24 Top Salt-Tolerant Plants for Coastal and Roadside Landscaping

Salty soils do not mix with most plants, except for those that are salt-tolerant. Sandy soils near the beach retain less water and nutrients compared to less porous soils. An excess of salt spray carried by the wind also prevents plants from properly absorbing water. Salt damage can manifest as leaf burning, leaf drop or plant death. Salt-tolerant plants are the solution for beach communities, homeowners who have roadside gardens and towns that use salted ice melters in winter. Here are 24 salt-tolerant annuals, perennials and shrubs that can withstand saltwater or brine.

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01

Coleus (Plectranthus scrtellarioides)
Closeup of red and yellow flowers with colus freckles

Coleus is an attractive bedding plant that is shorter and has tiny flowers. It is grown for its colorful, wildly-patterned leaves. Each leaf is unique, as if it were tie-dyed. The plant can adapt to a variety of environmental conditions, making it ideal for areas with salty air. The coleus plant is a tropical one that dislikes frost. It prefers to be brought indoors and in pots during the winter. The fast-growing coleus can be toxic to animals.

USDA Hardiness Zones 10-11; treated as an annual in northern zones
Flower color varieties: Blue and White (insignificant).
Shade: Light to dark
Soil Needs: Rich, moist, loose
Mature Size: 6 to 36 in. Height and width
Deer Resistant: Yes
02

Bougainvillea Vines
bougainvillea shrub

Bougainvilleas are unique in that they don’t have flowers. The bracts are modified leaves which are large and papery at the stem. Bougainvillea’s bracts, which are larger than the flowers, come in different shades, including red, pink and white. They also come in purple, orange and yellow. These fast-growing vines are trained to grow wild on pergolas, arbors and trellises.
USDA Hardiness Zones 9-11
Flower Color Varieties Off-white and yellow; bracts add color
Light: Full Sun, light Shade
Soil needs: moist, well-drained
Mature Size: 15-40 ft. tall, equal spread
Deer Resistant: Yes
03

Winterberry Holly (Ilex Verticillata).
Winterberry with red berries.

Winterberry holly and other shrubs can give your yard more visual interest throughout the year. Winterberry holly is more impressive in the autumn, when it’s emerald-green leaves and bright red berries are at their best. The berries will wrinkle in the winter due to cold temperatures. The best way to produce berries is in full sun. Winterberry holly grows well in salty soils because it can grow on almost any kind of soil. However, the berries are toxic to humans, dogs, and cats.

USDA Hardiness Zones 3-9
Flower Color Varieties Greenish White (insignificant).
Full sun
Soil needs: moist, well-drained
Mature Size: 3-15 ft. tall
Deer Resistant: No
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04

Pin Oaks (Quercus palustris)
Pin oak leaves in autumn.

Pin oaks are among the oak trees that tolerate salt. They’re perfect for areas with high temperatures, such as coastal regions and northern regions. Pin oaks are ideal for providing shade because of their height. The 5-inch leaves have multiple lobes and are usually glossy green. However, they turn deep red in the autumn to create a beautiful landscape. Pin oaks are so named because they often have lower branches that protrude from their trunks. When they fall off, these limbs leave sharp, pointy stubs. The pin oak is a fast growing tree. It’s best to prune it in winter, when the trees are dormant.

USDA Hardiness Zones 4-8
Flower Color Varieties: n/a
Light: Full Sun
Soil Needs : Average, but can tolerate some moist soil
Mature Size: 70 ft. tall, equal spread
Deer Resistant: No
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05

Daylilies (Hemerocallis spp.)
Close-up of orange-petalled slider daylilies

They can tolerate heavy clay or light sand soils, and they even grow well in droughts and flooding. They can be seen growing along the roadside even if they were not originally planted because their clumps spread rapidly. Yellow Stella D’oro is a perennial that thrives in full sunlight. Daylilies are available in many shades of pink, red, orange and purple. They can be solid colors, or patterns with stamens that have different colors, or even polychrome patterns.

USDA Hardiness Zones 3-10
Flower color varieties: shades of pink, purple and red to yellow-orange
Light: Tolerates some shade but full sun
Soil Needs: Medium loamy soil
Mature Size: 8 inches To 5 ft. tall
Deer Resistant: No
06

Moss Rose (Portulaca grandiflora)
multi-colored portulaca

The moss rose is a creeping annual with a wide range of color flowers. It tolerates drought well and grows quickly. This succulent grows to only a few inches but covers the ground. The plant’s toughness makes it ideal for salty environments, but its flowers look like miniature roses with their ruffled petals. Unfortunately, these adorable flowers are toxic to cats and dogs.

USDA Hardiness Zones 2-11
Flower Color Varieties : White, orange yellow, red pink
Light: Full
Sandy soils that drain well
Height: 6-24 in. tall, 6-24 in. Wide: 6-24 in.
Deer Resistant: Yes
07

Bee Balm
Cluster of Bee Balm Flowers with Light Purple Flower Heads near Boulder in Sunlight

Bee balm can be used for more than just an attractive plant with tubular fiery flowers. It is also a herb that is used to make tea or treat bee stings. Avoid planting it near areas with high foot traffic, as it will attract bees. Its minty scent repels deer. Some bee balm cultivars grow and spread faster than others. Bee balm can tolerate extreme temperatures and is therefore ideal for harsh or salty conditions.

USDA Hardiness Zones 3-9
Flower color varieties: scarlet red, pink light-purple and white
Light: Full sun or partial shade
Moisture, loam, and well-drained soil are the best types of soil.
Dwarf Size: 10-15 in. Mature Size: Dwarf 10-15 in. Standard 2-4 ft. high and 3-4 ft.
Deer Resistant: Yes
08

Ivy Geraniums (Pelargonium peltatum)
Plants with circular leaves and small flowers in pink, white and red that resemble geraniums.

Ivy Geraniums are low maintenance, grow quickly in warm weather and have prolific blooms. They come in many colors and can be used to make hanging baskets for annuals in the northern regions. This plant can tolerate salty air and strong winds in coastal areas. This plant can tolerate average humidity, but if your area has exceptionally hot summers you may want to choose a heat-resistant variety, like ‘Royal Amethyst’, which is a lilac flowering early bloomer. Ivy Geraniums can be planted as groundcovers or they can grow densely and more shrubby.

USDA Hardiness Zones 9-10
Flower color varieties: pink, red, salmon and white
Light: Full Sun
Soil needs: moist, well-drained
Mature Size: 12-30 in. Height: 12 to 30 in.
Deer Resistant:
09

Shrub Verbenas (Lantana camara)
Ground cover lantana flowers

Lantana, a salt-tolerant and fast-growing shrub that looks more like a plant, is resilient. The multicolored clusters are small, dainty and brightly colored flowers that can be used as groundcover or in hanging planters. It is often found in warmer coastal climates with more sunny days than cloudy ones. Lantana can be toxic to animals.

USDA Hardiness Zones 7a-11a
Flower color varieties: mix of red, yellow, orange, blue, white and pink
Light: Full Sun
Soil needs: well-drained
Mature Size: Up to 6 feet high and wide as a perennial
Deer Resistant: Yes
10

Prickly Pear Cactus
Cacti prickly pear

The prickly pear looks delicate, but is actually a very hardy perennial. This plant is characterized by flat, paddle-like stalks with narrow spines and cheerful yellow flowers. It’s a good choice for rock gardens near roadsides and the seashore. It is drought-tolerant, prefers dry, warm weather and can tolerate cold temperatures.

USDA Hardiness Zones 4-9
Flower Color Varieties: Yellow
Full sun
Sandy soils that drain well
Mature Size: 6-18 inches Height: 6-18 in.
Deer Resistant: Yes
11

Creeping Juniper (Juniperus horizontalis)
Juniperus horizontalis

Bar Harbor juniper belongs to the creeping junipers. It is an evergreen shrub which grows quickly and forms a dense groundcover that suppresses weeds. The horizontal branches of the Bar Harbor juniper are soft, but not comfortable for barefoot walking. However, it looks beautiful in rock gardens, and can control erosion. This plant is drought-tolerant and adaptable, and thrives in poor soils such as shifting rocky or sandy. It’s a great candidate for coastal areas of the north.

USDA Hardiness Zones 3-9
Flower Color Varieties: n/a
Full sun
Well-drained soil is best for planting.
Mature Size: 1 ft. tall, 5 ft. spread
Deer Resistant: Yes
12

English Ivy
Wrapped around a tree with english ivy

In some places, English ivy is a invasive plant. It’s an evergreen groundcover and climber. It’s toxic for people and animals, which is another downside of English ivy. Planting English ivy near salty areas has many benefits. Its dense carpet of emerald green leaves, which is thick, strong and almost indestructible, can reduce hill erosion. This salt- and drought-tolerant, hardy plant thrives in coastal areas. It can even survive near roadsides that are soaked with winter’s brine.

USDA Hardiness Zones 4-9
Flower Color Varieties: Greenish (insignificant)
Light: partial to full shade
Fertile soils and moist soils are best.
Mature Size: 6-8 inches tall, 15 ft. spread
Deer Resistant: No
13

Lilyturf
liriope grass

Instead of using English ivy, use lilyturf to cover the ground in areas where salt tolerance is required. It is tough, drought resistant, and controls weeds. Lilyturf spreads quickly and aggressively. It produces a carpet-like grass-like turf.

USDA Hardiness Zones 4-10
Flower Color Varieties : White and lavender
Light: Partial Shade
Sandy soils with good drainage
Height: 12-24 in. tall, 12-24 in. spread
Deer Resistant: Yes
14

Wall Germander (Teucrium chamaedrys)
Wall germander with clumps of leaves and light purple flowers

Wall germander is a subshrub that has a minty scent and a delicate texture. It’s a great alternative to other salt-tolerant ground covers. It attracts bees and spreads, preventing erosion in rocky areas. It prefers to grow in dry, warm, coastal areas, rather than humid, rainy ones, because wall germander is a native of the Mediterranean Basin.

USDA Hardiness Zones 5-9
Pink, purple and lavender are the three most common flower colors.
Light: Full Sun
Soil needs: Well-drained, dry to medium moisture soil
Mature Size: 1 ft. tall
Deer Resistant: Yes
15

Virginia Creeper Vines (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)
Virginia Creeper growing on a fence

Virginia creeper is a hardy and aggressive plant that is native to North America. It can tolerate all soil types and even survive the harshest winters. This means that roadside slush will not harm the plant’s spring comeback. It’s one of the best for fall color, as its leaves turn reddish. It will grow and adhere to any building that it is in contact with, so be sure to plant it there, or on a sturdy trellis or pergola. The vine is also used to control erosion. The vine is toxic for humans.

USDA Hardiness Zones 4-9
Flower Color Varieties: Greenish-white
Light: Full sun or partial shade
Sand, clay and loamy soils are all suitable for soils.
Mature size: 30-50 ft.
Deer Resistant: No
16

Staghorn Sumac
Staghorn sumac with tall branches and walls of red, yellow, green and green leaves

Sumacs have colorful foliage in the fall, including non-poisonous Staghorn Sumac. It is a shrubby, almost tree-like plant with reddish brown velvety hairs covering its branches. They resemble deer antlers in appearance and feel. It has tiny, reddish-brown flowers in the summer that transform into bright berries. This fast-growing plant can withstand the salt sprays that are often sprayed on roadside plants. Use it to create privacy screens and control erosion in open areas and heavy trafficked areas.

USDA Hardiness Zones 4-8
Flower Color Varieties Greenish-yellow
Light: Full Sun
Soil needs: moist and well-drained
Mature Size: 18-35 ft. tall
Deer Resistant: No
17

Rosa Rugosa
rugosa roses

Rosa rugosa has a rugged and salt-tolerant nature that makes it aptly named “beach rose.” You can see this beach rose in all directions on Cape Cod’s coast, from the dunes along the beach to the cottage picket fencing. It’s important to plant this easy-to grow rose in a thorny area. It will produce single or double clusters with fragrant, pretty blooms wherever you plant it.

USDA Hardiness Zones 2-7
Pink, red lavender and white are the most common flower colors.
Light: Part shade, full sun
Soil needs: Rich and well-drained
Mature Size: 4-8 ft. tall, 4-6 ft. spread
Deer Resistant: Yes
18

Bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica)
Bayberry

The bayberry shrub, known for its candles and soaps, can tolerate sandy or salty soils. It thrives in a variety of environments, from dry to damp and boggy. The silvery berries of this plant are resistant to freezing temperatures, adding a delicate texture to winter landscapes. It can grow quite tall without pruning, but this is not something you do often.

USDA Hardiness Zones 3-7
Flower Color Varieties Yellowish-green
Light: Part shade, full sun
Soil needs: dry to moist and well-drained
Mature Size: 10 ft. tall
Deer Resistant: Yes
19

Adam’s Needle (Yucca filamentosa)
Adam’s Needle

Adam’s needle looks more like a plant from the Southwest than it does in colder regions, such as New England. This broadleaf, evergreen plant with its spiky leaves has naturalized in the fields and sandy beaches of the Southeast. This salt-tolerant, stemless shrub is found along the coast and on roadsides. Adam’s needle can be toxic to humans and animals.

USDA Hardiness Zones 5-10
Flower Color Varieties White
Light: Full Sun
Soil needs: Well-drained, dry to medium moisture soil
Mature Size: 4-8 ft. tall, 2-3-ft. spread
Deer Resistant: Yes
20

White Oak (Quercus Alba)
White oak branches with glossy, large-lobed leaves

The white oak is a majestic tree with a short trunk and wide, reaching limbs. They form rounded crowns. These trees are highly beneficial to wildlife of all kinds. Although they do not have the same spectacular fall color as other oaks (reddish brown), white oaks and red oaks are very durable, adaptable and pollution-tolerant. They can be used as “street trees”, which must endure a slurry in winter.

USDA Hardiness Zones 3-9
Yellowish-green
Light: Full Sun
Soil needs: rich, moist, drains well, loamy
Mature Size: 60-100 ft. tall, 50-90 ft. wide
Deer Resistant: No
21

Red Oak (Quercus rubra)
Red oak with orange and light green leaves against blue skies

The shade canopy of the red oak is larger than that of pin oaks. The fall color of red oaks is spectacular with their rich, vibrant leaves. Red oaks are often used as a roadside tree, especially because they can tolerate salt and pollution.

USDA Hardiness Zones 4-8
Flower Color Varieties Yellowish-green
Full sun
Needs for soil: fertile, sandy, draining, well-drained
Mature Size: 50-75 ft. tall, 50-75 ft. wide
Deer Resistant: No
22

Sunburst Honey Locusts
The branches of the honey locust tree with yellow-green panicles and bright green leaves resemble ferns.

Sunburst Honey Locust is a classic, tough street tree that has fern-like foliage. It can tolerate a variety of difficult conditions including salt, pollution and dry, compacted soil. This particular cultivar is used to line streets as it is thornless and podless. The new leaves of this plant are yellow and fade during the summer, but come back to life in the fall.

USDA Hardiness Zones 4-9
Greenish-yellow
Full sun
Soil Needs: Tolerates most soils
Mature Size: 30-40 feet tall, 40 feet spread
Deer Resistant: Yes
23

Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana)
Close-up of the “berries” (fruit) of Eastern red cedar

Juniperus virginiana is a great choice for an evergreen with branches that grow from the trunk up. It has a reddish brown bark and blue-green cones that are eaten by birds. It will not thrive in moist or rich soil. It will survive in winter sludge and salty roadsides, even if they are gravelly. It’s native to warm areas like Florida and Texas where its dense trees can be used as windbreaks along the coast.

USDA Hardiness Zones 2-9
Flower Color Varieties: n/a
Light: Full Sun
Soil needs: Dry and poor
Mature Size: 30 ft. tall, 8 ft. wide
Deer Resistant: Yes
24

Canary Island Date Palm Trees
Canary Island Palm

Canary Island date trees are one of many palm trees that can tolerate cold temperatures up to 18 degrees Fahrenheit. Luxury property owners prefer it for its dense, luxurious fronds. This tree requires more maintenance than some other salt-tolerant plants. However, it can thrive even when exposed to salt spray.

USDA Hardiness Zones 9-11
Flower Color Varieties: Orange stalks
Full sun
Soil Types: All types of soil, well drained
Mature Size: 40-60 ft. tall, 40 ft. spread
Deer Resistant: Yes


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