Les’s Notes

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Salt Tolerant Plants

(˜ denotes plants that are especially salt tolerant)

(∆ denotes plants that are especially tolerant of occasional salt flooding)

(◊ denotes plants that tolerate wet conditions and/or occasional brackish flooding)



Celtis occidentalis – Common Hackberry

  • native
  • not the prettiest tree, but has an interesting habit and is very tolerant of poor soil, drought, occasional floods, wind, and urban conditions
  • beneficial to native wildlife
  • 40-60’ tall and wide, older with age, fast

Diospyros virginiana – Common Persimmon

  • native
  • known for its attractive, edible fruit
  • moderately slow to 35-60’ tall by 20-35’ wide
  • can get good fall color
  • tolerates sandy soil, tidal flooding, wind, and beachfront conditions


Ginkgo biloba – Ginkgo or Maidenhair Tree

  • living fossil
  • great fall color
  • male vs. female
  • 50-80’ tall by 30-40’ wide, variable
  • long lived, tolerant of wind, salt, occasional flooding, and nuclear warfare

Gleditsia triacanthos – Thornless Common Honeylocust ˜

  • native
  • grows quickly to 30-70’ tall with equal width, open spreading crown, light enough to grow grass under
  • drought and very salt tolerant, beachfront and occasional tidal flooding

Juniperus virginiana – Eastern Redcedar ˜∆

  • native, evergreen blue-green foliage
  • strong wood
  • females have attractive blue fruit
  • slowly to 40-50’ tall by 8-20’
  • long-lived, tolerant of drought, marsh, sand, salt, tidal flooding, and beachfront conditions

Magnolia grandiflora – Southern Magnolia

  • native, evergreen
  • beautiful fragrant white flowers in late spring to early summer
  • one of my favorite trees in other people’s gardens, messy
  • 60-80’ tall by 30-50’ wide, slow to medium
  • tolerant of wind, occasional salt flooding, full sun to partial shade, long-lived

Magnolia virginiana – Sweetbay Magnolia

  • native, deciduous to evergreen depending on variety
  • creamy white fragrant flowers in late spring
  • not as messy as So. Magnolia
  • moderately fast, variable size 20-60 tall
  • will grow in sun to a fair amount of shade, tolerant of brackish flooding

Hardy Palms

  • Rhapidophyllum hystrix – Needle Palm
  • Sabal minor – Dwarf Palmetto˜
  • Trachycarpus fortunei – Windmill Palm

Pinus taeda – Loblolly Pine

  • native, evergreen
  • 60-90’ tall, fast
  • tolerant of occasional tidal flooding and salt spray, poor and sandy soils

Pinus thungbergii – Japanese Black Pine ˜

  • dark green foliage on artistically arranged branches, no two grow alike
  • 20-40’ tall and wide, though variable and can get bigger
  • prefers coastal conditions, tolerant of sandy soil, salt spray, and beachfront conditions

Quercus phellos – Willow Oak ˜

  • native
  • small willow-like leaves, variable fall color
  • 40-60’ tall by 30-40’ wide, but larger with considerable age
  • tolerant of many conditions including salt, near-beachfront, and occasional flooding

Quercus virginiana – Live Oak ˜∆

  • native, evergreen but drops leaves in spring
  • distinctive horizontal branching
  • slow to 40-80’ tall by 60-100’ wide, rarely reaches full size in SE Virginia
  • tolerant of sandy soil, occasional tidal flooding, beachfront conditions, and salt spray

 Robinia pseudoacacia – Black Locust

  • native
  • very fragrant, wisteria-like, white flowers in mid-spring
  • grows quickly to 30-50’ tall by 20-35’ wide
  • tolerant of salt, sandy soil, and occasional flooding

Taxodium distichum – Bald Cypress

  • native
  • 50-70’ tall by 20-30’ wide
  • bright green needled growth goes russet in fall
  • extremely tolerant of flooding soils, brackish water, also normal soil, extremely wind tolerant
  • cypress knees

Vitex agnus-castus – Vitex, Chaste Tree

  • small tree or large shrub depending on how it is treated
  • blue flowers in early summer, deadhead for fall bloom
  • bees love it
  • interesting history
  • grows moderately fast to 15 tall and wide, or more
  • very drought tolerant, will grow in sand, tolerates beachfront conditions
  • NEVER plant Vitex rotundifolia (Beach Vitex), very invasive



Aronia melanocarpa – Black Chokeberry

  • native
  • white flowers in spring, near-black fruit in fall attracts birds, great fall foliage
  • 3-6’ tall and wide, dwarf selections available
  • tolerant of salt, drought, and wet

 Baccharis halimifolia – Saltbush, Groundsel Shrub ˜∆ ◊

  • native
  • fleecy white clouds of flowers in late summer
  • 5-12’ tall and wide, moderate
  • tolerant of regular salt flooding, and marshy soils, will also grow in other poor soils

Clethra alnifolia – Clethra, Summersweet, Sweet Pepperbush

  • native
  • fragrant white flowers in early summer, pink available too, attractive to native pollinators
  • nice yellow fall color
  • 4-8’ tall, can spread wider, makes colonies
  • prefers partial shade, in moist to occasionally wet soils, salt tolerant, can grow by marsh edge

 Cupressus sempervirens – Italian Blue Cypress

  • blue green foliage, evergreen
  • grows 20-30 tall by 2-3’ wide, should be staked when young
  • very drought tolerant, can take beachfront conditions

Eleagnus x ebbingei – Silverberry Eleagnus

  • evergreen
  • silver foliage
  • fragrant ivory flowers in late fall, olive to red fruit, birds like
  • grows quickly 8-10’ tall and wide
  • very drought, salt and sand tolerant, does well in beachfront conditions
  • other species also do well in coastal conditions but there is potential invasiveness from this genus

Euonymus fortunei – Wintercreeper Euonymus

  • evergreen, usually variegated with several combinations, different winter color
  • grow quickly to 4-12” tall depending on variety by several feet wide, will climb if given the opportunity
  • will grow in sun or shade, tolerant of dry soils and sand, salt tolerant, does not like swampy soil

Euonymus japonicus – Japanese Euonymus

  • evergreen, usually variegated
  • grows moderately fast to 6 tall and wide, depending of variety, dwarfs available
  • will grow in sun to shade, adaptable to soils, salt, and oceanfront tolerant
  • scale insects can be an issue

Hydrangea macrophylla – Bigleaf Hydrangea

  • beautiful flowers in late spring to early summer, flower color pH dependent
  • grows moderately fast to 4-6’ tall and wide depending on variety
  • prefers partial shade, thrives in coastal atmospheres, not drought tolerant

Ilex glabra – Inkberry Holly

  • native, evergreen
  • dark green foliage, black berries
  • tolerant of wet soils, flooding, salt, full sun to fair shade

Ilex vomitoria – Yaupon Holly ˜∆ ◊

  • native, evergreen
  • females have red berries
  • grows moderately to 15-20’ tall by 10’ wide, dwarf and weeping forms common
  • very adaptable, sun to mod. shade, tolerant of wet or dry, salt spray, and occasional flooding

Juniperus species – Juniper

  • evergreen, different foliage colors
  • growth habit is size depends on species and cultivars
  • tolerant of dry soil, sand, salt spray

Ligustrum lucidum, L. japonicum – Waxleaf Ligustrum, Japanese Privet

  • evergreen
  • white flowers in early summer, fragrant?
  • grows quickly to 10-20 tall by less wide depending on species
  • full sun to shade, adaptable, tolerant of salt spray, occasional flooding, once established drought tolerant, can take heavy pruning, potential invasiveness, never plant sinense (Chinese Privet)

Morella cerifera – Wax Myrtle ˜∆ ◊

  • native, evergreen (except in severe winters)
  • females have gray fruit some birds like
  • grows moderately to 10-15’ tall and wide, can be kept shorter with pruning or limbed up to make a small tree
  • full sun to part shade, tolerant of oceanfront conditions, standing water either fresh of brackish

Nerium oleander – Oleander ˜

  • evergreen, but suffers badly in severe winters
  • beautiful flowers in summer, several colors
  • in SE Va. only reaches 6-8 tall, larger further south
  • very drought tolerant, salt tolerant, heat tolerant, and does well in beachfront conditions
  • very poisonous

Opuntia – Prickly Pear Cactus ˜

  • native (believe it or not)
  • large evergreen pads, yellow flowers, burgundy red fruits, edible, thorny
  • extremely tolerant of salt and drought

Pittosporum tobira – Japanese Pittosporum, Mockorange ˜

  • evergreen, some variegated
  • very fragrant white flowers in spring
  • grows slowly to 6-8 tall, rarely reaches full size in SE Va., dwarf forms available
  • very heat, drought, salt and beachfront tolerant, not tolerant of severe winters, best left for Norfolk and Beach or in a sheltered, yet sunny location

 Pyracantha koidzumi and P. coccinea – Pyracantha

  • evergreen, white flowers in spring, red to orange berries in fall
  • moderately fast 6-18’ tall and wide depending on variety, shrub with a vine-like habit
  • tolerant of dry soil, occasional flooding

Raphiolepis indica – Indian Hawthorn ˜

  • evergreen, white to pink flowers in spring, black fall fruit
  • most varieties grow mod. slow to 3-4’ tall and wide, larger sizes available
  • full to part sun, very drought, heat and salt tolerant, can take beachfront conditions, disease issues

Rosa rugosa˜

  • flowers in late spring through summer, usually hot pink but white and other colors available, attractive rose hips
  • very tolerant of salt, sand, heat, and beachfront conditions

Tamarix ramosissima – Tamarix, Saltcedar

  • unusual pink feathery flowers in spring
  • blue green foliage
  • very tolerant of salt, sand, and beachfront conditions
  • invasive in some states

Yucca species ˜

  • native evergreen
  • tall white flower stalks in early summer
  • very drought, salt, sand, and heat tolerant, beachfront



Campsis radicans – Trumpet Vine ∆ ◊

  • native
  • trumpet shaped orange-red flowers in summer
  • vigorous and rampant, 30-40’ tall or more
  • can take occasional flooding and beachfront conditions, late to leaf out, loves heat


Gelsemium sempervirens – Carolina Jessamine

  • native
  • bright yellow, very fragrant in late March
  • evergreen twining vine to 10-20’ tall, vigorous
  • full sun to pt. shade, can take occasional flooding, beachfront conditions, does not like to get too dry

Lonicera sempervirens – Coral or Trumpet Honeysuckle

  • native
  • orange red to red flowers have a yellow to orange throat, trumpet shaped and attracts humming birds
  • reddish purple new foliage, deciduous in cold winters, semi-evergreen in mild ones
  • grows quickly to 10-20’ tall
  • full sun to shade, more flowers in sun, tolerant of heat and humidity, occasional flooding

Parthenocissus quinquefolia – Virginia Creeper

  • native
  • new leaves are bronzy green, great fall color purple to red
  • extremely vigorous, tolerant of beachfront conditions, sand, salt flooding, tough!

Passiflora incarnata – Purple Passion Vine

  • very showy blue flowers in late spring through summer
  • vigoruous, grows quickly to 30’ tall
  • full sun to pt. shade, tolerant of beachfront conditions, and occasional flooding



Cortaderia selloana – Pampas Grass

  • large white plumes in late summer
  • light green foliage
  • can grow to 8’ tall and wide, or more, dwarf forms available
  • tolerant of beachfront conditions, sand, and drought

Leymus arenarius – Dune Grass, Lyme Grass ˜

  • steely blue foliage
  • 3-4’ tall and wide
  • tolerant of sun to pt. shade, occasional flooding, drought, very salt tolerant
  • can be invasive

 Miscanthus species – Maiden Grass

  • graceful thin foliage (some variegated) and attractive flowers in late summer
  • several varieties and sizes available
  • tolerant of oceanfront conditions sand and drought, but responds well to good care
  • potential invasiveness

Panicum virgatum – Switch Grass

  • native
  • attractive foliage in several colors, nice plumes
  • 3-6’ tall
  • tolerant of beachfront, sand, full sun, drought, and occasional flood

Spartina patens – Saltmeadow Cordgrass ˜∆

  • native
  • bright green foliage in summer, goes golden in fall
  • requires regular tidal flooding to thrive, exceptionally salt tolerant
  • alterniflora – Saltmarsh Cordgrass, taller



Agapanthus africanus – Lily of the Nile

  • bold strap-like foliage
  • to dark blue, white flowers in summer
  • very tolerant of drought, heat, salt and occasional flooding, not for reg. wet areas


  • bold tropical foliage comes in many colors and variations
  • big colorful flowers
  • need consistent moisture

Delosperma cooperii – Ice Plant

  • fleshy succulent foliage
  • bright purple flowers most of the spring summer and into fall
  • very drought tolerant

 Dianthus gratianopolitanus – Cheddar Pink

  • low grower with attractive silvery blue foliage
  • magenta, pink, white, to red flowers in late spring, sporadic into summer
  • very heat, drought, salt and sand tolerant, needs good drainage

Echinacea purpurea – Purple Coneflowers

  • native
  • pink flowers in late spring through summer, unusual cones, good food source for birds
  • tolerant of occasional flooding

Eryngium aquaticum – Marsh Rattlesnake Master

  • southeastern native
  • blue sea-holly-like flowers summer into fall, attractive foliage
  • 3-4 tall by half as wide
  • likes wet feet, including brackish water

Gaillardia – Blanketflower ˜

  • native
  • colorful summer flowers, oranges red and yellow
  • very tolerant of drought, salt, sand and beachfront conditions, occasional flooding
  • not tolerant of poor drainage or too much water

Hemerocallis – Daylily ˜

  • multiple colors available, easy to grow
  • tolerant of beachfront conditions, but respond well to good moisture and care, tolerant of occasional flooding

Hibiscus moscheutos – Common Rose Mallow

  • native
  • large pink, red to white blooms in late summer
  • tolerant of salt, occasional flooding, and moist to wet soils
  • late to emerge in spring

Kosteletzkya virginica – Seashore Mallow ˜∆ ◊

  • native
  • large pink to white flowers in summer
  • tolerant of standing brackish water, salt, and flooding

 Lavendula stoechas – Spanish or French Lavender

  • evergreen foliage is a silvery blue-green, very fragrant
  • pale purple flowers in late spring
  • tolerant of heat, sand and beachfront conditions, not tolerant of poor drainage, heavy mulch, or very rich soil

Leucanthemum – Becky Daisy

  • easy to grow with show white flowers with yellow centers
  • tolerant of heat, sand, and beachfront conditions, not tolerant of poor drainage

Limonium carolinianum – Carolina Sea Lavender

  • native
  • wispy blue/purple flowers in summer
  • tolerant of beachfront conditions or marshy soil, very salt tolerant

Nepeta – Catmint

  • aromatic silver green foliage
  • flower color can be blue, lavender, white to rose
  • drought tolerant, attracts bees, butterflies, hummingbirds – deer resistant

Perovskia atriplicifolia – Russian Sage

  • handsome silver foliage and blue flowers
  • tolerant of sand, beachfront conditions, and drought

Rosmarinus officinalis – Rosemary ˜

  • aromatic edible foliage, blue flowers in winter
  • tolerant of beachfront conditions, sand, heat, and drought, not tolerant of poor drainage, and overly rich soil

Rudbeckia fulgida – Blackeyed Susan

  • native
  • black and gold flowers in summer
  • tolerant of beachfront conditions, heat, sand, and drought

Santolina chamaecyparissus – Santolina, Lavender Cotton ˜

  • very aromatic foliage can be green or silver, yellow flowers
  • very tolerant of heat, drought, sand, salt, and beachfront conditions

Sedum x ‘Autumn Joy’

  • fleshy, silvery green foliage, pink flowers in late summer, good winter interest
  • tolerant of beachfront conditions, drought, sand, and salt
  • many other sedums would fit the bill as well

Sempervivum – Hens and Chicks

  • unusual fleshy foliage, occasional flowers are bizarre
  • tolerant of beachfront conditions, sand, salt, heat and drought, do not overwater or put in really rich soil

Solidago sempervirens – Seaside Goldenrod ˜∆

  • native
  • golden yellow flowers late in summer to early fall
  • tolerant of beachfront conditions, heat, drought, sand, and occasional flooding
  • canadensis is also very good

 Stachys byzantina – Lamb’s Ear

  • grown primarily for silvery foliage that is nice to touch
  • tolerant of beachfront conditions and sand, not tolerant of poor drainage, and overly rich soil

Symphyotrichum species – Aster

  • Native
  • several species, colorful flowers, usually in late summer or early fall
  • tolerant of occasional flooding

Tradescantia pallida – Purple Heart

  • grown primarily for its fleshy purple foliage
  • small pink flowers
  • tolerant of drought, heat, and beachfront conditions

Tulbaghia violacea – Society Garlic

  • violet pink flowers in late summer
  • attractive foliage, unpleasant aroma
  • tolerant of heat, drought, and beachfront conditions



Begonia x semperflorens-cultorum – Wax Begonias

  • fleshy bronze (sun) or green foliage (shade), white, pink or red flowers

 Coreopsis – Coreopsis, Tickseed

  • self-seeding annuals, or short lived perennials
  • yellow flowers most of the summer

Cosmos bipinnatus – Cosmos

  • tall pink, white, purple flowers in summer to fall

Gazania – South African Daisy

  • multiple colors, oranges, yellows and whites
  • very heat, drought and sand tolerant

Lantana ˜

  • many color combinations
  • heat, drought, sand and beachfront tolerant
  • discuss Miss Huff

Portulaca – Purslane, Moss Rose

  • low groundcover in multiple colors, fleshy foliage
  • very heat, drought, sand and salt tolerant

Senecio cineraria – Dusty Miller

  • grown primarily for its silver foliage
  • heat, drought, sand and tolerant of beachfront conditions
  • sometimes perennial