En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
3 ratings

Monday - January 16, 2012

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: General Botany, Soils
Title: Changing the pH of the soil
Answered by: Nan Hampton, Barbara Medford and Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

Hi, We have a job that has mostly Texas native plants on it. The architect is wanting to drop the pH levels of the soils to acidic levels that we don't feel is good for the plants and the area. Could you please contact me so I can send you the plant list and get your recommendations for the soil pH for the various plants? Thanks.

ANSWER:

The soils in Austin/Travis County are highly alkaline and the native plants of our area thrive on this soil. So, the fact that the architect wants to acidify the soil says to me that he intends planting non-native cultivars or, at least, plants not native to this part of Texas.  They will look beautiful for a short period of time until the pH of the soil begins to go up as the acidity of the soil declines—and it will definitely decline.  The soil will gradually return to its original alkalinity, probably within just a couple of years, and the acid-loving plants growing there will begin to sicken and probably die.  Additionally, acidifying the soil would likely have an adverse effect on the native microfauna living in it that are essential for healthy plant growth.  The plants native to Central Texas are not going to do well in the acidified soil and the non-native plants that start out doing well are not going to do well for very long as the acidity weakens.

You will find that the majority of the plant species pages in our Native Plant Database contain a description of the soil requirements for the plant under the heading "Growing Conditions".  For instance, on the pages for both Sophora secundiflora (Texas mountain laurel) and Cercis canadensis var. texensis (Texas redbud), under GROWING CONDITIONS, you will find:  "Soil pH: Alkaline (pH>7.2)."  You can search for the pH values of the native plants on your list in our Native Plant Database.  It is easiest to search by the plant's botanical name.  If the pH level isn't given for the plant you are looking for, then your best bet is to search the internet using the plant's botanical name.

Our recommendation to you is to use plants that are native to Central Texas.  Their pH requirements will be met by the existing soil and there will be no need to acidify it.

 

More Soils Questions

Growing bluebonnets in pot in Flower Mound TX
November 01, 2011 - We received a package of bluebonnet seeds along with the DVD Wildflowers: Seeds of History as a gift. In the film, Andrea DeLong mentions that bluebonnets did not grow well in a rich organic soil. W...
view the full question and answer

Problems with Blackfoot Daisy from Lewisville, TX
April 23, 2013 - I planted a row of Melampodium leucanthum (Blackfoot Daisy) last spring at the front of the front yard, next to the sidewalk. It's full sun, east facing, unamended black clay gumbo soil. I put mulc...
view the full question and answer

Problems with Texas Mountain Laurel in Dallas
May 04, 2010 - I have a Texas Mountain Laurel that is about 3 years old. When I bought it 2 summers ago, it was about a foot high. Now it is over 6 feet. It seems to have grown so fast that the branches can't ke...
view the full question and answer

Native turf and trees for Odessa TX
July 29, 2013 - What native turf and trees can I grow in my Odessa, Tx back yard?
view the full question and answer

Turf grasses and alternatives for NH
October 23, 2010 - I live in Hancock, NH, just north of Peterborough. We just bought a relatively new house that pretty-much has no lawn and minimal landscaping. Can you (or anyone) suggest native lawn grass alternati...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center