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
- Bee balm
- Ivy geraniums (Pelargonium peltatum), also commonly used in hanging baskets
- Portulaca (also drought-tolerant)
- Lantana plants, commonly used in hanging baskets
- Coleus blumei, commonly used as an annual
- Kalanchoe, perennial in Florida
- Daylilies (Hemerocallis spp.), moderately salt-tolerant
- Prickly pear cactus (Opuntia spp.), handles full sun and deer-resistant
Salt-Tolerant Groundcovers and Vines
- Bar Harbor juniper (Juniperus horizontalis "Bar Harbor")
- English Ivy (Hedera helix), popular invasive plant
- Lilyturf (Liriope spicata)
- Virginia creeper vines (Parthenocissus quinquefolia): Another aggressive spreader, but indigenous to North America
- Three salt-tolerant vines grown in Florida include Confederate jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides), flowering jasmine (Jasminum floridum), and bougainvillea.
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)
- 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)
- 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.
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.