The Q&A Archives: Acid loving plants

Question: I have a landscaped area under a pine tree and want to know what types of perennials(especially flowering plants) will thrive in the acidic soil. I have planted coreopsis, winterberry, and some others that have died within a few weeks. Your suggestions are appreciated.

Answer: You're right in one aspect: The soil beneath pines tends to be on the acidic end of the pH scale because of the needles they drop. But another problem associated with growing plants under pines is that the trees have fibrous roots near the soil surface which will compete with any other plant for moisture and nutrients. Additionally, the canopy of pines effectively divert rainwater so things are usually pretty dry directly under the trees. Now that you have a little background information on why it's so difficult to grow plants under pines, you're better equipped to make the right plant choices. Look for plants that grow well in acidic soils, have shallow roots, grow in partially shady locations, and don't mind dry conditions. Some of the plants that will adjust to these conditions include Artemisia, Erigeron karvinskianus, Heuchera (Coral Bells), Limonium, Evening Primrose (Oenothera), Penstemon, Romneya coulteri (Matilija Poppy), Salvia, Santolina (Lavender Cotton), Stonecrop, Campanula and Ferns of all kinds.

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