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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Sunday - May 12, 2013

From: Long Beach, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Plant Lists, Drought Tolerant, Herbs/Forbs, Shrubs
Title: Salt tolerant plants for Long Beach
Answered by: Anne Bossart

QUESTION:

When Hurricane Sandy hit Long Beach, it has killed all my plants and now almost all of Long Beach is left with dead dried brown vegetation. I want to replant front with bushes and flowers. What would you suggest for ocean water swamped soil.

ANSWER:

Talk about adding insult to injury; we can only imagine what you have had to deal with.

Although it may seem counter-intuituve, ground that is flooded with salt water kills them by drying them out. The higher concentration of salt in the ground water than in the plant itself causes the process of osmosis to be reversed, moving water and nutrients out of the plant roots, instead of into them.  Plants that are native to the seashore have adapted to these conditions but not to the extreme they are subjected to during a storm, let alone a hurricane and storm surge like you experienced.

The best strategy for recovering from such conditions, is to "wash" the soil as soon as possible with clear water to leach the salt out of the soil.  This is more effective in sandy than heavy soils, so you may find that the winter of snow and spring rains have helped the soil considerably.  But it won't bring your dead plants back to life.

Northen gardeners have to deal with salt on their roads, driveway and walks every year so you may find this article in Canadian Gardening Magazine helpful. There is a reference in that article to research done at the Ohio State University into salt tolerant plants with a link to a list of salt tolerant plants.  Not all of the plants on that list are native to your area, but you will find a list of some that are in a recently answered question about shrubs and trees here on Ask Mr. Smarty Plants. Another northern reference can be found here in a Minnesota publication recommending plants for boulevards (again salt and drought tolerance is a bonus). Although you can usually find suggestions for plants native to your area by using the Combination Search function on our Native Plant Database, it will not sort a list according to salt tolerance.  So you may want to cross check the lisst in the articles or visit your local nursery to see what salt tolerant plants they offer and then check our database to see if they are native to your area.

A few that are:

Armeria maritima (Thrift seapink)

Gaillardia pulchella (Firewheel)

Achillea millefolium (Common yarrow)

Phlox paniculata (Fall phlox)

 

 

From the Image Gallery


Thrift seapink
Armeria maritima

Indian blanket
Gaillardia pulchella

Common yarrow
Achillea millefolium

Fall phlox
Phlox paniculata

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