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Does Daphne Need Ericaceous Compost – Here’s Our Take

Daphne is a fragrant, showy shrub that is prized for its beauty and through the growing season. These tough plants are rewarding to grow and can provide a breath of life even in winter, depending on the variety planted. To take good care of this plant, it is best to start with the soil it grows in. What type of soil or compost does the finicky daphne need? Does daphne need ericaceous compost? 

Since it is not acid-loving, ericaceous compost is unnecessary to grow a healthy daphne plant. Ericaceous compost can be used to lower a high-pH soil; using this type of compost alone may lower the pH too much for Daphne plants.

These plants can be temperamental, so it is best to minimize the opportunities for things to go wrong and start off with a good foundation for your daphne to grow.

If you want to know more about ericaceous compost and how to best grow daphne, keep reading.

What is ericaceous compost? 

Ericaceous compost may sound like an arbitrary name, but it does mean something. The word “ericaceous” stems from the Latin Ericaceae, a family of plants that thrive in acidic or low pH soils.

This family has a significant amount of variety, from ornamental flowers like heathers to fruits like blueberries and parasitic or carnivorous plants. One common thread throughout the family is their preference for acidic soils. 

Ericaceous compost is compost that has a low pH, usually in the 4.0-5.0 range. This differs from non-ericaceous compost as they are usually between 6.0-8.0 on the pH scale, which is on the more neutral to the alkaline side. This type of compost is suitable for neutral or alkaline-loving plants and is unsuitable for plants on the other end of the spectrum. 

Compost is not a one size fits all component of your plant’s health, so if you are growing plants that prefer to stay on the lower end of the pH scale, ericaceous compost can add the acidity you need for plants to thrive. If not, stay away from acidifiers for your plants to grow optimally. 

Are there any benefits to planting Daphne in ericaceous compost?

Daphne prefers to grow in neutral to moderately acidic soils between 5.5-7.0 on the pH scale. If your soil is slightly above this mark, then some ericaceous compost can be beneficial in lowering the pH of the soil closer to the appropriate range for your daphne plants. 

Soils already within the 5.5-6.0 range shouldn’t need any acidifying through the ericaceous compost, though if you add compost, this should be the choice. Compost with a higher pH can shift your soil’s existing pH into a more alkaline range, with side effects that can harm your plant. Symptoms of an off-balance soil pH can include:

  • Stunted growth.
  • Chlorosis (yellowing of the leaves with the veins maintaining a green color).
  • Necrosis of the leaves. 

The ideal compost for daphne plants is multipurpose, peat-free compost. Peat can lower your soil’s acidity, and if you’re unaware of its presence in your compost, you may be left with questions about why your plant isn’t thriving like you’d hoped.

In addition to having the proper soil pH as a sound basis for your daphne plant, ensuring the soil is well-draining and stays evenly moist is another crucial ingredient to success.

Avoid pruning unless it is necessary to remove dead branches since this can spur some dieback and lead to an uneven, scraggly appearance. 

Using Ericaceous compost on other plants

Ericaceous compost has its time and place in the garden; not every plant will require or even prefer this type of compost. 

Plants that love neutral or alkaline soils will not benefit from acidic compost. The wrong compost can alter the soil’s pH too much for your plant’s liking and make it more difficult for them to absorb the nutrients needed for their survival.

Many vegetable plants prefer to stay in the pH range of 6.0-8.0, as well as many flowering plants such as honeysuckle and lavender. 

Without appropriate soil parameters, one can do everything else right and still not get the desired outcome.

Inappropriate soil conditions can lead to difficulty performing cellular functions such as transporting water and nutrients throughout the plant, leading to stunted growth, discolored leaves, and in severe cases, plant death. 

Take some time to learn your plant’s specific needs before adding ericaceous compost to them. Soil pH meters or tests can be purchased easily from many gardening or home improvement stores and online. Knowing your plant’s soil conditions can answer many questions if something begins to look “off” on your plants. 

Plants that are ericaceous

Ericaceous plants include plants in the Heather or Ericaceae family and many berries such as blueberries, huckleberries, cranberries, and lingonberries. Ornamental flowers such as rhododendrons and heathers are included in this family, so they would benefit from using ericaceous compost.

Many plants are not in the Ericaceae family but can use ericaceous compost to their advantage. Acid-loving flowers like hydrangeas and camellias will grow better with ericaceous compost than their neutral pH counterpart. 

Here’s a list of plants that are good to pair with ericaceous compost:

  • Vaccinium species
  • Magnolia
  • Hibiscus
  • Japanese Maple
  • Juniper
  • Gardenia
  • Pinus species

While this isn’t a comprehensive list, these plants are commonly encountered gardens or ornamental plants that perform best under acidic conditions. 

Final Thoughts

Ericaceous compost is not the top choice for daphne plants. However, if the soil it is planted in is leaning towards the alkaline side of the pH scale, a bit of ericaceous compost can go a long way in lowering the pH to a more tolerable level. 

Avoid using too much at once, especially for plants that prefer to stay neutral, since the ericaceous compost can do more harm than good for certain plants. Instead, figure out what conditions your plant needs to thrive and go from there; some research can prevent many future issues!