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Acid Plant in Alkaline Soil?

North Augusta, SC

OK, there's not really an acid plant in an alkaline soil but there might be soon as I desperatety want to grow a Royal Star magnolia in my landscape. The problem is, this is an alkaline soil all the way. Besides leaving the magnoilia in a pot, what could I do to help it survive in this unfriendly territory and not hurt it's alkaline neighbors?
I don't want to buy it, if it's a bad idea, though I really, really want one.
Your ideas are VERY MUCH appreciated.
A Newbie in Distress,

Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

First question is how alkaline is your soil (and how did you test it...some of the home testers that you can buy aren't super accurate) If your soil is too alkaline, you can always amend, but for trees that doesn't necessarily work as well because their roots eventually get way beyond where you could amend even if you wanted to.

As far as the alkaline plants, are they plants that like alkaline soil, or do they NEED alkaline soil? There are some plants that require it, but I don't think there are ton of that sort that are in widespread cultivation. So I suspect many of your "alkaline" plants may do just fine in neutral or even possibly slightly acidic soils. But I still think you're going to have trouble incorporating enough acid amendments in the long term to keep the magnolia happy, so I'd try it in a pot if I were you.

North Augusta, SC

Thank you so much ecrane3. I'm going to select a different plant most likely because I know my soil is not going to be kind to anything requiring acid soil.
Soil test?!?!?! The soil test has been limited experience. Plants grown last summer, albeit, a limited amount, thrived. They were coleus, Persian shield and a couple other alkaline soil lovers. The azaleas were very unhappy and joined a newly started compost pile.
Please don't YE:LL AT ME for not doing a soil test. I know I've broken a cardinal rule in gardening.
I know.(hanging my head, oh, the shame of disclosure, especially here amongst these serious gardeners)


This message was edited Mar 20, 2008 11:04 PM

Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

Don't worry, I won't yell at you for not doing a soil test! LOL I just didn't want you to rule out growing a plant that you want to grow based on a test that might have been incorrect.

That being said, I definitely wouldn't make assumptions about soil pH from what plants have done well or not, there are so many other factors (sun, soil type, fertilizer, pests, etc) that impact whether a plant does well. For what it's worth, according to Plant Files, coleus will do well in mildly acidic, neutral, or mildly alkaline soils. And Persian Shield supposedly needs acid soil. So I wouldn't necessarily come to the same conclusion you did regarding your pH. I'd figure out where in your yard you think you would want to plant your magnolia, then take some soil samples from that general area and send them out for testing. Or even better (since pH can vary throughout a yard) choose a couple different potential spots for your tree and get them all tested. I suspect you may find at least some areas of your yard where the magnolia may do fine. (And it's very possible that your azaleas wound up as compost due to something entirely different)

North Augusta, SC

I know you're right. Thank you for your help. I'll look into doing the soil test, finally.

Ayrshire Scotland, United Kingdom

Hi Misty, Ecrane is right about testing your soil in various areas of your yard, I live in an very acidic soil area here in UK, but believe me, I can grow a vast selection of plants in my garden, but not next to each other as there are pockets in areas that the soil is quite neutral, even if your tests come out no acidic, you can either create a small raised bed area and fill this with acidic soil, or sink a really large container into the ground (with drainage holes in the bottom) and use this for your cherished dream of this shrub, in a large container, you would have a good ten years of pleasure from your plant before it reached the stage of needing moved, you would of-course have to care for it with acid feed and water it like a pot plant while young, but it could give you the enjoyment for a good few years, by the way, not ALL Magnolias need as much acidity as others so look up the requirements in the plant file or library books for info too, but do heed what Ecrane suggested about different testing areas, Magnolias can be expensive plants to buy depending on size, type etc, so good luck. WeeNel.

Huntington, AR

Ya'll's got some good points....also, lessen you done given up on a Magnolia, WeeNel had himself a good thought there, magnolias, 'specially some of them smaller, slow-growin' ones, like magnolia stellata, are more happy in a large container than a goat is eatin' briars. .

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