8 Plants That Like Acidic Soil

Acidic soil plants

Why fight Mother Nature when you can embrace what she’s already bestowed upon your land? Rather than dealing with the headache of trying to make your acidic soil into something it’s not, grow plants that thrive in your acidic soil. If you’re not sure which plants to use, don’t fret. We’ve found the 8 best plants that like acidic soil.

What is acidic soil?

Before we dig into which plants thrive in acidic soil, we need to understand what acidic soil is and why it matters.

What is pH?

pH is the measure of a substance’s level of acidity, which is measured on a scale of 0-14. A pH level of 7 is neutral. Anything less than 7 is considered acidic, and anything more than 7 is alkaline (also called basic). 

For example, an apple has a pH of approximately 3.3-4.0, making it an extremely acidic fruit. In contrast, a vegetable like collard greens has a pH level of 6.5- 7.5, making it only slightly acidic to a little alkaline. 

At a scientific level, pH measures the amount of hydrogen ions. The higher the hydrogen ion levels, the lower the pH. The soil’s hydrogen ions come from multiple sources, including granite, decomposing material, etc. For a closer look at soil pH, check out this in-depth article on soil pH.

What is soil pH?

Soil pH is the measure of soil acidity or alkalinity. The soil’s pH level directly impacts the soil’s other essential elements, like magnesium or calcium. Plants can exhibit nutrient deficiency or toxicity due to soil pH, depending on which the plant prefers.

What is acidic soil?

Except in extreme cases, soil pH has a range from 4.0 to 8.0. Soils with higher or lower pH values are rare and normally only found in disturbed soils or soil adjusted with an acidic or alkaline material.

Typically found in sandy soil and loam, acidic soils are low in phosphorous, magnesium, and calcium but are high in iron, boron, and aluminum. 

Alkaline soils, usually found in clay, are high in calcium and magnesium but low in copper, zinc, phosphorus, boron, iron, and manganese.

Why should I care about soil pH?

Soil pH directly impacts the growth and quality of plants. A gardener wants to know if their land has acidic soil, slightly acidic soil, or alkaline soil that impacts the health of their garden. The pH level of garden soil determines the types of garden plants that naturally thrive there.

The pH of the soil can be changed to suit a gardener’s needs by adding lime, sulfur, or organic matter supplements, such as peat moss and coffee grounds, to change your soil pH.

How do you test for acidic soil?

There are several ways to test your soil.

  • You can pick up an at-home test kit at a local garden center or order one online. 
  • You also can send soil to your local cooperative extension office for more detailed information. 

Once you know your soil type, you can start planning your garden. Soil testing should be done every three to five years because soil pH can change over time.

8 best plants for acidic soil

Acidic soil is common in the United States, often found in the Eastern, Southeastern, and Pacific Northwest areas of the country. And while acidity can be a problem for many, some plants thrive in it. Let’s take a peek at which plants love acidic soil.

1. Wild azalea (Rhododendron canescens)

Rhododendron canescens (Michx.) G. Don, Hoary Azalea, Mountain Azalea, Piedmont Azalea, Pinxter Azalea, Southern Pinxterbloom Azalea, Sweet Mountain Azalea, Wild Azalea, Wild Honeysuckl
Photo Credit: Photo by David J. Stang | Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 4.0

The wild azalea is the most common azalea type in the Southeast and boasts lovely trumpet-shaped flowers that come in white or pink. This showy flowering shrub thrives in well-drained, moist soil. Plant these voluptuous blooms near outdoor seating or water gardens to enjoy their spicy scent. Just be careful if you have children or pets, as azaleas are poisonous.

Plant type: Broadleaf evergreen shrub

Preferred pH: 4.5-6.0

USDA zone: 6-8

Light: Partial shade

Season: Spring (April-May)

2. Highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum)

Vaccinium corymbosum (Northern highbush blueberry)
Photo Credit: Green Yoshi | Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 3.0

The highbush blueberry typically has small urn-shaped flowers with colors ranging from white to pink. The blooms give way to the popular blue fruit in the summer. In the fall, the blue-green summer leaves transform into a fiery display of yellow, red, and purple. The highbush blueberry also naturalizes your garden, attracting bumblebees and over 30 species of birds.

Plant type: Perennial, edible, shrub

Preferred pH: 5.0-6.0

USDA zone: 3-10

Light: Full to partial sun

Season: Spring-summer

3. Evergreen magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora)

Evergreen magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora)
Photo Credit: Fernando Losada Rodríguez | Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 4.0

The evergreen magnolia is best known for its big, fragrant white blossoms and glossy, dark green leaves. These showy blooms are scattered throughout the tree, giving off a fresh, lemony scent. The evergreen magnolia works great as a specimen or shade tree and attracts pollinators and songbirds. Florists often use the dried leaves in decorations.

Plant type: Broadleaf evergreen tree, shrub

Preferred pH: 5.0-6.0

USDA zone: 6-10

Light: Full sun to partial shade

Season: Spring-summer (May to June)

4. White dogwood (Cornus alba)

White dogwood (Cornus alba)
Photo Credit: Opioła Jerzy (Poland) | Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 3.0

The white dogwood, sometimes called the tatarian dogwood, is a quickly growing suckering deciduous shrub. The creamy white blossoms of the white dogwood bloom from May to June. Its fruit attracts birds and butterflies when they appear mid-summer. In the fall, its dark green leaves become yellow or reddish-purple. It’s often used for hedges or in rain gardens.

Plant type: Shrub

Preferred pH: 5.5-6

USDA zone: 3-7

Light: Full sun to partial shade

Season: Spring-summer (May-June)

5. Gardenia (Gardenia jasminoides)

Photo Credit: Biswarup Ganguly | Wikimedia Commons | CC BY 3.0

The gardenia, also called Cape Jasmine, is native to Japan, Taiwan, and Southern China, and attracts birds and pollinators. Often planted below windows, its fragrant white flowers fill a home with a spicy, zesty aroma. Blossoms open with white petals, then fade to gold. Gardenias were jazz singer Billie Holiday’s signature flower, which she wore whenever she performed.

Plant type: Perennial broadleaf evergreen shrub

Preferred pH: 5.0-6.5

USDA zone: 7-11

Light: Full to partial sun

Season: Spring-summer

6. Wax begonia (Begonia semperflorens)

Wax begonia (Begonia semperflorens)
Photo Credit: Biswarup Ganguly | Wikimedia Commons | CC BY 3.0

The wax begonia, or just begonia, is a very popular annual used in window boxes, massing beds, and on borders and edges. This flowering plant emits a subtle peach-like aroma, making begonias perfect for hanging baskets on the porch. The wax begonia are typically bi-colored with variations of pink, red/burgundy, gold/yellow, or white petals.

Plant type: Annual, bulb, houseplant

Preferred pH: 5.5-6.5

USDA zone: 10-11

Light: Deep to partial shade

Season: Summer-fall (May-October)

7. Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus)

Photo Credit: allispossible.org.uk | Flickr | CC BY 2.0 DEED

The nasturtium are native to central and south America, and boasts fragrant, showy flowers with an enticing, peppery aroma. Its blooms range from yellow to red and begin to appear in the late spring, continuing through the summer and into the fall. Nasturtium is edible and commonly planted near cabbages, radishes, and fruit trees to improve growth and flavor.

Plant type: Annual, editable, ground cover, herb

Preferred pH: 6.1-7.8

USDA zone: 8-11

Light: Full sun

Season: Late spring-early fall

8. Japanese Pieris (Pieris japonica)

Pieris japonica 'Scarlet O'hara' (Thunb.) D. Don ex G. Don, Andromeda, Japanese Pieris, Lily of The Valley Shru
Photo Credit: Photo by David J. Stang | Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 4.0

The Japanese Pieris, also cally Lily-of-the-valley, is a slow-growing evergreen shrub will beautify your garden year-round. Its slightly fragrant urn-shaped pink and white flowers emerge in the spring and hang in heavy, drooping clusters. The Japanese pieris fruit is ornamental and will be present through the winter. Be careful if you have children or pests as it’s highly poisonous.

Plant type: Poisonous broadleaf evergreen shrub

Preferred pH: 5.0-6.0

USDA zone: 4-8

Light: Full sun to partial shade

Season: Late winter-early spring (Late March-early May)

Are there more plants that like acidic soil?

Yes. There are millions of plant species on our beautiful planet. Therefore, there are many other plants that prefer their soil to be acidic. Some other plants that love acidic soil include:

  • Camellias
  • Hydrangeas
  • Bleeding Hearts
  • Fothergilla
  • Willow Tree
  • Mountain heather
  • Daffodils
  • Oak tree
  • Marigolds
  • Beech tree

FAQ about plants that like acidic soil

Can I do a test at home to check for acidic soil?

Yes, you can check your soil for both acidity and alkalinity.

  • For alkaline soil: Put 2 tablespoons of soil in a container. Add ½ cup vinegar. If the mixture fizzes, you have alkaline soil.
  • For acidic soil: Put 2 tablespoons of soil in a container, moistened with distilled water. Then add ½ cup baking soda. If the mixture fizzes, you have acidic soil.

The soil has a neutral pH if neither test produces a reaction.

What crops like acidic soil?

If you like to grow your own fruits and vegetables and have acidic soil, you’re in luck. There are quite a few crops that prefer acidic soil, including:

  • Blackberry
  • Cabbage
  • Carrot
  • Cranberry
  • Parsley
  • Peanut
  • Potato
  • Radish
  • Raspberry
  • Strawberry
  • Sweet potato
  • Tomato

What plants prefer alkaline soil?

According to an article from the University of Florida, plants that prefer alkaline soil include:

  • Dianthus
  • Snapdragon
  • Begonia
  • Chrysanthemum
  • Shasta daisy
  • Geranium

Take advantage of your acidic soil

Gardening is part art form and part science. Either way, it’s a lot of work. But don’t stress if you don’t have the time or inclination to build a big, beautiful, breathtaking garden but still want its beauty to enhance your home. Like many homeowners, you can get a helping hand, so you don’t have to shoulder the laborious task of creating and maintaining the garden of your dreams. 

Let us connect you with an affordable, highly-rated local garden professional. You’ll be basking in floral beauty in no time.

Main Photo Credit: Philippe Alès | Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 4.0

Nicki DeStasi

Nicki DeStasi is a writer, author, and teacher who grew up in western Massachusetts and currently resides in the Austin area. She enjoys flower and vegetable gardening, reading, cooking, listening to true-crime podcasts, and spending time with her husband, three children, dog, and cat.