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Are Hibiscus Acid-Loving Plants?

hibiscus image by Gratien Jonxis from Fotolia.com

While hibiscus won’t die in neutral or even slightly alkaline soil, they do prefer slightly acidic soils. The approach to providing this environment varies by the pH of your soil and water.

Preferred pH

Louisiana State University recommends a soil pH of 6.5 to 6.8 for hibiscus, whereas the University of Florida recommends a pH of 5.5 to 6.5, according to the University of Florida IFAS Extension. Suffice it to say that if your soil pH is between 5.5 and 6.8, you’re doing fine. Avoid alkaline soils because they retard nutrient uptake.

Amending for Acidity

First, test your soil pH. Avoid planting hibiscus near concrete, as it steers the pH to alkaline, the University of Florida reports. Amend your soil as needed with aluminum sulfate, elemental sulfur or coffee grounds.

Adjusting for Alkaline Water

If you have alkaline water, you may have to adjust the pH of your soil over time, since alkaline water will continually raise the pH of the soil. Test the soil after a year. If it’s higher than hibiscus like, consider top-dressing with coffee grounds a few times a year or adding acidifiers per your local extension service recommendations.

Acid Do For Plants?

Soil's pH level reflects the amount of hydrogen in the soil. Higher numbers reflect less hydrogen, which means less acidity and an alkaline or "basic" soil. Acidity causes reactions that reduce or enhance nutrients' abilities to move. The neutral range from pH 6.5 to 7.5 is ideal for most plants. Macronutrients, needed in the largest quantities by plants, generally are less available in acidic soil than non-acidic soil. If soil pH drops too low, however, elements such as manganese reach levels toxic to plants. Soil tests confirm whether or not soil is acidic and recommend changes if needed. Soil composition, biological activity and other factors vary seasonally and cause pH fluctuations. A dried-out soil sample tests differently from a fresh sample from the same spot.

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