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Leucothoe is a garden shrub known for its attractive foliage. However, as an acidic shrub, it needs acidic soil and compost to thrive. But what about ericaceous compost – does it need this?
Ericaceous compost benefits Leucothoe because it contains high levels of acidity. This compost provides necessary nutrients that are lacking in non-acidic soil or other compost types. Without adequate nutrition, leucothoe will become susceptible to pests, diseases, and weeds.
In this article, I will discuss the best kind of compost you can use for leucothoe, how to make ericaceous compost, and other essential care tips for leucothoe. Let’s jump right in!
What Kind of Compost Can I Use for Leucothoe?
Leucothoe can survive in neutral soil but it truly thrives when there is acidicity present. The best compost for Leucothoe is an ericaceous compost because it is highly acidic. If you’re planting this shrub in an outdoor garden, you’ll want to find out what type of soil you have.
Leucothoe grows best in soil with pH levels under 6.0 (source).
When planting leucothoe in a container, you can use ericaceous compost so that the plant gets the acidity it needs.
How To Make Ericaceous Compost
Making ericaceous compost is an essential part of gardening for those who want to grow leucothoe. Here’s how to make ericaceous compost:
Gather Highly Acidic Materials
You’ll need highly acidic materials to make the compost. The following items are exceptionally acidic and thus can make the perfect ericaceous compost:
- Oak leaves
- Coffee grounds
- Pine needles
Over time, your ericaceous compost will become less acidic. Pine needles can prolong the compost’s acidity as they take longer to decompose.
Take note that you shouldn’t use lime in ericaceous compost. You may think lime would help make your compost acidic, but it does the opposite.
You can also use leaves from other acidic plants, such as:
- Japanese Maple
These are just a few options you can add to your compost to make it acidic.
Add a Thin Layer of Dry Fertilizer
Once you have a compost pile, you’ll need to add dry fertilizer. Ensure that the fertilizer suits acidic plants, and add a thin layer on top of the compost. To speed up the decomposition, add a few inches of garden soil. However, be careful only to use enough to cover the top layer.
If you’re placing your leucothoe in a planter, you can make a potting mix that is acidic enough for your shrub. Here is what you will need:
- Peat moss
- Garden soil
Use a base of about 50% peat moss and mix in the following:
- 20% perlite – a granular material from volcanic glass
- 10% compost
- 10% garden soil
- 10% sand
Combining these ingredients will make fantastic potting soil for your planters. Also, your leucothoe will be happy, healthy, and look incredible. You can continue adding compost to your planter as needed to ensure the growing conditions for your leucothoe exceed all expectations.
If you want to understand composting better, see How Compost Is Made: The Definitive Guide.
Important Care Tips for Leucothoe
In addition to having acidic soil and ericaceous compost, leucothoe prefers moist yet well-drained soil. It doesn’t do well in dry conditions, so stick to a good watering schedule.
Leucothoe doesn’t thrive in direct sunlight either and prefers partial shade.
When pruning this shrub, it can handle a significant cutback when needed, but make sure you do this in late winter or early spring for the best results. Regular pruning involves cutting back dead stems and leaves as needed.
Spring and fall are the best times of the year to plant leucothoe. Additionally, you’ll want to water the shrub thoroughly after the initial planting (source).
Leucothoe is highly toxic if ingested. If you or your pets accidentally ingest the plant, If swallowed, seek medical attention immediately.
How To Check Soil Acidity for Leucothoe
If you’re unsure what type of soil you have in your backyard, there are a few ways to find out.
Here are the signs of garden soil with enough acidity:
- Leaf blight
- Wilting grass
- Oak trees
- Yellow spots in the yard
All of the above thrive in acidic soils. Moss and weeds, in particular, will grow abundantly in acidic soil. So if you notice any of the above, you might have acidic soil.
One way to know for sure is by performing a soil test. MySoil Soil Test Kit (link to Amazon) is a wonderful kit that’s easy to use. It also includes a container to send your soil sample.
All you need to do is to take a sample of your garden soil and send it to the company for testing. The company will send you the results within a few days.
If you want quicker results, there are at-home tests you can also do, such as the Luster Leaf: Test Kit (link to Amazon). You can use this product to test for soil pH and other nutrients at home.
Even though it is relatively accurate, the earlier product that involves sending the soil sample to a lab would be more accurate.
See our guide on How To Manage Alkaline Soil.
As an acidic plant, leucothoe needs ericaceous compost to become healthy. Without acidic soil and compost, leucothoe will not grow to its full potential. Using other types of compost will not help leucothoe thrive.
Making ericaceous compost is easy. You just need to gather acidic materials, like coffee grounds and pine needles. You can also add ericaceous compost to potted leucothoes to help them thrive.
If you are unsure of the pH level of your yard soil, you can buy a testing kit to find out. It will help you determine whether leucothoe can grow in your yard.