Ask a Question forum: Acidic plants vs Alkaline plants

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May 24, 2017 8:25 AM CST
I've lived in Florida for the past 11 years. Planting gives me so much satisfaction. However, recently watching a YouTube video, I just found out about how some plants do better in acidic sand/soil while others do better in a less acidic or more alkaline soil/sand. Confused now? YES. Spend so much money on plants last week and now I don't know which ones do better in which kind of soil. I did notice my hibiscus plants are doing lousy. I also now our property is surrounded by the FL Oak and, from living in New England, the Oak is a very acidic tree which produces acidic soil.

The list of plants I bought consist of the Blue Plumbago; Silver star Helichrysum; Ageratum; Bounce Impatiens; Elephant Ears; Daffodil Bulbs; Wandering Jew clippings; and my list goes on......

How do I know how to plant these plants in the "Perfect Soil." Is there anything I should add to the sand? When I was at ACE hardware over the weekend, the sales person sold me lime, bone and blood meal. I have no idea what to do with this stuff and what does it do. I know the lime, if I remember when I was very young, my dad adding lime to the dirt before planting grass. It that necessary for plant flowers as well. Soooooo Confused NOW!!!! Can someone please help me?
Name: Sue
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4a)
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May 24, 2017 10:39 AM CST

Before using lime you need to know what the pH is of your soil. You should only use lime if your soil is too acidic for the plants you wish to grow. A soil test will tell you whether you need to add lime (or conversely sulphur to lower the soil pH and make it more acidic) and what other nutrients your soil needs. More info on Florida soil testing here:


Most plants will tolerate a range of soils while some are more fussy about needing acidity, but the starting point would be to find out what you have with a soil test. Alternatively you will eventually find out by trial and error what will do well for you but a soil test should work out cheaper in the long run.
Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
Garden Sages Plant Identifier
May 24, 2017 10:59 AM CST
You keep mentioning sand. If your soil is truly sand, you need some nutrients. Maybe all you really need is some garden soil to mix with the sand.

I agree with Sooby. Don't use the lime until you have you soil tested. Oak tree leaves are not necessarily a bad thing. Bone meal and blood meal are used to add calcium to the soil. I'm not sure the nursery people did you any favors with their list of 'you need this'. Maybe you should take all that back and just buy a couple bags of garden soil and/or compost (I use a combination of both).

You need only to add the garden soil and compost to the planting hole. I live on a hill of sand (literally) and have added a lot of garden soil and compost to my yard.
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming...."WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

Name: Elaine
Sarasota, Fl
The one constant in life is change
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May 24, 2017 11:55 AM CST
I agree Adding compost (and more compost) to our sandy soil here in FL is the best possible thing you can do. All those plants you listed will do fine in our (slightly alkaline) sandy soil if you just amend maybe once a year with a nice top dressing of compost. You absolutely do NOT need to ever add lime to your garden soil here. Take a look next time you're digging, and you'll see pieces of shells in that sand. They are calcium, and your soil pH will inevitably rise slowly unless you amend with compost. (and don't believe what people tell you at garden centers, either, unless it is a real nursery).

Most landfills here have composting programs, and the wonderful compost they make is free for the taking. Just contact your County extension or local landfill to find out where to go and get it. Hire a strong kid with a pickup truck if you're not up to loading it.

Yes, the soil under our beautiful live oaks gets quite acidic but only if you leave all the fallen leaves on the ground to decompose there and feed the tree. (a very good idea, btw). But it's also a challenge to grow anything amongst the roots of those huge oak trees. I've taken to "cheating" and sinking pots to grow things under my oaks. The shade they create is wonderful for most plants, but their roots steal most of the water and nutrients from plants in their (huge, wide) root zone. Bromeliads are the standout exception, as they really just anchor themselves with their roots, and take most of the nutrients they need from the air and what falls from the trees.

Btw, unless you are in extreme northern Florida, daffodil bulbs aren't going to do much for you unless you "force" them i.e. refrigerate them for a couple of months in the winter, then plant them out in a pot around February. They need a long, cold dormant period that most of Florida doesn't supply.

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill

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