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Acid tolerant shrubs for border & specimen planting

There are a number of shrubs that will tolerate acidic soils or heath land conditions - but here are a good few really special ones that will love it and make anyone visiting incredibly jealous - because they probably won’t be able to grow them on their bog standard soil. Many of these shrubs will also tolerate dry soils as acid soils tend to be sandy and therefore more drought prone. Another advantage of having an acid soil is that you will tend to get richer autumn colours from deciduous trees and shrubs, and many of these plants have exceptional autumn colour.

As with most ‘restrictive’ soil types, it really is a case when working with acid soils of getting your plant selections spot on when choosing your trees, and as many of these plants are quite specialist don’t be surprised if you have to shop around for a suitable supplier; the RHS offer an excellent on-line plant finder service for rare plants so if you cant source these plants at your local garden centre then try mail order.

As with all planting – but possibly especially so for acid soils as they are often very free draining - dig a decent sized pit prior to planting, a good two to three times larger than the pot size of the tree or shrub you are planting, and digging in plenty of ericaceous compost into the pit and backfill soil. Obviously tying and staking is essential for larger trees and shrubs and there are a number of different techniques you can use, Personally I usually think lower is better and two stakes good, one stake bad!

Always water in plants straight after planting and continue regular watering as the plant is establishing, this is especially important for larger tree and shrubs, which will require large quantities of water while establishing. Apply a decent layer mulch to the surface of the soil to lock in any moisture and cut down on competitive weed growth.

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Latin &
Common Name
EarmarkType & FormFlowers & Foliage
Sarcococca confusa - Sweet BoxSarcococca confusa

Sweet Box
Shrub, Ground cover, Container-friendly, Rounded - BushWhite flowers (Winter, scented)
Camellia sasangua - Setsugekka - Chinese RoseCamellia sasangua


Chinese Rose
Shrub, Container-friendly, Rounded - BushWhite flowers (Spring)
Fothergilla major - Witch AlderFothergilla major

Witch Alder
Tree, Shrub, Rounded - TreeWhite flowers (Spring, scented)
Leucothoe axillaris - ScarlettaLeucothoe axillaris

Shrub, Dark pink flowers (Summer late)
Rhododendron impeditumRhododendron impeditum Shrub, Hedging & Screening, Container-friendly, Rounded - BushPurple flowers (Summer early)
Corylopsis spicata - Corylopsis, Winter HazelCorylopsis spicata

Corylopsis, Winter Hazel
Shrub, SpreadingYellow flowers (Winter, scented)
Ribes laurifolium - RibesRibes laurifolium

Shrub, Rounded - BushWhite flowers (Summer, scented)
Chaenomeles x Superba - Rowallane - Flowering Quince, ChaenomelesChaenomeles x Superba


Flowering Quince, Chaenomeles
Shrub, Rounded - BushRed flowers (Spring)
Pieris formosa - WakehurstPieris formosa

Shrub, Container-friendly, Rounded - BushWhite flowers (Summer early)
Kalmia latifolia - Calico Bush, KalmiaKalmia latifolia

Calico Bush, Kalmia
Shrub, Rounded - BushWhite flowers (Summer)

You can use our plant-finder to find plants that match your garden conditions exactly, for example Acid tolerant shrubs for border & specimen planting - click to give it a try!

Have you seen our other plant top ten recommendations?