Here at Nature Hills we often get asked about specific plants for specific locations. Some questions we get frequently are, "What kind of plants do well in salty conditions? What are good salt tolerant trees, shrubs, perennials and bushes?"
It's interesting because of the wide range of areas that this question comes from. There's the usual suspects - Florida, the Gulf Coast, South Texas and California. Then there's the not-so-expected places like Minnesota, Chicago and Pennsylvania. Why those places? It's because the salt there isn't salt spray from the ocean, but salt build-up from winter de-icing on the roads. That kind of salt can be just as damaging as ocean spray. When salt lands on the leaves of a plant or is washed into the soil, a process happens where the water in the plant is leeched out by the salt. This eventually kills plants that aren't immune to this process. To help answer the question, we wanted to put together a list of the top salt tolerant plants - both salt water tolerant plants and road salt tolerant plants - on the market.
1) Rugosa or Salt Spray Rose (Rosa rugosa) - These aren't the hybrid teas or long stemmed roses you find in a florist. These are the rough and tumble 'wild' roses found for years in fields and probably in your grandma's garden. They are romantic and old-fashioned. Not only are they salt-tolerant, but you get months of beautiful blooms to boot.
2) Oleander (Oleander nerium) - Another beautiful bloomer, oleanders are so tough they use them in the medians of the fourteen-lane freeways in Los Angeles. If they can stand salt air AND that much traffic abuse, you know they will perform well in your garden.
3) Pittosporum (Pittosporum tobira) - Don't discount the pittosporum family as lowly foundation plants. They have that reputation because they are tough as nails. Try them in mass to block a view in Chicago or to line a path in Palm Beach - these guys are up for the job.
4) Wax Myrtle (Myrica cerifera ) - Also called Bayberry shrubs. Great as an evergreen hedge, with tiny flowers and a spicy fragrance.
5) Cotoneaster (Integerrimus) - With a distinctive 'structured-but-wild' look, this hard working groundcover looks great all year, from spring leaves to fall berries.
6) Blueberry/Cranberry (Vaccinium spp.) - there aren't very many salt tolerant fruit trees, but if it's fruit you're after you can't beat these guys for fruit production.
7) Oak Trees (Quercus ssp.) - White and Red Oaks are champs when it comes to handling salt. They grow thick on both coasts and stand tall for generations.
8) Mugo Pine (Pinus mugo) - This mounding landscape evergreen conifer is a highlight in the landscape all year long.
9) Daylily (Hemerocallis spp.) - The gift that keeps on giving, these beautiful flowering perennials bloom all year in warm climates and provide a heavy summer show in cooler climes. They come in every conceivable color but true blue.
10) Fountain Grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides) - There are very few sights as lovely as tall grasses blowing in the breeze. The salt hardy pennisetum will add motion and beauty to your garden, whether by the beach or the driveway.