salt tolerant plants – Gardening in the Coastal Southeast

Salt Tolerant Plants for the Coastal Garden

I include this list because I recognize the importance of it in the Coastal Southeast. I do not discuss salt tolerance with great confidence, however, because I have not lived on the beach and experienced the particulars first hand. Also, the beach front is a continuum and conditions change rapidly as you move back  from the water’s edge and into wind breaks. In general, a few plants are able to thrive on the beach front, tolerating salt at their roots and the constant spray on their leaves and stems. A somewhat larger group grows a little further back, with less salt in the soil and frequent spray of salt water. The largest group grows at the back of the dunes, just salt tolerant enough to survive occasional salt spray during strong winds and storms. Besides salt tolerance, plants that grow on sandy beaches and dunes must be drought tolerant, too. 

Besides the typical beach front situation, salt may be an issue in landscapes watered with reclaimed water. I have been using reclaimed irrigation for just a few years and am beginning to see damage that seems to be connected to salts in the water. If you are using reclaimed water, my page on Reclaimed Water includes some discussion of the topic and a list of salt-sensitive plants. 

I have relied heavily on references for information on salt tolerant plants. I did not include every species mentioned in these lists. Please click on the links below for more information if you wish to explore this topic further.
     A brochure from Southern Horticulture Nursery in St. Augustine, Florida. 
     Salt Tolerant Plants for Florida, from the University of Florida IFAS publication #ENH26.
     Landscape Plants for the Texas Coast, from Texas A&M Aggie Horticulture on-line

I welcome comments from beach gardeners on this list.

In the list below, the asterisk (*) indicates a Coastal Southeast native.

Acacia farnesiana – sweet acacia*

Aesculus pavia – red buckeye – moderate salt tolerance*

Betula nigra – river birch – moderate salt tolerance*

Bismarckia nobilis – Bismarck palm – moderate salt tolerance

Butia capitata – pindo palm – moderate salt tolerance

Caesalpinia pulcherimma – dwarf poinciana

Callistemon citrinus – bottlebrush – moderate salt tolerance

Cedrus deodara – deodar cedar – moderate salt tolerance

Celtis laevigatus – sugar berry *

Citrus aurantifolia  – Key lime

Cordia boissieri – white Geiger tree – moderate salt tolerance

Cupressus arizonica – Arizona cypress – moderate salt tolerance

Ebanopsis ebano – Texas ebony

Eriobotrya japonica – loquat – moderate salt tolerance

Ficus carica – fig

Ilex cassine – dahoon holly – moderate salt tolerance*

Ilex opaca – American holly*

Ilex vomitoria – yaupon holly*

Illicium parviflora – yellow anise

Juniperus chinensis – Chinese juniper – moderate tolerance

Juniperus virginiana – red cedar – high level of salt tolerance*

Lagerstroemia faurei – Japanese crape myrtle – moderate salt tolerance

Lagerstroemia indica x faurei – common crape myrtle – moderate salt tolerance

Magnolia grandiflora – southern magnolia – moderate salt tolerance*

Muhlenbergia capillaris – purple muhly grass*

Myrcianthes fragrans – Simpson’s stopper*

Nyssa sylvatica – black gum, tupelo – moderate salt tolerance*

Olea europea – olive – moderate salt tolerance

Parkinsonia aculeata – retama, Jerusalem thorn

Phoenix canariensis – Canary Island date palm

Phoenix dactylifera – date palm – high level of salt tolerance

Pinus elliotii – slash pine – moderate salt tolerance*

Platanus occidentalis – sycamore – moderate salt tolerance*

Prunus angustifolia – Chickasaw plum – moderate salt tolerance*

Quercus geminata – sand live oak – high level of salt tolerance*

Quercus phellos – willow oak*

Quercus shumardii – Shumard oak – moderate salt tolerance*

Quercus virginiana – live oak*

Sabal palmetto  – cabbage palm – moderate salt tolerance*

Tabebuia chrysotricha – golden trumpet tree – moderate salt tolerance

Ulmus americana – American elm – moderate salt tolerance

Ulmus crassifolia – cedar elm – moderate salt tolerance*

Zanthoxylon clava-herculis – toothache tree* 

Agave americana – century plant – high level of salt tolerance*

Allagoptera arenarius – seashore palm

Callicarpa americana – beauty berry – high level of salt tolerance*

Callistemon citrinus – lemon bottlebrush

Chamaerops humilis – European fan palm

Erythrina herbacea – Cherokee bean*

Fatsia japonica – Japanese fatsia

Gardenia jasminoides – gardenia

Hamelia patens – fire bush*

Leucophyllum frutescens – Texas sage

Myrcianthes fragrans – Simpson’s stopper – high level of salt tolerance*

Myrica cerifera – wax myrtle – high level of salt tolerance*

Nerium oleander – oleander – high level of salt tolerance

Opuntia stricta and relatives – prickly pear – high level of salt tolerance*

Pittosporum tobira – pittosporum  – high level of salt tolerance

Rhaphiolepis indica – Indian hawthorn

Rosmarinus officinalis – rosemary

Serenoa repens – saw palmetto – high level of salt tolerance*

Sophora tomentosa – necklace pod – high level of salt tolerance*

Strelitzia reginae – bird-of-paradise

Tecoma stans – yellow elder – high level of salt tolerance*

Vitex agnus-castus – chaste tree

Westringia fruiticosa – coast rosemary

Yucca aloifolia – Spanish Bayonet – high level of salt tolerance*

Zamia floridana – coontie*

low-growing plants
Aloe vera – aloe, burn plant

Borrichia frutescens – sea ox-eye daisy

Canavalia rosea – beach bean

Carpobrotus edulis – Hottentot fig

Catharanthus roseus – periwinkle

Croton punctatus – Gulf croton* (see photo below)

Gaillardia pulchella – blanket flower*

Hedera canariensis – Algerian ivy

Helianthus debilis – beach sunflower – high level of salt tolerance*

Ipomoea imperati – beach morning glory 

Ipomoea pres-caprae – railroad vine

Iva imbricata – beach elder*

Juniperus confertus – seashore juniper

Lantana montevidensis – trailing lantana

Liriope muscari – border grass

Monarda punctata – dotted horse balm*

Pentas lanceolata – pentas

Plumbago auriculata – plumbago

Portulaca pilosa – wild portulaca*

Spartina patens – salt marsh cordgrass*

Turnera ulmifolia – buttercup

Uniola paniculata – sea oats – high level of salt tolerance*

Yucca aloifolia – Spanish bayonet 

Yucca filamentosa – yucca, bear grass*

Cynodon dactylon – Bermuda grass – high salt tolerance

Paspalum vaginatum (turf cultivars) – dwarf seaside paspalum – high salt tolerance*

Stenotaphrum secundatum – St. Augustine grass – salt tolerance

vegetables (most have not been tested)
Asparagus officianalis – asparagus

Beta vulgaris – Swiss chard

Brassica rapa – bok choi, turnip – moderate to low salt tolerance (Chinese cabbage tolerance is low)

Brassica carinata – Ethiopian mustard

Cucumis sativa – cucumber – low salt tolerance

Eruca sativa – arugula

Latuca sativa – lettuce – moderate salt tolerance

Ipomoea batatas – sweet potato (varies according to clone)

Solanum lycopersicum – tomato – moderate salt tolerance

Solanum melanogena – eggplant – moderate salt tolerance

Spinacia oleracea – spinach – moderate tolerance of salt

Bougainvillea spp. – bougainvillea

Ficus pumila – creeping fig

Ipomoea imperati – beach morning glory*

Ipomoea pres-caprae – railroad vine – high level of salt tolerance*

Tecoma capensis – Cape honeysuckle

Trachelospermum jasminoides – Cape jasmine