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Salt Tolerant Seaside Plants

Salt Tolerant Seaside Plants

Despite mild winters, selecting plants for a coastal, seaside, or desert garden can be difficult since the soil is usually very sandy, free draining, and may have a high pH. On top of that, the groundwater is frequently salty and marine winds carry a fine mist of salt-laden water that gets deposited on plant leaves.

More Information About Salt Tolerant Seaside Plants

This combination of desiccating factors in coastal gardens can severely stress a landscape plant growing in seaside conditions. Similar salt-related gardening issues may occur if you plant in the drainage path of a salt-treated road or garden in salty desert soil. Keep in mind there are salt tolerant perennial plants that can thrive in these coastal garden conditions!

When we say "salt" we are referring primarily to sodium chloride, aka table salt. There are other salts in the world, but this is the one that most vexes gardeners. Why is salt so bad? There are three main reasons; 1. Salt causes plants to lose water; 2. Salt can interfere with plant nutrient absorption; 3. Salt can interfere with plant metabolism. Osmosis is easy enough to understand, but how do these other mechanisms work?

How does salt interfere with plant nutrient absorption?-- Plant roots absorb a variety of dissolved mineral salts from the soil. Too much salt in the soil can interfere with the availability and absorption of vital mineral salts due to ion charge imbalances, competitive inhibition of absorption, unbalanced root absorption, and disruption of the internal osmotic balance of the root cells.

How does salt interfere with plant metabolism?-- If plants have too much salt in their tissues, it can interfere with the cells' biochemistry, making the cell less efficient and less productive. Salt tolerant perennial plants have adjusted their metabolic chemistry to run more efficiently in the presence of high salt levels.

For these reasons, salt tolerant plants do much better in haline environments than their non-salt adapted cousins. Salt adapted perennials are what coastal gardeners should plant in their exposed beach landscapes. As a general rule of thumb, coastal native plants and desert plants / succulents tend to be salt tolerant plants. Scientists have a word for the most extreme salt tolerant plants - halophytes. True halophytes are the kings of the salt tolerant plants and can even drink seawater. Most salt-adapted garden perennials are not true halophytes, but they are still better than most other perennials. Some people further divide salt tolerant or salt resistant plants into "very salt tolerant or resistant", "moderately salt tolerant" and "mildly salt tolerant" groups, but our list below lumps them all together.

In addition to selecting salt tolerant plants, gardeners can practice a few cultivation techniques to improve the performance of their plants in a coastal environment. 1. Amend the soil with plenty of compost to increase its water holding capacity; 2. Water deeply to flush salts out of the root zone; 3. Build a wind break, fence or berm to reduce salt spray; 4. Do a soil test to determine if you need to adjust your soil pH. Good soil pH levels can improve a plants ability to absorb mineral nutrients despite the presence of salt. When you are ready to buy salt tolerant plants for your desert or coastal garden, check out our online list of salt tolerant plants for sale. The following index is a list of salt tolerant perennials that we grow here at Plant Delights Nursery. All plant groups are well represented...sun perennials, shade perennials, ornamental grasses, flowering perennials, foliage plants, ferns and palm trees.