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Beginner Flowers: Acid Loving Plants

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phughes
Portland, TX
(Zone 9a)

October 20, 2008
5:15 PM

Post #5695003

I live in an area that has heavy clay, alkaline soil. I always use amendments to prep my flower beds and don't have any trouble growing plants requiring alkaline soil. What I need to know is how to amend the soil for acid loving plants? Also what do you use to get them to bloom profusely?

Thanks!

Patty
ecrane3
Dublin, CA
(Zone 9a)

October 21, 2008
12:56 AM

Post #5696893

If your soil is pretty alkaline, unless you want to spend lots of effort re-amending your soil on a regular basis you might consider growing your acid lovers in pots instead, it's a lot less effort that way to keep them at the pH you want. Your garden soil is going to tend to drift back to its natural pH over time so you're always going to be fighting with it. As far as helping them bloom, it would help to know specifically what plants you're talking about since there are some plants that have different tricks than others. In general though if you have adequate nutrients in your soil and you've got things at the right pH, right amount of water, and right amount of light you should get plenty of blooms. Be aware though that particularly with shrubs, they'll sometimes take a couple years to really get going before they put on a really good show of flowers, so don't worry if things seem like they get off to a slow start, as long as the plant looks healthy you're probably not doing anything wrong)
phughes
Portland, TX
(Zone 9a)

October 21, 2008
1:47 PM

Post #5698810

I have:

brunfelsia--yesterday, today, & tomorrow

stephanotis vine

mimosa tree--only about three feet tall

an orchid tree--i had this in a pot for awhile but it kept being knocked over by the wind--top heavy I guess.

I don't think these are big acid lovers like azaleas, but I was thinking they tended to be on the mild acid side so I was wondering what I need to do. The brunfelsia has bloomed but not profusely and maybe it is because it's only about a year old. I've had the stephanotis vine for about five years now. I had it in a pot but it seemed to always get black mildew and I would have to cut it back. I finally put it in the ground this year. It may not overwinter though. It did bloom this year (one bloom) but then I think I fried it with too much aluminum sulfate. I feel very ignorant when it comes to taking care of these. My sister has an azalea that she got from her daughter for Mother's Day a couple of years ago. She has kept it in a pot and simply uses MG acidic and it has bloomed beautifully for her. She's not even a gardener; I usually take care of the one small flower bed she has. I think I just over do it with my plants.
ecrane3
Dublin, CA
(Zone 9a)

October 21, 2008
2:08 PM

Post #5698895

I think they'll be fine in your soil unless it's super alkaline--I've grown all of those except mimosa in the ground here and our soil is alkaline (not sure if my Bauhinia was the same species as yours though). I haven't grown the mimosa, but there are about a bazillion of them around here so I know they don't have trouble with our soil either. I'd probably plant them with whatever amendments you normally use and then see what happens--you can always work in some sulfur or peat or something later if you need to tweak the pH a pinch or use the fertilizer for acid lovers. Aluminum sulfate is probably not the best thing to use--people use it for hydrangeas because in order to bloom blue they need aluminum + acidic pH, but too much aluminum is toxic for plants so it's not the best amendment to use.

The Stephanotis may be a little iffy over the winter--when I was at my old house in 9b I had them overwinter OK in a VERY protected location (absolutely no frost), but then in a similar spot here in 9a it died in a similar protected location. But that was also the winter that we had a really severe cold snap so it might make it through a normal winter. I'd probably protect it if you're expecting frost.
phughes
Portland, TX
(Zone 9a)

October 21, 2008
3:06 PM

Post #5699140

Well the toxicity in the AS is probably what has drained the color out of the leaves of my brunfelsia and my stephanotis. I will quit using it. I only used it once. A nursery dude told me to use that on my acidic plants. As for my hydrangeas, I've always wanted them to be pink so I've never used it on them.

I have the stephanotis up against the outside of my patio on a sheltered side of the house. I may decide to pot it up if it looks like our winter is going to be a cold one. Last year we had a mild winter; I don't know if we had frost at all. I am bound and determined to get it to bloom one of these days and not just one or two blooms. It's become a challenge. I've always loved the small shaped flowers on it. Plus I've seen some pictures that DG'ers post of theirs and they are so pretty when in full bloom with lots of flowers. What did you feed yours?
ecrane3
Dublin, CA
(Zone 9a)

October 21, 2008
7:37 PM

Post #5700261

I didn't feed it--I'm very bad about fertilizer so I hardly ever fertilize anything that's planted in the ground. Plus half the stuff in my garden will die if it gets much phosphorus so I tend to stay away from fertilizers because of that (so I'm not just lazy! LOL) I toss on some John & Bob's soil optimizer twice a year and some fresh mulch once a year, add in some shredded leaves, etc and let them compost in place. My stephanotis definitely bloomed better in the ground than it did in a pot, and it didn't bloom much the first year I had it in the ground, it was definitely one of the plants that takes a little while to really get going.
dp72
Woodway, TX
(Zone 8a)

October 21, 2008
7:54 PM

Post #5700317

Patty- you mentioned bauhinia- what is the lowest temp it can take if it's in the ground? I doubt we can grow it in zone 8a, but it doesn't hurt to ask. There are some in Bryan-College Station that make it through some milder winters. Does it get too big for container gardening?
phughes
Portland, TX
(Zone 9a)

October 21, 2008
7:56 PM

Post #5700325

I am very bad about fertilizer too. I tend to over fertilize and burn stuff. The incident with the aluminum sulfate is not the first over fertilization. I almost killed a rangoon creeper with hisbiscus food. It took forever to bounce back. I have found that fish emulsion seems to be one thing that works well for me. Although once the bottle of FE accidently got knocked over on the ground right by a datura. After the initial burn recovery, that datura had more blooms on it; I've never seen one bloom as much. I have to laugh thinking about it.

I have found that cotton burr compost works wonders as a soil amendment. It's just pretty costly especially if you have a lot of flower beds.
phughes
Portland, TX
(Zone 9a)

October 21, 2008
8:00 PM

Post #5700344

I got mine from RJ and he said that they can be grown in pots. We have really high winds and it was constantly flying over which is why I moved it into the ground. I never had any problem over wintering mine outside when it was in the pot; I didn't even cover it or anything. I just put it in the ground this spring so we shall see how it does this winter. I don't know if it would survive without protection in your zone. I'll ask to ask RJ and see if he knows about temps and survival.
DaleTheGardener
Tampa, FL
(Zone 10a)

October 22, 2008
12:11 AM

Post #5701417

Patty,

All the plants you have, Brunfelsia, Mimosa and Stephanotis vine will grow in well amended clay soil.

The Brunfelsia may freeze back to the ground in a real bad winter, but, if you pile up leaves around the base (remove them in Spring) you will have better luck with regrowth. I suspect you have B. pauciflora, it blooms in early spring. I don't grow that species because it's bloom season is so short here in the heat. I grow B. grandiflora because it blooms in winter, all winter as a matter of fact , for about 4 months.

I grew Mimosa julibrissin (the tree) in the ground when I lived in Austin. It was in heavy black clay that is so common around that area. They only problem it has is borers. You can beat them by heaping gravel around the base of the tree. Borers have to lay their eggs on the bark, at the base, at the soil line. If you keep them away from that area with gravel they can't attack your tree.

Stephanotis vine is a tropical that doesn't care for Zone 10's cool winters. Keep it in a big pot in the warmest location you have available. Bring it in when frost threatens. If you spray it with Neem oil in Nov and Feb you should have less problems in winter.

DP,

There is a Bauhinia that is native to Texas, Bauhinia lunarioides (congesta). It is not as showy as the tropical ones that we grow in FL, but, I have seen it and it is a charming shrub/small tree.

These folks have it> http://www.nativesoftexas.com/catalog.html

Bauhinia galipinii @Disney in Orlando>

Thumbnail by DaleTheGardener
Click the image for an enlarged view.

ecrane3
Dublin, CA
(Zone 9a)

October 22, 2008
12:30 AM

Post #5701506

Of my Bauhinia collection, B. galpinii, B. mexicana, B. tomentosa, B. bauhiniana, and B. corymbosa are the ones that have spent winters outside unprotected so they are definitely OK for 9a (and 9a in TX I think gets fewer nights of frost than I do here). B. x blakeana I keep in a pot and take it in the greenhouse.
DaleTheGardener
Tampa, FL
(Zone 10a)

October 22, 2008
1:06 AM

Post #5701651

ecrane,

I lived 13 years in Austin (San Antonio & Bastrop too) and 12 years in San Francisco (Pleasanton & Napa too). I know TX weather and I know CA weather. You have to believe me when I say they are not even close to the same, inspite of what the USDA says about 9a. Tx winters are harsh, windy and COLD compared to CA mild winters. Your light frosts and Tx's cold windy nights in the 30's are totally different climates.

The best climate book I have every bought is from Sunset. The National Gardening Book is the best reference for growing plants in the 45 zones they have for the USA mainland. I use it all the time when comparing different areas. You really should get a look at it as it may change your mind about the US climate maps (maybe the library has one).

The USDA is a bunch of simpletons that haven't left town or cracked a reference book in decades.

GG Park Clivia beds>

Thumbnail by DaleTheGardener
Click the image for an enlarged view.

ecrane3
Dublin, CA
(Zone 9a)

October 22, 2008
1:53 AM

Post #5701875

I use the Sunset book all the time too, it's definitely better than the USDA zones. I am definitely aware that all zone 9's are not created equal, there are things that people in zone 9 in FL can grow that I could only dream of. My comments in this case were based on what I've seen people in the zone 9 areas of TX post that they're able to grow down there but I've had freeze up here, so based on that I assumed that zone 9 TX probably had a few less cold/frosty nights than I do. But maybe their thumbs are just greener! LOL
ecrane3
Dublin, CA
(Zone 9a)

October 22, 2008
1:59 AM

Post #5701903

I should also add that I think our recent winters may have been colder than what it was like when you were out here. I've only been here 6 years, but it definitely seems like each winter there are more nights of frost than there were the year before. It's at least partially because our last couple winters have been very dry, without the humidity to help out the temps can drop lower at night. I was tracking things last winter, and temps in my front yard were getting down to ~28 or so almost every night for weeks on end. I'm hoping we have a wetter winter this year, we sure could use the water and it'll mean less nights of frost so my plants will be happier!
dp72
Woodway, TX
(Zone 8a)

October 22, 2008
2:54 AM

Post #5702175

Dale, you DO have to live in Texas several years to understand the challenges! I'm in Waco, and it's worse than Austin. We get the same blistering heat, but our winters can be more severe. We've had freezes on Hallowe'en night and on Easter Sunday. We had SNOW on Easter three years ago. The record low here is five below. During a usual winter it gets into the low twenties several times.

We are having an idyllic October. I keep thinking that this is what people in the NE think of as "summer." My beloved coleus have developed gorgeous colors (from the usual "browns" of July and Aug). The pentas are glorious. Relieved from the heat and moisture stress (even though I water things when needed), everything is celebrating. I'm hoping for no freezes until around Christmas, but if it happens it has all been worth it.

I was in Houston for 20 years. The heat/humidity are compared with the climate in Calcutta, but it's gardening paradise. Few freezes and ACIDIC soils. Here we have caliche or black clay- alkaline plus.
DaleTheGardener
Tampa, FL
(Zone 10a)

October 22, 2008
10:04 AM

Post #5702820

ecrane,

The differences between nurseries in CA and TX are amazing. My favorite way to spend some of my free time was to go shopping for plants. In your area you can buy Redwood trees, CA incense cedar, rhododendron, fressia (& other S.African bulbs), campanula, etc. If you went into a nursery in TX the only plants you would find in both areas is Juniper. Of course most nurseries carry plants with the lowest common denominator-plants that are hard to kill (:-).

dp,

I used to drive north, up I-35 , and was always amazed at the changes in Live Oak trees as you go up out of the Brazos River Valley. Live Oak get a lot smaller and stressed looking the further north you go and it seems to happen within about 20 miles of Waco. I always wondered why the folks in Dallas/Ft Worth would plant Live Oak, they are always full of dead twigs and look small when compared to the trees of Austin.

When I was working in TX it would take me 20 minutes to dig a hole for a 5 gal shrub. Here in FL, which is just like Houston (but warmer in winter) I can do it in a couple minutes (and I get paid more here). I do miss having some winter weather, Austin has a great climate in winter, just enough cold to kill off the bugs but not the more tender plants. The Hill Country is beautiful scenery, too bad you have to import soil to grow a decent garden.

I don't have any photos from my days in Austin, when I go back next Spring I will have to add some to the album. I have lots of photos of SF (and FL) & a few of Napa>

Thumbnail by DaleTheGardener
Click the image for an enlarged view.

ecrane3
Dublin, CA
(Zone 9a)

October 22, 2008
1:44 PM

Post #5703320

We are lucky on the nurseries here--I think that's one of the factors that really got me into gardening. When I lived in Ohio I did garden a little but didn't really look at it as a hobby, but then I moved out here and there were so many wonderful plants to try that I couldn't help but get hooked and turn into a gardening fanatic!
phughes
Portland, TX
(Zone 9a)

October 22, 2008
2:07 PM

Post #5703432

dale when was the last time you visited Austin??? I absolutely despise going to Austin and the main reason is the TRAFFIC. My SIL & BIL lived there for a few years and we'd go visit. I was never so glad as when they moved back home. My nephew who's in his 20's and plays in a rock band loves it. Must be old age getting to me.

Thanks for all the input you two. I am thinking the stephanotis may have to go in a pot on the patio inside what I call my redneck greenhouse (we put up plastic around half of the patio to safeguard some of my tropicals for those wintery nights--it worked wonders last year)

I had to admit defeat the last time I needed holes dug in our hard clay soil and get my 15 year old athletic son to help me. It ended up being a family affair and DH had to join in too. Three holes and it took us over an hour to dig em.

I would love to visit nurseries in both CA & FL but I have to haul a trailer with me to bring everything home.
ecrane3
Dublin, CA
(Zone 9a)

October 22, 2008
2:10 PM

Post #5703459

I used to have one of those redneck greenhouses! My old house had a covered patio so I wrapped it in greenhouse plastic and made a little zippered door so I could let the dog out. No covered patio here though so I had to invest in a real greenhouse.
phughes
Portland, TX
(Zone 9a)

October 22, 2008
3:46 PM

Post #5703851

I have a covered patio with lattice work around the top half with the exception of two doorway cutouts. My husband nails some two by fours in the middle and helps me staple commercial grade plastic. I haven't figured out how to do the zipper opening. I just overlap the plastic at the opening and it works okay. Amazing how that protects my tropicals. I do have a heater that I was given but I've never used it (I'm a little hesitant). Our winter last year was mild and it wasn't necessary.
ecrane3
Dublin, CA
(Zone 9a)

October 22, 2008
8:29 PM

Post #5704905

The zipper was something I bought from Charley's--basically you stick it on with adhesive and cut the plastic between the two halves of the zipper and then you can use the zipper door to go in and out. http://www.charleysgreenhouse.com/index.cfm?page=_productdetails&productid=1195&s=zipper&cid1=-99&cid2=-99&cid3=-99
plantladyhou
Katy, TX
(Zone 8b)

October 28, 2008
1:06 PM

Post #5725296

For a "zipper" try Velcro, the stick on type. It works!
The Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow is a no brainer as far as I am concerned and I can kill most anything, even a tallow tree. I found that down here it likes part sun - NO direct afternoon sun. It is more an understory plant. Doesn't like too much water, doesn't mind being over or under fertilized, doesn't mind heat, after initial flush of blooms will bloom thruout the summer sporatically.

Ann

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