What Is Ericaceous Compost?

Many people who love gardening have heard of ericaceous compost, but what they may not know is that this type of compost isn’t good for all plants. Before people run out and buy this type of compost, therefore, they need to know what it’s good for and when to avoid it.

Ericaceous compost gets its name because it is specifically made for plants of the Ericaceae family. This includes lime-hating plants that love acidic soil and, therefore, need an acidic compost to grow and thrive.

What Is Ericaceous Compost?

Ericaceous compost is made for flowers and plants that love acidic and infertile growing conditions. These plants can include:

  • Aster
  • Azalea
  • Bleeding heart
  • Blueberry
  • Camellia
  • Cranberry
  • Fern
  • Gardenia
  • Holly
  • Hydrangea
  • Japanese maple
  • Juniper
  • Lupine
  • Magnolia
  • Pachysandra
  • Pieris
  • Rhododendron
  • Viburnum

Acidic-loving plants such as these will do very well with ericaceous compost, and for people who wish to make this compost themselves, the good news is that there are numerous “recipes” to choose from that will do quite well.

Ericaceous compost is made very much like regular compost, with one main difference: no lime products can be put in it. Lime has just the opposite effect that is needed because it is alkaline and not acidic.

Two good examples of ready-made ericaceous compost:

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  • Instantly feeds acid-loving plants for lush foliage and beautiful blooms
  • Feed every 1-2 weeks
  • Helps acid-loving plants such as azalea, camellia, gardenia, hibiscus, holly, hydrangea, orchid, rhododendron and many others thrive
  • Use with Miracle-Gro Garden Feeder or any watering can
  • Feeds the roots promoting quick and beautiful results

Making Composts Acidic

So, ericaceous composts are always acidic, and they are made almost like regular composts except that nothing alkaline, such as lime, should be added. What next? To start the compost pile, organic matter that is high in acid should be used.

What does this include? Items such as pine needles, oak leaves, and coffee grounds are the best. The pine leaves in particular help make the soil more acidic, so this is perhaps the most important item to put in the compost pile.

The last thing that needs to be done is to spread some dry garden fertilizer over the top of the entire pile, and for this step a little measuring is necessary. Go ahead and measure the surface area of the pile, and sprinkle about one cup of fertilizer for every square foot of compost.

When shopping for this fertilizer, try to find one specifically made for acid-loving plants. This will make the compost even more nutrient-rich and healthier for the plants. After the fertilizer, some regular garden soil can be placed on the pile, about one to two inches deep.

Is Ericaceous Compost Important?

Knowing the pH level of the soil is crucial because acid-loving plants should never be mixed with very alkaline soil, and vice versa. Ericaceous plants need to be in soil that is acidic, so it’s important to keep them in soil that is lime-free.

Why is this so important? For one thing, ericaceous plants can turn yellow right at the spot where most people want to see some color – their leaves. Yellow leaves are usually a sign that something is wrong with what the plants are being “fed.”

This particular condition is called lime-induced chlorosis, and it results in the plants not flowering well and not looking like they should. Eventually, most of these plants die because the soil simply isn’t acidic enough for them.

Ericaceous plants need soil with plenty of iron and other nutrients that are insoluble once the soil has a high pH level. People who are interested in growing these types of plants, but who have alkaline soil, may want to grow them in tubs or pots, so they’ll do better.

When planted in tubs or pots, a good ericaceous compost makes excellent soil. Another advantage of tubs and pots is the fact that people can more easily move the plants from one spot to another, which is especially good when it’s super-hot outside.

Ericaceous plants usually don’t do well in direct sunlight because it withers the flowers and turns them brown. There are exceptions, of course, but this is the case for most of these plants, so keeping them in the shade is the best action to take.

Keep in mind that in addition to the compost, ericaceous plants need regular watering and a good fertilizer periodically. Choosing a continuous release fertilizer is perfect because this type of fertilizer does all of the work itself with little action on the gardener’s part.

Watering ericaceous plants once a week, especially in the summertime, is the smart thing to do, and regular mulching of the soil helps the plants retain moisture so they can grow. These plants don’t require constant attention, but regular attention is definitely needed.

Can People Make Their Own Ericaceous Compost?

compost pile with dirt and coffee grounds
Yay Compost pile with dirt and coffee grounds

People can definitely make their own ericaceous compost because all they need is a few basic ingredients. One of the easiest recipes for ericaceous compost includes the following:

  • Coffee grounds. A great source of nitrogen, coffee grounds also help to lower the pH level of the soil. For the leaves and pine needles to break down, nitrogen is needed because the nitrogen will break down the carbon in those two ingredients. People usually have lots of coffee grounds to get rid of, so adding this ingredient to the compost pile is usually never a problem.
  • Oak leaves. People can also use beech trees if they like, but the leaves release carbon so that compost can be created. If the leaves are shredded (mowing over them is a great way to do this), they’ll break down even faster. Regular turning and regular watering also help this process speed up a bit.
  • Pine needles. Pine straw can usually be purchased at garden centers, so it is super easy to find. Older bales work great as compost, and many stores will sell customers older bags of pine straw at a discount. Just keep in mind that newer needles may make for a more attractive compost, but they also take much longer to decompose than older needles.
  • Peat moss. Some people object to using peat moss because it isn’t as “eco-friendly” as other gardening items, but peat moss can make plants healthier and help them grow big and lush. It can also improve the pH balance of the soil, so it is a very useful ingredient. Yes, ericaceous compost can be made without peat moss, but it is a good idea to use it at least occasionally.

As mentioned earlier, turning the compost pile and watering it regularly are crucial to getting a full compost in the end. There are numerous advantages to using ericaceous compost, the most important being that it is great for acid-loving plants.

Checking the instructions that come with the plants to see what type of soil it needs is also important because when people skip this step, they can inadvertently ruin the plants if they use a soil that isn’t appropriate.

Testing the pH level is also important, and the tools that help people do this are both easy to find and inexpensive. Composts are not complicated, but they do require some thought and planning ahead of time.

This is especially true if people have one type of soil in their yard and the plants they wish to buy need another type of soil. Paying attention to the plants’ needs is of utmost importance for people who want to have healthy, great-looking plants year after year.

Fortunately, making compost is usually very simple, and it sure is a lot of fun for people to know they did a great job in growing their own plants.

Last update on 2023-09-25 / affiliate links / image and description from Amazon