24 Best Types of Salt-Tolerant Plants for Beach and Roadside Landscaping

Salt-tolerant day lilies with purple and yellow flowers

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Large quantities of salt in the soil do not mix well with vegetation other than specific salt-tolerant plants. Sandy soils near beaches retain less water and nutrients than less porous soils and an excess of salt spray carried in the wind prevents most plants from absorbing water properly. Salt damage may manifest as leaf burn, leaf drop, or plant death. The solution for beach communities and homeowners with roadside gardens in towns that use salt to melt winter's ice is to choose salt-tolerant plants. Here are 24 selections of salt-tolerant plants including annuals, perennials, shrubs, and trees that shrug off any encounters with salty brine on the ground or blowing saltwater.

  • 01 of 24

    Coleus (Plectranthus scrtellarioides)

    Coleus freckles with red and yellow flowers closeup

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    Coleus is a popular shorter bedding plant with tiny flowers, but is grown more for its wildly patterned foliage, each leaf's design and color is as unique as if the plant was tie-dyed. But the plant is typically versatile to environmental conditions which makes it ideal for salty areas. With that said, coleus is considered a tropical plant that hates frost, preferring to move indoors in pots for the winter. Fast-growing coleus is toxic to animals.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 10-11; Treated as an annual in the North
    • Flower Color Varieties: Blue and white (insignificant)
    • Light: Part to full shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, moist, loose
    • Mature Size: 6-36 in. tall and wide
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
  • 02 of 24

    Bougainvillea Vines

    Bougainvillea flowers
    Bougainvillea commonly blooms in pink but can also bloom in salmon.. Sergio Amiti / Getty Images

    Bougainvillea vines are unusual in that the color you see doesn't come from flowers. The color comes from bracts, which are modified leaves that are large and papery on the stem. Bougainvillea bracts are showier than its teeny bland flowers, and they come in shades of red, pink, purple, orange, yellow, and also plain white. You'll see these fast-growing vines trained (with ties) to grow like wild all over pergolas, arbors, and trellises, especially if they are located in hot and sunny tropical and beachy areas.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 9-11
    • Flower Color Varieties: Off-white, yellow; bracts provide color
    • Light: Full sun, light shade
    • Soil Needs: Moist, well-drained
    • Mature Size: 15-40 ft. tall, equal spread
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
  • 03 of 24

    Winterberry Holly (Ilex verticillata)

    Winterberry with red berries.
    Despite its wintry name, winterberry's display is at its peak in late fall. David Beaulieu

    Shrubs, like winterberry holly, can help give your landscape design structure and visual interest to the yard for a longer portion of the year than do flowers. Winterberry holly, despite its name, is really showier in autumn in cold climates when its emerald green leaves and red berries look their brightest. In winter, the berries wrinkle up in cold weather. Full sun will offer the best berry production. Winterberry holly is ideal for salty areas because of its versatility and ability to grow in just about any type of soil, but take note that it is toxic to people, as well as dogs and cats.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3-9
    • Flower Color Varieties: Greenish white (insignificant)
    • Light: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Moist, well-drained
    • Mature Size: 3-15 ft. tall
    • Deer Resistant: No
  • 04 of 24

    Pin Oaks (Quercus palustris)

    Fall foliage of pin oak.
    Pin oak leaves turn red in fall. David Beaulieu

    Several sun-loving oak trees are salt-tolerant, including pin oaks, making them ideal for heat-drenched beach areas as well as northern regions. Because of the height pin oak trees can reach, they are best for furnishing shade. Multi-lobed, 5-inch long leaves are deep, glossy green most of the time, but turn deep-red foliage in the fall to add to a colorful landscape. The trees are named pin oaks for a reason: They often have smaller lower limbs that jut out of their trunks, and when they fall off, they leave sharp and pointy stubs. This is a fast-growing tree, so pruning in the winter when the trees are dormant helps to minimize the pins.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 4-8
    • Flower Color Varieties: n/a
    • Light: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Average but tolerates some wet soil
    • Mature Size: 70 ft. tall, equal spread
    • Deer Resistant: No
    Continue to 5 of 24 below.
  • 05 of 24

    Daylilies (Hemerocallis spp.)

    Daylilies are perfect salt-tolerant plants because they tolerate light sandy or heavy clay soils and even thrive during droughts and floods. You can see them growing abundantly along roadsides even where they weren't originally planted since their clumps tend to spread quickly. The commonly known variety, the yellow Stella D'oro, is a reliable perennial grown in full sun for best results. Other daylilies come in shades of red, orange, purple, and pink ranging from solid colors to patterns with different colored stamens or throat to more eclectic polychrome patterns with blooms of three or more colors.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3-10
    • Flower Color Varieties: Shades of pink, purple, red, and yellow to orange
    • Light: Full sun but tolerates some shade
    • Soil Needs: Medium loamy soil
    • Mature Size: 8 in. to 5 ft. tall
    • Deer Resistant: No
  • 06 of 24

    Moss Rose (Portulaca grandiflora)

    Moss rose is an incredibly unyielding, drought-tolerant creeping annual that flowers in a variety of colors. This succulent attains just a few inches in height but spreads out along the earth. Though the plant is tough-as-nails, making it perfect for salty conditions, its flowers are dainty with ruffled petals resembling miniature roses. These adorable flowers are unfortunately toxic to dogs and cats.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 2-11
    • Flower Color Varieties: White, orange, yellow, red, pink
    • Light: Full
    • Soil Needs: Sandy, well-drained
    • Mature Size: 3–9 in. tall, 6–24 in. wide
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
  • 07 of 24

    Bee Balm (Monarda didyma)

    Bee balm is more than just an ornamental plant with fiery tubular flower heads, it is also an herb used to make tea and treat bee stings. When planting bee balm, avoid using it in places with heavy foot traffic since it attracts bees. However, its minty fragrance repels deer. Some cultivars of bee balm grow and spread much faster than others. Bee balm is a hardy plant that can withstand extreme temperatures, making it ideal for rough and salty conditions.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3-9
    • Flower Color Varieties: Scarlet red, pink, light-purple, and white
    • Light: Full sun, partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Moist, loamy, well-drained
    • Mature Size: Dwarf 10-15 in. tall and 18-24 in. wide; standard 2-4 ft. tall and 3-4 ft. wide
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
  • 08 of 24

    Ivy Geraniums (Pelargonium peltatum)

    Low maintenance, fast-growing in warm weather, and prolific bloomers, ivy geraniums come in a variety of colors and are commonly used in annual hanging baskets in northern regions. The plant tolerates salt and heavy winds that may affect a coastal area. Average humidity is fine for this plant, but if you live in an area with exceptionally hot summers, opt for a more heat-resistant variety of an ivy geranium, such as 'Royal Amethyst,' which is an early bloomer with lilac flowers. Depending on which variety you plant, ivy geraniums planted in the ground can either spread as ground covers or grow a bit dense and shrubbier.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 9-10
    • Flower Color Varieties: Pink, red, salmon, and white
    • Light: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Moist, well-drained
    • Mature Size: 12 to 30 in. tall
    • Deer Resistant: Usually
    Continue to 9 of 24 below.
  • 09 of 24

    Shrub Verbenas (Lantana camara)

    Lantana is a fast-growing and resilient salt-tolerant shrub that acts more like a vine. Its multicolored clusters of brightly colored small and dainty flowers can be used in hanging planters or as ground cover. It's often found in warm coastal climates that have more sunny than cloudy days. Lantana is toxic to pets.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 7a-11a 
    • Flower Color Varieties: Mix of red, orange, yellow, blue, white, and pink
    • Light: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained
    • Mature Size: 6 ft. high and wide (as a perennial)
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
  • 10 of 24

    Prickly Pear Cactus (Opuntia spp.)

    Prickly pear cactus looks like it should be tender, but it's an extremely hardy perennial. This plant has flat, paddle-like stems, narrow spines, and cheery yellow blooms, which makes it a great choice for rock gardens along roadsides or near the seashore. It's highly drought-tolerant and likes warm, dry weather, yet it can tolerate cold temperatures.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 4-9
    • Flower Color Varieties: Yellow
    • Light: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Sandy, well-drained
    • Mature Size: 6-18 in. tall
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
  • 11 of 24

    Bar Harbor Juniper (Juniperus horizontalis 'Bar Harbor')

    The Bar Harbor juniper is one of the creeping junipers, an evergreen shrub that grows fast as a dense ground cover that also suppresses weeds. Though the horizontal branches are somewhat soft to the touch, the plant is not the most comfortable to walk barefoot on, but it can look lovely in rock gardens and control erosion on sloped land. This plant is somewhat adaptable and drought-tolerant, and does well in shifting sandy, rocky, or other poor soils, making it a good contender for coastal areas in the northern regions.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3-9
    • Flower Color Varieties: n/a
    • Light: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained
    • Mature Size: 1 ft. tall, 5 ft. spread
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
  • 12 of 24

    English Ivy (Hedera helix)

    English ivy, an evergreen climber and ground cover, is considered an invasive plant in some areas. To add to English ivy's downsides, it's also toxic to people and pets. There are plenty of upsides to planting English ivy in salty areas. A dense carpet of its shapely little emerald-green leaves can help cut down on hill erosion and it's thick, strong, and nearly indestructible. This hardy, drought- and salt-tolerant plant is prevalent around coastal areas and it easily survives near roadsides drenched in winter's salty brine.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 4-9
    • Flower Color Varieties: Greenish (insignificant)
    • Light: Partial to full shade
    • Soil Needs: Fertile and moist
    • Mature Size: 6-8 in. tall, 15 ft. spread
    • Deer Resistant: No
    Continue to 13 of 24 below.
  • 13 of 24

    Lilyturf (Liriope spicata)

    Where English ivy may be invasive, instead substitute lilyturf as ground cover where a salt-tolerant plant is needed. It's tough, drought-tolerant, and helps control weeds and erosion. Lilyturf grows fast and spreads aggressively, but it quickly produces a carpet of flowering grass-like turf.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 4-10
    • Flower Color Varieties: Lavender and white
    • Light: Partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Sandy, well-draining
    • Mature Size: 9-18 in. tall, 12-24 in. spread
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
  • 14 of 24

    Wall Germander (Teucrium chamaedrys)

    For a different look in a salt-tolerant ground cover, try wall germander, a broadleaf, evergreen sub-shrub with a dainty texture and minty fragrance. It spreads out, creating erosion control in rocky areas, and it attracts bees so be aware of where you plant it. Since wall germander is native to the Mediterranean Basin, it prefers dry, warm coastal conditions over rainy and humid areas.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 5-9
    • Flower Color Varieties: Pink, purple, and lavender
    • Light: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Dry to medium moisture, well-drained soil
    • Mature Size: 1 ft. tall
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
  • 15 of 24

    Virginia Creeper Vines (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)

    Virginia creeper is hardy, aggressive, but indigenous to North America. It tolerates all types of soil and survives the harshest winters, which means coatings of roadside slush won't harm its comeback in the spring. It is one of the best vines for fall color (the leaves become reddish). It loves to grow and stick to the sides of any building it comes in contact with so make sure you want it to grow there or on a strong trellis, pergola, or arbor. It's also grown as erosion controlling ground cover. The vine, which is known as a vigorous grower, is toxic to humans.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 4-9
    • Flower Color Varieties: Greenish-white
    • Light: Full sun, partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Sandy, clay, and loamy
    • Mature Size: 30-50 ft. long
    • Deer Resistant: No
  • 16 of 24

    Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina)

    Sumac has colorful fall foliage, including the non-poisonous staghorn sumac. Shrubby and almost tree-like, it has reddish-brown velvety hairs that cover its branches, resembling the look and feel of deer antlers. In the summer, it has tiny flowers that turn into brilliant red berries. It's a fast-growing plant that survives the heavy salt spray that roadside plantings often experience. Use it for privacy screening and erosion control in large, open, and even heavy-trafficked areas where you need a forgiving type of plant that likes to spread.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 4-8
    • Flower Color Varieties: Greenish-yellow (insignificant)
    • Light: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Moist and well-drained
    • Mature Size: 18-35 ft. tall
    • Deer Resistant: No
    Continue to 17 of 24 below.
  • 17 of 24

    Rosa Rugosa

    Rosa rugosa is so forgiving, rugged, and salt-tolerant that it is called the "beach rose." For example, you can always spot this beach rose from all angles on coastal Cape Cod—from sprouting along beach dunes to covering cottage picket fences. This easy-to-grow rose is indeed thorny, so be careful where it's planted. Wherever you do plant it will result in single and double clusters of pretty, fragrant blooms.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 2-7
    • Flower Color Varieties: Pink, red, lavender, and white
    • Light: Full sun, part shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, well-drained
    • Mature Size: 4-8 ft. tall, 4-6 ft. spread
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
  • 18 of 24

    Bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica)

    Bayberry shrubs, famous for the candles and soaps made from their berries, tolerate salty or shifting sandy soils. and thrives in dry to wet and even boggy environments. Its prized silvery berries hold up in freezing temperatures for delicate texture in winter landscapes. This dense shrub can become quite tall if not pruned, but it's not a frequent task with this plant.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3-7
    • Flower Color Varieties: Yellowish-green (insignificant)
    • Light: Full sun, part shade
    • Soil Needs: Dry to moist, well-drained
    • Mature Size: 10 ft. tall
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
  • 19 of 24

    Adam's Needle (Yucca filamentosa)

    Adam's needle is a plant that looks like it belongs more in the southwest than in cold regions such as New England. But this broadleaf evergreen with spiky leaves and tall stalks with white bell-shaped flowers is native to the sandy beaches and fields of the southeast, and has also naturalized farther north. This stemless salt-tolerant shrub prefers poor, rocky, or sandy soil areas found in seaside and roadside areas. Adam's needle is toxic to people and animals.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 5-10
    • Flower Color Varieties: White
    • Light: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Dry to medium moisture, well-drained soil 
    • Mature Size: 4-8 ft. tall, 2-3-ft. spread
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
  • 20 of 24

    White Oak (Quercus alba)

    White oaks, popular throughout Eastern North America, are majestic trees with short trunks and wide-reaching limbs that form rounded crowns. They are considered highly beneficial trees that support all types of wildlife. Though they don't have as spectacular a fall color (reddish-brown) as other oaks, white oaks (and red oaks) are extremely durable, adaptable, and pollution-tolerant to use as "street trees" that must inevitably endure a slurry of salt in the winter.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3-9
    • Flower Color Varieties: Yellowish-green
    • Light: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Rich, moist, well-drained, loamy
    • Mature Size: 60-100 ft. tall, 50-90 ft. wide
    • Deer Resistant: No
    Continue to 21 of 24 below.
  • 21 of 24

    Red Oak (Quercus rubra)

    Red oaks are similar to pin oaks but need large amounts of space in which to grow large for their prized shade canopies. Red oaks show spectacular color in the fall with rich, bright red leaves. For this reason, and the fact that it is pollution- and salt-tolerant, means red oaks are frequently used to line roads, streets, and park entrances where they are subjected to winter slurry.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 4-8
    • Flower Color Varieties: Yellowish-green (insignificant)
    • Light: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Fertile, sandy, dry, well-draining
    • Mature Size: 50-75 ft. tall, 50-75 ft. wide
    • Deer Resistant: No
  • 22 of 24

    Sunburst Honey Locusts (Gleditsia triacanthos)

    The fast-growing Sunburst honey locust (a trademarked cultivar) is a tough, classic street tree with fern-like leaves that tolerates a number of challenging conditions, including salt, pollution, dry soil, and compacted soil. This specific cultivar is preferred for lining streets because it is podless and thornless, which eliminates ground clean-up problems. Their new leaves are yellow that fade in the summer but return to full vibrancy in the fall.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 4-9
    • Flower Color Varieties: Greenish-yellow
    • Light: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Tolerates most soils
    • Mature Size: 30-40 ft. tall, up to 40 ft. spread
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
  • 23 of 24

    Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana)

    Juniperus virginiana gives you a choice for an evergreen tree with branches that are grown from the ground up on the trunk. It is fragrant with reddish-brown bark, and sports bluish, berry-like cones eaten by wild birds. It prefers poor soil conditions and won't thrive in moist soil. It even likes gravelly roadsides so it'll survive wherever there's winter salty sludge. But it's also native to warmer areas, such as Florida and Texas, where the dense trees will live well as windbreaks in coastal areas.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 2-9
    • Flower Color Varieties: n/a
    • Light: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Poor and dry
    • Mature Size: 30 ft. tall, 8 ft. wide
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
  • 24 of 24

    Canary Island Date Palm Trees (Phoenix canariensis)

    Canary Island date palms are one of the types of palm trees that tolerate salt very well, and they are cold-hardy to 18 degrees Fahrenheit. Its arching fronds are dense and luxurious, and luxury property owners in warmer climates like Florida prefer this tree for its beauty. Although this tree may require a higher degree of maintenance than other salt-tolerant plants, it is drought-resistant and can still thrive when faced with salt spray.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 9-11
    • Flower Color Varieties: Orange stalks
    • Light: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: All types, well-drained
    • Mature Size: 40-60 ft. tall, 40 ft. spread
    • Deer Resistant: Yes