Selecting Plants For Sandy Soil – Learn About Sand Tolerant Plants

By: Tonya Barnett, (Author of FRESHCUTKY)

Whether wishing to grow a beautiful flower garden or createa lush vegetable patch, the process of building and maintaining soil health canbe quite the undertaking. Depending upon where you live, growers may encountera wide range of soil conditions and types. While some soil types can proveproblematic for differing reasons, sandy soil can be especially frustrating.Luckily, there are ways to managesandy soil and, surprisingly, a number of sandy soil plants can eventhrive in these conditions.

Problems with Plants That Grow in Sand

Sandy soils are especially troublesome to gardeners for manyreasons. While well draining and able to prevent root rot in sensitive plants, thisfree-draining soil has great difficulty in retaining moisture and valuablenutrients in the garden. This is especially true in climates that receive hotsummer temperatures. Sandy soil may also become more acidic, requiring balancedapplications of lime to correct the pH levels of the soil.

Although it is possible to the correct the concerns ofgrowing in sandy soils, garden plants that grow in sand will need consistentfertilization and irrigation throughout the growing season. This can be done ona small scale for flower beds and vegetable gardens, but for those wishing tocreate lush landscapes, you may have more success by choosing sandy soil cropsand other naturally sand tolerant plants.

Sandy Soil Plants

Choosing plants for sandy soil may initially feel somewhatlimited, but gardeners can enhance their landscapes through the incorporationof hardy native plants. In general, plants that grow in the sand will requireless maintenance from homeowners as they become established and naturalize inthe landscape. Here are just a few examples of trees and flowers adapted togrowth in sandy soil:

  • Red cedar trees
  • Flowering crabapple trees
  • Gray dogwood trees
  • Mulberry
  • Succulents
  • Desert cacti
  • Lavender
  • Cosmos
  • Hibiscus
  • Rosemary
  • Rudbeckia

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Top 5 Plants for Sandy Soil

Garden areas with sandy soil can be tricky places in which to plant. Sandy soil drains quickly, often too quickly for many plants, leaving them high and dry most of the time. It also doesn’t retain nutrients well and has the potential to erode. Securing soil and enriching the area with the appropriate plants is a win-win proposition. The problem is finding specimens that will thrive in such conditions. Fortunately, there are many plants other than the classic succulents and cacti that will perform well in sandy regions of the garden. Here are the top 5 plants for sandy soil areas.

1. Ground cover plants. One of the best ways to secure soil in erosion prone areas is with ground covers. These need to be chosen with care and an eye to moisture needs, exposure and adaptability to occasionally dry conditions. Once established, these plants can thrive but a little babying will be necessary at first.

  • Many of the Sedum species will spread quickly and enjoy the attributes of a sandy area. Stonecrop and creeping sedum are prolific at establishing themselves in broader areas over time and they enjoy the nature of a sandy soil. These plants do need full sun for the best growth, however.
  • Moss phlox is another sun lover which doesn’t mind the low nutrient content of sand and is drought tolerant once established.
  • In partially shaded areas, the tough and tenacious English ivy is your plant. It will not only survive but thrive and give you a lovely, elegant carpeted green effect over time.

2. Trees and shrubs. Sandy soils can be improved over time with the addition of compost and other organic material, but the easiest solution is to choose plants that seem to like the existing soil condition. If you are a lazy gardener like me, you will take option B and select plants that are naturally adapted to such soils.

For dimensional impact choose trees like:

  • White Pine
  • Red Cedar
  • Ginkgo
  • Hawthorn
  • Honeylocust
  • Siberian Elm
  • Oaks
  • Serviceberry

Shrubs and bushes help fill in the lower spaces of the sandy garden area. Adding those that flower or fruit extend the appeal through several seasons. Useful specimens might be:

  • Flowering Quince
  • Witch Hazel
  • Siberian Pea shrub
  • Smoke Tree
  • Japanese Barberry

3. Perennial plants. Perennials are a no brainer. Bushy perennials with foliage that fill in open spaces enhance the total effect of the sandy garden. Spurge is a unique plant with funky foliage and surprisingly attractive flowers. Other foliage or flowering perennials for sandy conditions include:

4. Herb plants. Many herbs produce pleasing flowers and attract bees and other pollinators. And most are naturally adaptive to low nutrient, sandy soils. The following herbs will add aromatic appeal with low maintenance beauty:

5. Ornamental grasses. If your sandy area seems like a seaside dune, treat it as such. Grasses and ornamental grass-like plants will mimic the ocean landscape without all the fuss of other types of plants.

  • Flax
  • Silky Thread Grass
  • Pampas Grass
  • Maiden Grass
  • Sedge

Numerous other ornamental and native grasses can fill in around the dune landscape with sensory ambiance and rustling vibrancy every time the wind passes through the garden.

As you can see, there are many choices from which to start in a sandy garden situation. Creating dimension or simply a certain texture to a sandy area is as easy as selecting plants that thrive in this type of soil. Remember that many plants will require a little TLC while establishing but each of these plants will stand alone once they are mature and have spread their roots out a bit. In time, your sandy area will be peppered with architectural appeal and colorful notes, in an area that was once a blight on the landscape.

Advantages of Sand in Soils:

Here are some of the advantages of sand in garden soils:

  1. The land warms up earlier in the spring and maintains a higher temperature than heavy soils.
  2. Fertilizers act more quickly in the soil if the amount of sand is higher.
  3. You can start tillage earlier in the spring and can continue later in the fall
  4. Your tillage will be far cheaper if you have sand in your soil.
  5. Tillage may begin sooner after rains
  6. Transplanting a plant is a far easy task.
  7. You can grow quite a few different types of veggies in sandy soil.
  8. Soils do not become very hard and compact when harvesting crops, especially when the ground is wet.
  9. Sand lends itself to irrigation because the water is quickly absorbed.
  10. The root crops are smoother, better formed and have fewer fibrous roots.
  11. Many crops require less work in cleaning and preparing for storage or market.

What do you think about this article? Please share your comments below.

Sandy Soil Growing Regions

A plant adapted to sandy soil is one that is adapted to drought and infertile soils. Coastal regions and deserts often have sandy soil and there are pockets scattered throughout the country where ancient marine deposits form the underlying geology, resulting in sandy conditions on the surface. Mountainous areas often have poor, rocky soil with similar characteristics, so sandy soil plants can often be grown in these areas, too, as long as they are adapted to the cold temperatures that are typical of mountain environments.

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