En Español

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


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.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

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


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.


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

More Shrubs Questions

Replacing Drought-Stricken Cedars
January 16, 2012 - Hello, I live in Williamson County on a couple acres. We have several dead cedars as a result of drought; we're reluctant to cut them down because many of them provide a friendly barrier between us...
view the full question and answer

Identification of tree or shrub from Simms TX
February 13, 2011 - Thought you might have the expertise to help identify this tree/shrub? They were planted about 10 years ago and started in a pot about 2 feet high. I have photos but not sure how to send them to you; ...
view the full question and answer

Identification of plant similar to Lindheimer's senna (Senna lindheimeriana)
October 27, 2011 - I purchased "Lindheimer's Senna" at our MG plant sale in Williamson Co. two years ago. My three plants are now 6 ft. tall but I don't think they are Lindheimers. I've searched your plant files ...
view the full question and answer

Wet adapted plants for Virginia Beach VA
June 28, 2013 - I live in Virginia Beach, VA on Lynnhaven waterway (leads into Chesapeake bay, but at my point is more brackish). I've recently removed/contained bamboo with concrete and metal barriers and now want...
view the full question and answer

Shrubs for area around underground storm shelter
May 27, 2013 - We want to plant shrubs around our underground storm shelter to divide it from our parking area. Obviously, this is to avoid having someone drive on top of the shelter. What native shrub to North GA ...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center