Salt-Tolerant Plants

Beautiful Coastal Gardens: The Best Salt-Tolerant Plants

By Tara A. Spears  Salt tolerant1 

A friend was recently venting her frustration with gardening, “These plants were just gorgeous when I bought them at the Thursday market, but a week after I planted them in the ground, the plants were shriveled and ugly. I am just not a gardener!”  I encouraged her to not give up gardening but to remember the cardinal rule for selecting plants: always consider the ‘big four’ growing needs of the plant: the preferred soil composition, the amount of sun required, nighttime temperature tolerance, and the amount of water needed. Match the plant with its preferred conditions and it will thrive.

In training to become a master gardener, the course begins with learning about soil composition. In fact, all US county master gardener centers offer free soil testing. Knowing the makeup of your soil guides your plant selection and leads to how to amend the soil to make it more suitable for growing healthy plants and trees. Soil composition is one reason why a particular geographic area has native grass as opposed to pine forests, etc.  It is also why there is such a variance in the types of commercial potted soil sold.

The chemical makeup of a given soil is often the most important determining factor of whether a plant will flourish or struggle, or even of if it will grow at all. Salt content in soil is one consideration that can significantly affect plant growth, as salt primarily affects the way plants absorb moisture from soil. In excessively saline soils (such as in our coastal region,) it takes more energy for the plant to absorb the same amount of water than moisture uptake would require in non-saline soils. Because the energy the plant uses to absorb the water is diverted away from building new growth on the plant, soil salinity often becomes apparent as stunted new growth, leaf wilting and similar symptoms. Some plants that have a particular sensitivity can suffer a toxic reaction in saline soils.

Examples of  Best Salt Tolerant Plants:  

The following pictures illustrate common plant species that are salt tolerant and available from local plant nurseries. It is still necessary to place them in the proper sun location and to know their various water needs in order for them to thrive in your yard. When you are selecting plants, keep in mind that up to a kilometer (mile) away from the shoreline the soil is still affected by ocean breeze salinity and you’ll have no problems.

Salt tolerant 

Blue daze   

Salt tolerant2

 

Bottle brush

Salt tolerant3

Coleus   

Salt tolerant 4

 

 

 

Frangipangi

 

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