are many ways to reduce acidity in soil, but the most common way is by adding lime.
Liming is the most common method of reducing soil acidity. Lime is a naturally occurring mineral that can be added to the soil to counteract acidity. However, there are several types of lime available and it is important to know how much lime your soil needs in order to reduce acidity. Also, you should understand how long it takes for lime to take effect before adding more lime if necessary.
Lime can be applied in two forms: ground limestone or dolomitic lime. Ground limestone dissolves more quickly than dolomitic lime, which dissolves more slowly. Both types of lime are available at local garden centers and nurseries.
Compost is a great way to reduce acidity in the soil. Compost adds nutrients and organic matter to the soil, which helps counteract the effects of acidity on plant growth. To add compost to your garden, you can simply add it directly to your existing soil or mix it together with some sand and topsoil before planting.
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Fertilizers are like nutritional supplements for garden plants. However, not all are created with an equal amount of nutrients. Some plants need minerals such as calcium or magnesium, while others, such as roses, do well with acidic soil. Rather than using fertilizers made of unknown ingredients, acidic fertilizers can be made out of ingredients found around the kitchen. As an added benefit, you’ll be repurposing some things you might otherwise throw away, such as coffee grounds and eggshells.