34 Salt-Tolerant Plants for Landscaping

Plants That Tolerate Sea and Road Salt

Cactus pears (Opuntia ficus-indica) with orange ferns, province Olbia-Tempio, Gallura, Sardinia, Italy
Prickly Pear. Helmut Corneli / Getty Images

Large quantities of salt in the soil do not mix well with the plants that you would like to grow in that soil. An excess of salt prevents the plants from absorbing water properly. A salty spray carried on the winds only exacerbates the problem for would-be gardeners in seaside communities. What's the answer? You should select salt-tolerant plants for beach landscaping.

The sandy soils found near beach areas retain less water and nutrients than less porous soils, so plants growing in sand are especially susceptible to salt damage. If you are lucky, salt damage may manifest itself only in leaf burn; but the worst cases progress from leaf drop to death. This information on salt-tolerant plants is especially helpful in Florida, a state nearly enveloped by the ocean.

Salt-Tolerant Flowers and Foliage

Daylily
Daylilies. Eric Laplante / EyeEm / Getty Images

Salt-Tolerant Groundcovers and Vines

Bougainvillea flowers
Bougainvillea flowers. Sergio Amiti / Getty Images

Salt-Tolerant Shrubs and Subshrubs

  • Rosa rugosa, that hardy, salt-tolerant plant called the "beach rose."
  • Sumac, including staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina (hirta))
  • Winterberry holly (Ilex verticillata)
  • Bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica)
  • Oleander
  • Yucca
  • Vanhoutte spirea
  • Bayberry shrubs, famous for the candles made from their berries, are best grown in zones 2 through 8. But the "waxy" equivalent for a salt-tolerant plant in Florida is wax myrtle (Myrica cerifera). Other salt-tolerant plants grown in Florida include Florida privet (Forestiera segregata), Sandankwa viburnum (Viburnum suspensum), Yaupon holly (Ilex vomitoria), and wall germander (Teucrium chamaedrys)
Violet oleander flower
Oleander. Miguel Sotomayor / Getty Images

Salt-Tolerant Trees

  • Norway maples and Amur maples
  • Pin oaks, white oaks, and red oaks
  • Sunburst honey locusts: Tough trees that tolerate a number of other adverse phenomena including pollution, dry soil, and compacted soil
  • Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana): Salt-tolerant plant commonly grown as far south as northern Florida
  • Southern red cedar (Juniperus silicicola): Salt-tolerant plant grown in southern Florida
  • Saw palmetto (Serenoa repens): One of the types of palm trees that tolerate salt very well. Saw palmetto reaches a height of 10 to 20 feet.
  • Date palm trees (Phoenix dactylifera) are taller palm trees (50 feet) that are cold-hardy to 18 F. The University of Florida extension lists date palm trees as moderately salt-tolerant.
Saw palmetto plants around a tree trunk
Saw palmetto plants. Diane Macdonald / Getty Images

In addition to consulting these lists about salt-tolerant plants, do not forget to use your powers of observation while driving through your seaside community. Take notice of what is flourishing in your neighbors' yards. For example, in Bar Harbor, Maine, you will notice lovely golden chain trees. And if you have ever driven around Long Island, New York, in spring, you cannot help but notice the pink blooms of Kwanzan cherry trees everywhere. These anecdotal additions may not make its way onto official listings of salt-tolerant plants, but remember that the proof of the pudding is in the eating. You will never know if it works out for you if you do not try it out.