What are Salt tolerant Plants?
Plants that can tolerate higher than normal salt levels, like that found near beaches or in areas where road salt use is common, are called halophytes. These plants can tolerate levels of salt that would cause a salt burn or death to other plants.
Low Salt tolerance vs. High Salt Tolerance
Some plants are more tolerant of salt than others, and the exposure method may make a difference. Even two plants of the same type can have a different salt tolerance, depending on on-site factors and plant health.
How Much Salt Can Plants Tolerate?
Plants are injured by road salt and sea salt in several different ways. As a spray, salt can be deposited on leaves and cause drying of the buds, leaves, needles, or twigs. Often called salt burn, this damage is usually compounded by cold winter winds. Damage frequently shows up as browning foliage or dead twigs on the road or sidewalk side of the tree or shrub.
Salt can also be taken up through the roots when the plant absorbs water. Chloride ions can be taken up into the leaves, where they interfere with photosynthesis and can accumulate to toxic levels.
Check out this explanation from UMass Extension Landscape, Nursery and Urban Forestry Program.
Obviously, the saltier the planting site, the fewer plants will be able to adapt to these harsher conditions.
Road Salt Tolerant vs. for Beach Landscaping
While road salt, commonly called rock salt, and sea salt may seem different, they are both made up of the same primary sodium chloride molecule. Salt used for deicing roads often has other chemicals added to prevent caking and clumping.
Salt from roads can be sprayed up to 100 feet from the road surface by passing traffic. It can be deposited on foliage and soil in heavy quantities that may build over time.
Sea salt is often carried inland by the wind after seawater is churned by wave action. You may have smelled the ‘salt air’ if you’ve been near the beach. That characteristic scent is not only the sea salt but also the result of the microorganisms that live and die in the seawater.
Best Salt tolerant Plants for Beach Landscaping
Any salt tolerant plants that are also drought tolerant and forgiving of sandy soils will likely be successful for the beach or near-beach landscaping. Keep in mind that some salt tolerant plants are not suited for the full sun environment of actual beach landscaping. Read on to find our picks for your salt tolerant plant needs.
Florida Salt Tolerant Plants
Many plants which are salt tolerant grow well in Florida’s warm climate. Chinese Windmill Palm, Trachycarpus fortunei, is an excellent Florida landscaping choice. When younger, the Chinese Windmill palm has a shrub-like appearance but becomes a single-trunked palm tree with a furry or hairy appearance to the trunk. Salt and drought tolerant, this palm is an easy to care for favorite.
Salt Tolerant Perennials
Ornamental grasses like maiden grass are some of the fastest-growing and low-maintenance perennials to use in dry or salty conditions. Miscanthus sinensis ‘Gracillimus’ can grow six feet tall or more and is tolerant of all but direct-spray salt conditions. It has a spreading habit and provides year-round visual interest.
‘Lynwood Gold’ Forsythia is a perennial flowering shrub that is fast-growing and tolerant of salt air. Hardy in USDA zones 4-8, you have likely noticed its yellow flowers in early spring or crimson fall foliage. It is a great option for privacy plantings as well.
Salt Tolerant Ground Covers
Ground cover plants are just the thing to blanket an area with spreading, green foliage that is low maintenance. The Japanese plum yew is a slow-growing, low and mounding evergreen suitable for ground cover in mass plantings. It is salt tolerant and, once established, drought tolerant as well.
For a native, colorful look with year-round interest, check out dwarf Pink Muhly grass. Relatively fast-growing and drought tolerant, Muhlenbergia capillaris is easy to grow and creates a billowy, airy display in mass plantings.
Salt Tolerant Privacy Hedges
If you are looking for a slower-growing shrub to make a privacy hedge that won’t take a lot of annual maintenance, the Podocarpus Pringles dwarf is a cultivar of Podocarpus macrophyllus worth checking out. Evergreen, with small blue to purple berries in the fall, it can be an excellent choice for lining a driveway or sidewalk in areas where salt spray or salt air can be an issue.
Our Japanese Boxwood shrub is excellent for a salt tolerant, thick, evergreen privacy hedge. Space them closely to develop a hedge quickly and mulch new plantings well.We hope these provided some options for your salt tolerant landscaping. Check out our blog on Salt Tolerant Plants for more information.