En EspaÑol

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 General Botany Questions

Help with Science Fair project from Danbury CT
January 12, 2012 - Hello Mr Smarty, I was going to do my science project on weevils and their impact on milfoil. The weevils are in hibernation until spring and my project is due in mid-Feb. Any suggestions on a simil...
view the full question and answer

Taxonomy question concerning the Family Commelinaceae
June 17, 2014 - Hi I have a question. Many people refer to plants differently, I have always used the Genus and species and rarely the family name..it is very confusing .. when a professional uses a name that is a co...
view the full question and answer

Black Walnut tree in LA
March 12, 2012 - I was just given a black walnut tree and am trying to determine where to place it. I’ve read on your site that “Certain plants will not grow under Black Walnut trees because of the juglones that the ...
view the full question and answer

Does music affect growth of necklace pod plants?
May 15, 2009 - Does music affect the growth of the necklace pod plants? this is for a science project! Please help!
view the full question and answer

Brownish-gold worm-looking things on loblolly pines
May 08, 2015 - We have a large loblolly pine that each spring drops thousands of brownish-gold "worm" looking things (about 1/2 to 1" long). Do they have a name and what is their purpose?
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 | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center