Shade Plants For Acidic Soil – Growing Plants In Acidic Shade Gardens


By: Amy Grant

Gardeners might feel hopeless when confronted with bothshade and acidic soil conditions, but don’t despair. There are, indeed, acid-lovingshade plants that exist. The list of suitable shade plants for low pH isn’t as dullas one might think. Plants for shade and acid soil conditions range from shrubsand trees to ferns and other perennials.

So just what plants thrive in acidic shade conditions? Readon to learn about shade plants for acidic soil.

About Shade Plants for Low pH Gardens

Shadegardening is often a challenge, especially when combined with acidic soil, frequentlythe result of trees producing the shade. If your soil’s pH is below 7.0, yoursoil is acidic; but don’t worry, there are plenty of plants for shade and acidconditions to choose from.

When searching for acid-loving shade plants, be sure to readthe labels. Take note of such comments as “partial shade,” “filtered shade,”and “shade loving,” as well as those that denote shade plants for a low pH,such as “acid loving” or “prefers pH of 6.0 or below.”

Shrub Options for Plants in Acidic Shade

Some of the most stunning blooming shrubs thrive in not onlyacidic soil but in filtered light as well. Examples of shrubby shade plants foracidic soil include:

  • Azaleas
  • Camellias
  • Gardenias
  • Hydrangeas
  • Rhododendrons

Azaleas and rhododendrons enjoy most any type of shade,although their blooms may be minimal in full shade. Both enjoy acidic soilthough. Both deciduous and evergreen varieties are available and types thatbloom in either spring or fall.

Hydrangeas are quite amazing in their response to soilacidity. They are deciduousshrubs that prefer partial to light shade and are available with blooms ofthe mopheador lacecaptype. Neutral pH or alkalinesoils result in pink to purple blooms, but acidic conditions result in blueblossoms.

Both camellias and gardenias are evergreen shrubs that areperfect shade plants for acidic soil. Camellias bloom late in the fall to earlywinter while gardenias scent is at its peak in the summer. Other shrubs thatare suitable plants for shade and acid soils are mountainlaurel and holly.

Additional Acid-Loving Shade Plants

A shadegarden almost isn’t complete without the inclusion of hostas and ferns. Hostascome in a wide array of shapes and sizes with foliage from blue and yellow togreen and striated. Fernsare commonly found along the forest floor and yet not all ferns enjoy the sametypes of conditions. Some prefer tropical conditions while still others such asChristmasfern, swordfern, ladyfern, and shield fern thrive as shade plants for low pH.

Blooming plants to incorporate into a shaded, acidic areainclude:

  • Columbine
  • Foxglove
  • Lily-of-the-valley
  • Pachysandra
  • Periwinkle
  • Trillium
  • Virginia bluebells

Groundcovers do double duty as plants in acidic shade gardens. They fill indifficult areas of shade and acidic soil where grass fails. Some groundcoveracid-loving shade plants include wintergreenwith its brilliant red fall berries and heath, resplendent with red or whitespring blooms.

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Evergreen Shade Tolerant Shrubs

Evergreen shrubs don’t lose their leaves in winter, helping them provide more shade and privacy all year round compared to deciduous shrubs. These evergreen shrubs also grow well in low-light conditions when planted outdoors.

9. Camellia species

Camellias bloom profusely through the winter months, starting in the fall and finishing in spring. The tight branch structure and dense leaves make this plant an effective privacy barrier, even when it isn’t flowering.

  • Appearance: Showy white, pink, or red blossoms, some types with fragrance.
  • Size: 10 to 20 feet tall, 5 to 7 feet wide
  • Climate Zones: 6-10
  • Care: Likes well-drained, slightly acidic soil.

10. Japanese Andromeda (Pieris japonica)

Besides being a tall, evergreen, shady shrub, Japanese Andromeda is deer-resistant and hardy in cold climates. Flower colors vary by variety, and the foliage color makes dramatic shifts through the seasons.

Mildly fragrant flowers appear in the early spring and are popular with bees and other pollinator insects. This shrub is also called lily-of-the-valley and Japanese pieris.

  • Appearance: White or pink, bell-shaped, hanging flower clusters. Bushy growth habit and dark-green leaves.
  • Size: 9 to 12 feet tall, 6 to 8 feet wide
  • Climate Zones: 5-9
  • Care: Well-drained, moist and fertile soil with a slightly acidic pH. Responds well to camellia fertilizer. Does not like alkaline soils.

11. Rhododendron species

There are dozens of species of Rhododendron, and each is different. A close relation of the Azaleas, Rhododendrons produce vibrant, long-lasting displays of blooms on bushes with evergreen foliage.

The sizes of these plants vary considerably, depending on the variety. Larger types grow to tree-sized heights. Some varieties grow slowly and others much more rapidly.

  • Appearance: Showy flowers and dark-green leaves on multiple, upright woody stems.
  • Size: Up to 20 feet
  • Climate Zones: 5-11, depending on the variety
  • Care: Protect from strong winds. Low-maintenance once established. Prefers acidic, loamy soil. Low water requirements.

12. Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia)

Mountain Laurel naturally grows as an understory shrub in the thick forests of the Mississippi River. It produces abundant displays of beautiful flowers from late spring to the beginning of summer.

The attractive, thick leaves stay on the plant all year, giving it a pleasing appearance when the flowers have faded.

  • Appearance: Smooth, glossy, dark foliage and large flower clusters with white, pink, purple, and multicolor blooms.
  • Size: 8 to 10 feet tall, 5 to 15 feet wide
  • Climate Zones: 4-9
  • Care: Needs well-drained, moist and fertile soil with low pH. Exposure to filtered sun produces more blooms.

13. Glossy abelia (Abelia x grandiflora)

Glossy abelia is not especially tall, but it is worth considering for areas with partial shade. The arching branch structure is covered with attractive flowers in spring, and dark-green leaves cover the plant year-round.

Abelia is actually a semi-evergreen with leaves that turn a stunning bronze shade in late fall and winter without the shrub ever going completely bare of leaves. Some varieties are especially cold hardy and flower later in the season.

  • Appearance: Rounded shape with arching branches. Small tubular white flower clusters in spring.
  • Size: 3 to 6 feet tall
  • Climate Zones: 6-9
  • Care: Prune out old stems to invigorate growth. Water regularly in hot, dry weather, especially when first planted.

14. Yew (Taxus baccata)

Yew is an evergreen, small coniferous tree that grows in many parts of the world. The foliage, berries, and bark of Yew trees are poisonous and should never be eaten or taken internally.

Yew plants are easy to clip and train into all sorts of shapes, making them useful as hedges and decorative plantings in shady areas. People use sprigs of Yew as Christmas decorations in many places around the world.

  • Appearance: Conical shaped branch structure. Small, evergreen needles and small, red berries in summer turn into tiny cones in the fall.
  • Size: Up to 20 feet, depending on the variety
  • Climate Zones: 2-10, depending on the variety
  • Care: Prefers a loamy, medium-moist, well-draining soil. Tolerates sun but also grows well in shady locations.


Need More Information?

More ideas for acid-loving plants can be found at Choosing Acid Loving Plants: Trees and Shrubs.

Not looking for acid loving plants? Head over to plant guides for links to all the 'plants for places' pages on this site.

You can find information and advice about garden soil, including links to other soil-related pages, at garden soil.

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