How important is acidic soil with Annabelle?

roselane(5b/6a Kansas)April 7, 2012

I seem to have mixed success with Hydrangeas and, while I think this has more to do with watering incorrectly, I'm also wondering about our highly alkaline soil. The threads here seem to talk about lowering pH as a way to change the color of the bloom. Is it a mistake to even try to grow an hydrangea like "Annabelle" in alkaline soil? I have amended the soil and will try some aluminum sulfate, but wonder if I can alter the soil enough to expect success?

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My Annabelle and other hydrangeas tolerate my alkaline soil, about a 7.6 ish reading (un-amended) but the soil is amended at least once in Spring... sometimes again by July-August. The problem is that the leaves begin to have trouble absorbing iron and develop iron chlorosis in late Summer; the rest of the year, the leaves are fine.

I generally apply whatever amendment I have handy this time of the year and re-apply again in the Summer (if I remember or notice leaf problems). Since my purpose is not to change the color but rather to bring the soil pH down (my soil has adequate amounts of aluminum), I tend to apply soil Sulphur most of the time. So I bring the soil pH down but not that much; it is still alkaline but the hydrangeas' leaves tolerate it and stay green; they only show signs of iron chlorosis by the end of Summer and only on some years. I have also used green sand, aluminum sulfate and iron sulfate as amendments.

You best start by determining what is your soil pH. And then proceed to lower the levels if they are too high. A soil test will be very useful. A soil pH kit may help some but they do not give you numeric readings so it is difficult to compare the results from one month to another month if you cannot remember how green or how pink the color was a month ago. If you can find a kit that gives numeric readings, although more expensive, it may help you control things better.

You will have to continue amending the soil regularly. If you stop, the soil pH will go back to normal. So be ready to amend every month or two/three months per soil test recommendations. The soil test analysis should include recomendations on what to apply to lower the pH. When you request it, please indicate that you have hydrangeas and would like to know how often to amend the soil in order to get the soil pH to whatever level you want (say 7.0 which is neutral).

    Bookmark   April 7, 2012 at 6:36PM
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roselane(5b/6a Kansas)

Thanks for all the great advice. It has been a while since I did a soil test, but I think my unamended soil was 7.8. I tilled in all kinds of oak leaves for a year, but that was a while ago. I have never continued amending, so Ill do that with the soil sulpher. Thanks again!

    Bookmark   April 7, 2012 at 11:04PM
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Mine are in limestone based long as they get plenty of water, they look great.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2012 at 5:14PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

I'd agree with smivies, this plant is very tolerate of alkaline clays. They are grown abundantly around here more so than any other hydrangea.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2012 at 8:23PM
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