Top 10 Most Salt-Tolerant Plants

Top 10 Most Salt-Tolerant Plants

Rosuga rose on beach

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 are the usual suspects - Florida, the Gulf Coast, South Texas and California. Then there are 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 leached 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 saltwater tolerant plants and road salt-tolerant plants - on the market.

Best Salt-Tolerant Plants

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 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. These high-salt tolerance plants work great as an evergreen hedge, with tiny flowers and a spicy fragrance. Use these for coastal landscapes or tucked into a cottage garden in the heartland.

5) Cotoneaster (Integerrimus)

With a distinctive 'structured-but-wild' look, this hard-working groundcover looks great all year, from spring leaves to fall berries. If you’re garden is in full sun or partial shade, this is the workhorse for you.

6) Blueberry/Cranberry (Vaccinium spp.)

There aren't very many salt-tolerant fruit trees, but if it's the fruit you're after you can't beat these guys for fruit production. Try a Highbush like Bluecrop or Jersey which are hardy from USDA hardiness zones 4 to 7 or a Rabbiteye variety for those of you located in the southern states. These are often extremely adaptable, productive, and pest tolerant. 

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. Plant a line along your property and use them as a windbreak or plant one and make it a shady destination right in your backyard. 

8) Mugo Pine (Pinus mugo)

This mounding landscape evergreen conifer is a highlight in the landscape all year long. Hardy from zones 3-7, it makes for a fantastic foundation plant all across the United States. Plus, the deer don’t seem to bother it!

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 just about any conceivable color of the rainbow so there’s definitely one that’ll match your garden.

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.

best salt tolerant plants

Adding salt-tolerant plants to your garden can be a great way to introduce some diversity and resilience to your outdoor space. These plants are able to withstand salty soil conditions that may be inhospitable to other types of plants, making them a smart choice for coastal or urban gardens. 

Whether you're looking to add a pop of color with a salt-tolerant flower like bee balm monarda or want to incorporate some edible options like blueberries, there's a salt-tolerant plant out there for every garden. With a little bit of research and planning, you can easily incorporate these hardy plants into your garden and enjoy their beauty and benefits for years to come.

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