Ericaceous plants have a reputation for being difficult, but it’s much easier than you might think to grow these wonderful plants – so here’s our myth-busting guide to provide the path to success!
What are ericaceous plants?
Basically, these are plants which don’t grow well in soils with a high pH and that contain lime – which is why they’re also known as acid-lovers or lime-haters!
Plant ericaceous plants in alkaline or limey soils and they’ll produce with yellow leaves, they won’t flower well and they will eventually die – because the iron and other soil nutrients they need are ‘locked up’ in alkaline of high pH soils and so simply aren’t available for plants to absorb. But don’t worry, because these are easy problems to overcome!
Improve their surroundings…
Providing ericaceous plants with the conditions they love will ensure healthy, thriving plants – and there are several ways to achieve this, if you don’t have naturally-occurring acidic soil.
Through soil enrichment and feeding…
When planting, make your planting hole several times larger than you normally would and then back-fill the entire area with a mix of ericaceous compost and leaf mould. Special ericaceous plant food is also widely available, which can be used to maintain the required nutrient levels and soil conditions year-round, but is particularly important during the Summer months when the new buds are forming.
Using pots and containers…
If you don’t fancy adjusting the surroundings to suit ericaceous plants, then the use of pots and containers filled with ericaceous compost is an excellent way of providing suitable growing conditions. After the first season, simply remember to deeply top-dress your containers with new ericaceous compost or use suitable plant feed to maintain conditions. The other benefit of using pots or containers of course is that they’re portable too, so it’s easy to ensure that your plants are in the best position!
With the exception of blueberries, most ericaceous plants prefer light shade conditions and to be planted out of direct early morning sunlight, such as east-facing walls. This is because the rapid change in temperature caused when a cold, frosty night is greeted with a sunny day can cause the flower buds to die and drop before they flower – a common result when camellias are planted in the wrong place.
As most ericaceous plants are shallow-rooted, they are prone to drying out in prolonged dry spells, so it is very important to keep the soil moist, particularly during the Summer months when the new buds are forming. Mulching is a great way to help retain moisture, and leaf mould, pine needles and bark chippings are the top mulch choices for ericaceous plants. Tap water, particularly in hard water areas, often contains levels of calcium which reduces soil acidity over time, so it’s always best to use rain water whenever possible which can be harvested using a water butt to ensure a good supply.
There are several acid-lovers to choose from, but our favourites are camellias (click here for our guide), rhododendrons and azaleas, erica & calluna, pieris and acers.
So now that the myths have been busted, come and check out our great range of ericaceous plants – and turn your garden into an acid-lovers paradise!