Coastal Landscaping with Salt-Tolerant Plants

If you think that the state of Florida offers a wealth of plant material and a good growing environment, you’re right. But try gardening within one-quarter of a mile on the Atlantic or Gulf  saltwater coasts, and you may have problems. Wind carries salt spray inland, leaving salt deposits on plants. Salt causes water to move out of the plants which is called exosmosis. Typically happening on younger leaves of a plant this often results in the burning and loss of leaves in non-salt tolerant plants. Plants damage may also occur from frequent heavy surf and driving rains.

The coastal soil composition also adds to gardening problems. Sand along the coast lacks nutrient organic matter and moisture, holding material. Alkaline soils lock up mineral nutrients needed for plany growth.

Salt tolerance of a plant relates to the ability to grow under conditions of  (1) infertile sandy soils, (2)alkaline soils, (3) high winds, (4) salt spray. The tolerance of a plant to salt can be affected if any of these four conditions become extreme.

Salt-Tolerant plants are highly resistant to salt spray and can be used in environments that are exposed. Many native plants already grow on coastal lands are highly salt- tolerant and could be incorporated into your landscape.

Moderate Salt-Tolerant plants tolerate some salt spray but grow best when they are protected by a fence, building or even plants that are more salt tolerant.

Slightly Salt Tolerant plants have a poor tolerance and should be used by well protected buildings, fences or plants that are more salt tolerant.

When selecting plants for your coastal site, look at more than salt tolerance. Cold weather, light and soil conditions must be factored into your decision on which plants to use. Below you will find a small  list of trees, palms, shrubs, plants, groundcover and vines along with scientific names as well as approximate full growth rate under each catagory of salt tolerant, moderate salt tolerant, slightly salt tolerant.

Salt tolerant trees

Black Olive  (Bucida buceras) 40 feet, Frangipani (Plumeria spp.) 15 feet, Geiger tree (Cordia sebestena) 30 feet, Live oak (Quercus virginiana) 60 feet, Mahogony (Sweet mahogani) 40 feet, Pigeon Plum ( Coccoloba laurifolia) 70 feet,  Satin leaf (Chrysophyllum oliviforme) 30 feet, Tabebuia (Tabebuia argentea) varied heights.

Salt-Tolerent palms

Areca palm (Chrysalidocarpus lutescens) 30 feet, Bottle palm (Hyophorbe spp.) 15 feet, Thatch palm (Thrinax morrisil) 15 feet, Cabbage palm (Sable palmetto) 40 feet,  Canary Island Date Palm (Phoenix dactylifera) 40 feet, Coconut (Cocos nucifera) 40 feet, European Fan Palm (Chamaerops humilis) 10 feet,  Hurricane palm (Dictyosperma album) 40 feet, Lady palm (Rhapis excelsa) 15 feet, Paurotis palm (Acoelorrhaphe wrightii), Saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) 10 feet, Royal palm (Roystonea elata) 50 feet, Washingtonia palm (Washingtonia spp.) 60 feet.

Salt-Tolerant Shrubs

African milk bush (Synadenium grantii) 8 feet, Bay cedar (Suriana maritima) 20 feet, Crown-of-thorns (Euphorbia milii) 3 feet, Inkberry (Scaevola plumieri) 6 feet,  Oleander (Nerium oleander) 15 feet, Pittosporum (Pittosporum tobira) 15 feet, Sea grape (Coccoloba uvifera) 25 feet,Wax Myrtle (Myrica cerifera) 25 feet.

Salt-Tolerant Ground Covers

Confederate jasmine ( Trachelospermum jasminoides) variable height, Coontie (Zamia integrifolia) 24 inches, creeping fig (Ficus pumila) 12 inches, liriope (Lirope spicata), Purslane (Portulaca spp.) 6 inches, Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) variable heights, Weeping lantana (Lantana montevidensis) 18-24 inches

Salt-tolerant vines

Bougainvillea (Bougainvilles spp.) variable heights, Cape honey suckle (Tecomaria capensis) variable heights, Night blooming cereus (Hylocereus undatus) variable heights, Rubber vine (Cryptostegia grandiflora) variable heights

Moderate Salt-Tolerent Trees

Weeping fig (Ficus benjamina) 50 feet, Gumbo-limbo (Bursera simaruba) 60 feet, Dahon (Ilex cassine), Loquat (Eriobotrya japonica) 20 feet, Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) 60 feet, Mango (Mangifera indica) 40 feet, Royal poinciana (Delonix regia) 40 feet, Rubber plant (Ficus elastica) 50 feet

Moderate Salt-Tolerant Plants

Barbados flower fence (Caesalpinia pulcherrima) 15 feet,  Bottle Brush (Callistermon rigidus) 15 feet, Blue sage (Eranthemum pulchellum) 5 feet, Giant milkweed (Calotropis gigantea) 15 feet, Ixora (Ixora coccinea) 15 feet, Jade plant (Crassula argenta) 4 feet,

Moderate Salt-Tolerant Ground Cover

Kalanchoe (Kalanchoe spp.) 24 inches, Blood leaf (Alternanthera spp.) 12 inches, Mexican flame vine (Senecio confusus) 24 inches, Purple queen (Setcreasea pallida) 24 inches, Wandering jew (Zebrina pendula) 6 inches

Moderate Salt-Tolerant Vines

Creeping fig (Ficus pumila) variable height, Pink allamanda (Mandevilla splendens) variable height, Wax plant (hoya carmosa) variable height

Slightly Salt-Tolerant Trees

Coral tree (Erythrina spp.) 25 feet, Golden-shower (Cassia fistula) 35 feet, Jerusalem thorn (Parkinsonia aculeata) 25 feet, Pencil tree (Euphorbia tirucalli) 20 feet, Sweet gum (Liquidambar styraciflua) 50 feet, Yellow poinciana (Peltophorum pterocarpum) 50 feet

Slightly Salt-Tolerant Plants

Arailia (Polyscias spp.) 15 feet, Butterflty bush (Buddleia officinalis) 15 feet, Cooper leaf (Acalypha wikesiana) 15 feet, Coral plant (Jatropha spp.) 10 feet, Crape jasmine (Tabernaemontana divaricata) 10 feet, Crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica) 20 feet, Croton (Codiaeum variegatum) 10 feet, Hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) 15 feet, Japanese privet (Ligustrum japonicum) 15 feet, Pineapple guava (Acca sellowiana) 18 feet, Plumbago (Plumbago auriculata) variable heights, Smow bush (Breynia nivosa) 10 feet, Thryallis (Galphimia glauca) 8 feet, Yellow-elder (Tecoma stans) 15 feet

Slightly Salt-Tolerant Vines

Allamanda (Allamanda spp.) variable heights, Chalice vine (Solandra guttata) variable heights, Downy jasmine (Jasminum multiflorum) variable, Painted trumpet (Clytostoma callistegioides)  variable, Queens wreath (Petrea volubilis) variable,  Star jasmine (Jasminum nitidum) variable heights.