GROWING ERICACEOUS (lime hating) PLANTS

WHAT IS MEANT BY LIME HATING?

An excess of lime in the soil inhibits certain species of plants from being able to take up the growth element iron. The presence of lime causes yellowing and eventual loss of leaf. Plants which do not tolerate lime include Rhododendrons, Azaleas, Camellias, Pieris and summer flowering Heathers.

PLANTING

Before planting encaceous subjects, two basic factors must be considered. First, the drainage needs to be adequate; ericaceous plants dislike wet conditions. Secondly, if the soil is heavy or alkaline, plants will not grow directly in it.

Soils containing only traces of lime should be heavily dressed with peat, leaf mould or pulverised bark. The lime content of the soil can be neutralised by an application of sequestered iron (Sequestrene).

For soils which have a high concentration of lime, an artificial rooting area has to be provided. Three methods are available:

1. Raised beds.

2. Individual holes or beds

3. Grown in containers.

Raised beds. For the best results, the bed should be constructed of peat blocks. The blocks need to be as large and even as possible, and laid in position like bricks when damp. The walls are better when not more than three to four blocks high, slanted inwards and well packed with soil both behind and under the blocks. Wire pegs help to keep them in place.

The new soil can be 100% lime free compost (Arthur Bowers) or about 30% topsoil incorporated with organic material such as oak-beech leaf mould, spruce or pine needles, forest litter, wood chips, pulverised bark, bracken litter, hop manures and fibrous moss peat.

Individual holes and beds. Sizeable holes must be dug to allow for future root expansion. The hole should be lined with polythene to isolate the original limey soil from the new lime free soil. The polythene must be slit in the bottom to allow for drainage. The hole can then be filled with the same soil mixtures as with peat bed construction.

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