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Name: Brian
NW Pennsylvania (Zone 5b)
Bigtrout
Jun 23, 2017 7:33 AM CST
Here is another question, what is the best soil pH for Sempervivum to thrive and show good color? I have read alot of sites and most US sites list slightly acid to slightly alkaline(6.5 to 7.5), but reading alot of European sites, they all seem to mention they like slightly alkaline soil, some sites even mentioning they like limestone.

I keep aquariums and I am going to compare Semps to guppies, lots of varieties, ranges of colors, easy to propagate and breed for color etc. Well guppies will take a range of water conditions and do fine, but to have them thrive, they like slightly alkaline hard water...they will live in all kinds of conditions but to thrive and and look their best color, then alkaline water is the best setup.

So what is the optimum soil pH for Semps? Has anyone experimented with this?
[Last edited by Bigtrout - Jun 23, 2017 7:34 AM (+)]
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Name: Lynn
Dallas, OR (Zone 8b)
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valleylynn
Jun 23, 2017 6:30 PM CST

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BT, for me this is a tough one.
With guppies you can control all aspects of their environment, temperature, water ph, light, etc.
With the semps each of us has a combination of conditions unique to where we live.
I have seen semps grown here in the Pacific Northwest grown in containers with many different types of growing medium, and amounts of water. Most all seem to thrive, unless something in the mix is over done.
Because of where most originate from I would think that they do prefer a slightly alkaline soil. Also it seems that best colors come from enough sun, but not so much that it burns them.
Name: Brian
NW Pennsylvania (Zone 5b)
Bigtrout
Jun 23, 2017 6:46 PM CST
That would make sense, many aquatic plants turn red as a defense mechanism in very bright sun to reflect some of of the red spectrum when they get too much, same plant less sun is green, in fact same plant may be red at the water surface and green a few feet underneath.
I wonder if its a similar mechanism in Semps, they get redder when the sun is almost on the edge of too bright for their metabolism at the time (hence the reddening in the winter when they grow slowly).
Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
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Baja_Costero
Jun 23, 2017 6:56 PM CST
To the extent my Semps are still alive after years of watering the same way, with an adjusted pH of about 6.0, I can confirm they enjoy neutral or slightly acid water, in addition to whatever they enjoy in habitat. Our tap water is pH 8-9 before I tweak it (using bisulfate) for all my succulents. The product I use for this purpose is actually made for planted aquaria, so the fish analogy is not too far off. Smiling
[Last edited by Baja_Costero - Jun 23, 2017 6:57 PM (+)]
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Name: Kevin Vaughn
Salem OR (Zone 8a)
JungleShadows
Jun 23, 2017 8:30 PM CST
When the pH of soil in the crevices where semps grow naturally, the pH was found to be very low, pH 4.5 at the lowest, even in limestone, where calcareum grows. I grow them in about 6.5 and that seems to keep them happy without going to extremes.

Kevin
Name: Brian
NW Pennsylvania (Zone 5b)
Bigtrout
Jun 23, 2017 8:55 PM CST
Thanks JungleShadows, that was precisely the kind of info I was looking for.
Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
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Baja_Costero
Jun 23, 2017 8:56 PM CST
For the curious, this is a very testable question to the extent you can deliver water at any pH you want. All you need is a way to test pH, which on the economy scale would be paper test strips or indicator drops (my preference), which change color depending on the pH. Look in the aquarium department of your local pet store. The budget all-in-one soil humidity/pH/light meters are unreliable at best for pH.

Don't go putting a whole bunch of acid in your water without checking to see whether you overshot. Too much acid is obviously a bad idea. You can use household (cane) vinegar as the acid if you want. There are various options but try to avoid sodium salts especially in quantity. Make a gallon or 5 liters with or without nutrients (I like to add low level fert on a regular basis) and you can store that stably (in a closet in the dark) for a while, in order to compare the growth of your plant relative to a control watered the way you normally would do it, or at a different pH, or however.
Name: Dirt
(Zone 5b)
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dirtdorphins
Jun 24, 2017 10:28 PM CST
hmmmm,
well, we are very alkaline here, too alkaline, both soil and irrigation water
(I have tried, and failed, enough times to fight it for blueberries, oriental lilies, azaleas Sighing! and I gave up)
Name: Karen
NM (Zone 7b)
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plantmanager
Jun 24, 2017 10:34 PM CST
This is very interesting. Our well water is about 8. So far the new semps seem to be growing quickly and thriving, but maybe I'll try adding a bit of acid to lower the ph.
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Name: Brian
NW Pennsylvania (Zone 5b)
Bigtrout
Jun 24, 2017 11:26 PM CST
Alkaline tap water here too, but rainwater tends to be acidic. My containers got drenched all last week by almost constant thunderstorms and my Semps responded by throwing offsets like crazy.

Would be fun to experiment with, maybe i need to grab some of the new common tectorum chicks from the bank (they are all about the 1 inch in diameter right now) put them in pots, water one set with only acidic rainwater, and the other with my alkaline tap water and see which does better all other conditions being equal. My bet would be the rainwater, but that does not take into account any pH buffering offered by the soil being used.
Name: Lynn
Dallas, OR (Zone 8b)
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valleylynn
Jun 24, 2017 11:45 PM CST

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Hmm, I see the possibility of some of you conducting experiments. Hurray!
Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
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Baja_Costero
Jun 25, 2017 4:42 PM CST
I would imagine rain water beats groundwater every time unless your plants are growing in some funky soil. My plants are totally rejuvenated when they get actual rain (which is not all that often, and not for at least the next 3 months).

In case you're curious about bottled water, the alkaline ionized purified water that I buy and trust tests out at roughly the pH of our tap water (8-9). It requires roughly the same amount of acid to arrive at the desired pH 6. This may be bit of a surprise. You will find different brands of water differ in this respect.

Another observation to bear in mind is that your tap water may change pH on a seasonal basis or over time. I get an indirect handle on the tap water whenever I acidify it, based on how much acid I have to add to get to the right place, and our tap water requires nearly twice as much as it used to a few years ago. Carbonate hardness in action. Aquifer being depleted, in real time. Blinking
[Last edited by Baja_Costero - Jun 25, 2017 4:50 PM (+)]
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Name: Lynn
Dallas, OR (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Garden Sages I helped plan and beta test the plant database. I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Database Moderator
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valleylynn
Jun 25, 2017 5:27 PM CST

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Wow Baja, that is very interesting about your tap water. And I never thought about the aquifer depletion changing the water pH.

I have to admit, I do not check the pH of our tap water, it is the only source of garden water in the months of July, August and September, our drought season. We have a 1/2 acre and I just don't see me trying to control water pH. *Blush*
Also in the months from January through May we have almost nonstop rain. If the colony of semps have plenty of grit under the rosettes and went into winter will bloom and heat debri cleaned up, they seem to handle all the rain quite well. I use sandy loam in my 18" raised 4' x 8' beds.
Name: Brian
NW Pennsylvania (Zone 5b)
Bigtrout
Jun 25, 2017 8:30 PM CST
This would probably.not make a big difference with a large amount of soil like your raised beds valleylynn, as the controlling factor of pH that the plants see would be the soil makeup. The in other words the soil buffers the ph to a certain level, the more soil the larger the buffer and the steadier the pH that your plants see. Your plants look fantastic so I wouldnt worry much. Where it may nake a difference is for those of us with small amounts of soil...container plantings. With smaller amounts of soil the buffering that the soil gives could get used up, then you lose the steadying effect that the soil gives the plants when the water they are given changes, like switching from tap to rainwater or vice versa. As an example, in my aquariums larger aquariums are easier to maintain than smaller ones because of the buffering effects of minerals in the water...if i put 3 gallons of rainwater with a pH of 5 into my 75 gallon tank, it may bring the overall pH of the aquarium from its normal 8.2, down to 8.1...the same 3 gallons of rainwater added to a 10 gallon aquarium may bring the ph down to 7.2, shocking both the fish and the plants because of the abrupt change.
Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
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Baja_Costero
Jun 25, 2017 8:34 PM CST
Yes, exactly. I would only consider acidifying the water I use for container plants. Plants in the ground get no special treatment.
Name: Lynn
Dallas, OR (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Garden Sages I helped plan and beta test the plant database. I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Database Moderator
Forum moderator I helped beta test the first seed swap Million Pollinator Garden Challenge Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant and/or Seed Trader Garden Ideas: Master Level
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valleylynn
Jun 25, 2017 10:23 PM CST

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I see, that all makes perfect sense. Thank you BT and Baja.

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