will my soil pH be too high?

Sarah80November 14, 2012

Due to my husbands job transfer, we just moved from the Pittsburgh, PA area to Columbus, OH.

I just got the results back from my soil test and was shocked and concerned. I assumed that, due to a similar climate, my soil here in Central hio would have a similar acidity to our old house in PA.

I WAS WRONG!! Despite the heavy nature, I loved my acid soil in PA, pH 5.0, hat grew everything I liked from Azaleas to Red Maples and Conifers.

What can I grow in this neutral clay, pH 7.0? It seems like all my favorites are out that like acid soil -- red maples, most oaks, azaleas, most conifers...what do you grow in a soil and climate like mine?

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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

Neutral, in my opinion is the best soil to have. As for the soil goes the drainage will determine what you can grow.

I'm growing all that you mentioned in a neutral to slightly acidic soil.

I have never tested soil to know exactly what it is. I just observe what is growing successfully in the area and go from there. As a plant enthusiast, I'd rather force adaptability or at least give it a shot.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2012 at 10:10PM
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I am in Pa about 40-50 miles from Century 3 mall. Not sure how far from the city Pittsburgh. I have 6.8 PH and can grow Rhodies, Norway and Blue spruce White pine, oaks, azaleas, Red maples are like weeds here. I have 2 Pin oaks that are a nice dark green in summer and Maroon red in fall. Hemlocks and Pieris don't like my soil though. I have soil tests recently taken to help me figure out what may be the problem with the Hemlock, well, that's another subject, sorry. But unless the .2 matters a LOT. Most plants should be fine. Maybe ask in the soil forum. I know Sulfer helps to acidify, but talk to the soil forum people because things aren't always that simple, soils tend to buffer your attempts at changing long term PH. You should be able to grow most all plants anyway. Pin oak should be okay in Neutral soil, even if that 1 oak can't, you have tons of oaks that can.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2012 at 10:27PM
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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

We moved from suburban Philly, with a native pH of around 5, to here with a pH of 7.2. The zone change I was ready for. I've been fighting the pH ever since.

Of the things that have been mentioned, azaleas (and rhododendrons) are out. Pin oak is out, though a lot of other oaks are fine. Red maples are fine, as are most conifers. Hemlocks are OK, though tough to get established. Pieris is a total no-no.

Lilacs do very well. Hollies are iffy, except for winterberry. Lavender does well. Most plants that don't require a pH under 6 manage, and that is really a majority.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2012 at 11:16PM
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joeschmoe80(6 (Ohio))

Sarah - where in Columbus are you? I'm in Powell.

Pin oak is a funny one. You see them wild in central and western Ohio, where ph can be from 6.8 (which is what my soil is) to 7.5, that look fine, but planted ones get chlorosis in the same soils.

For Pin Oak in particular, the seed source is important. For years, most nurseries used stock from Tennessee, where soils are acid, so the seedlings were largely acid-adapted and got chlorotic on neutral soils. However, if you being in Columbus, get sources that grow from locally-obtained seed, especially from the western half of Ohio, you might be pleasantly surprised.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2012 at 11:49PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

well.. it looks like others here.. are confirming my gut reaction in the conifer forum .... link below.. just to avoid being repetitive ...

i dont think you should be SHOCKED AND CONCERNED ... its a new opportunity ... just do it ...

and.. to repeat.. just go visit some local gardens.. at least with conifers.. they are a winter sport ... no need to wait until spring/summer ... you probably need to get out of the new house.. sooner or later.. so go find some conifer collections ...

good luck


Here is a link that might be useful: conifer post

    Bookmark   November 15, 2012 at 8:28AM
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just add some sulphur to the soil to lower the pH.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2012 at 9:17AM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

Just to reitereate from my personal experience and visits to garden displays, arboretums and botanical gardens you don't need to be concerned about PH 7(who knows how accurate that is anyhow as it will change throughout your yard).

Soil texture, type and drainage will determine what you can grow and can't grow. You will have to experiement if want a diverse planting.

As to your original list of favs, pending drainage, you can grow almost ALL zone approiate species. I certainly don't agree with many of the limitations listed so far...thats just me though!

    Bookmark   November 15, 2012 at 6:13PM
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I am from northern Indiana while you don't get whole conifer forest as you do in the south and some mountain areas, Conifers will grow in that area, I have seen some quite large conifers.

You need to go down to the county agent or nursery and discuss what kind of conifer are best for your area.

As I remember there are conifer forest near the Arctic Circle.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2012 at 9:35PM
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jimbobfeeny(5a IN)

I agree, soil structure is probably more important than PH - I'm working with quite a few different soil types just on 1 property - Everything from sticky clay to loose, crumbly loam. A fairly large creek goes across the property; in the floodplain, the soil is black, rich and loose. You don't even need a shovel to plant a plant! There's about 5 feet or so of this black silty loam on top of a deep bed of sand and gravel. I've grown azaleas and rhododendrons just fine in it - A small handful of sulfur each year, and they do well.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 9:34AM
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Sarah, we've got you covered over @ Conifers.


    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 2:47PM
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Thanks for the information!

I assume Sugar Maple is OK too, then?

I presumed the plants listed would survive, but I don't want a chlorotic, weak plant.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 8:54AM
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jimbobfeeny(5a IN)

Yep, sugar maple will be fine. Neutral clays around here are often dominated by beech and sugar maple, if the area hasn't been disturbed much.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 8:03PM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

I used to live in Akron, and spent some time around Columbus. Although it did seem that I saw somewhat fewer A. rubrums around, I still saw some, and they didn't look chlorotic. In the wooded areas, I saw a lot of beech, white oak, black oak, and some red, scarlet, and chinkapin oak from what I remember. I think you'll be OK. I think I saw some pin oaks, that looked OK. What's funny, is even in Akron, and here in MD, I see chlorotic pin oaks, and our native soils are in the low 6's or lower. A bigger issue, IMHO, than native soil is site - most of the chlorotic trees I see are planted in tree lawns or islands of concrete.

The only things I'd be a bit leery about would be Azaleas, blueberries, and other true acid-lovers. You might see issues in an area that is more alkaline than the "default" such as near concrete, however, moreso than you did in Pittsburgh.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2012 at 10:14PM
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Bur Oak, Eastern Red Cedar, Eastern Cottonwood (not close to structures), and Shumard Oak all grow well down here in heavy blackland clay soil, pH ~7.5. Believe all these will range up to Z5.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2012 at 4:25AM
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Doesn't Chinkapin Oak prefer more alkaline soil?

    Bookmark   November 23, 2012 at 10:58AM
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Agree with Hairmetal-it is only the true acidophiles that will struggle. Around here, we always chuckle when seeing somebody's newly-installed Rhody. Enjoy it now, it will never look that good again!


    Bookmark   November 23, 2012 at 11:29AM
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