University of Florida

The Neighborhood Gardener –
Coastal Gardening

Salinity problems are very common in coastal Florida. Soils laden with salts often dry roots out and prevent plants from establishing and growing.  If you live in an area abundant in salt spray, or your well has been intruded by saltwater, do your research and choose plants that can handle these conditions. Plants and trees that are planted within one-eighth of a mile from the coastline need to be adequately salt-tolerant.

While not all plants are tolerant of salty environments, some are able to adapt. Plants native to coastal areas are always a good choice, but there are also other options. Here are a few:

Flowers: Beach sunflower, Rain lily, Tropical red sage

Vines: Coral honeysuckle, Virginia creeper

Groundcovers: Beach bean, Railroad vine, Sea oats

Shrubs: Adam's needle, Firebush, Palmetto

Trees: Gumbo limbo, Live oak, Mahogany (only in South Florida)

See Salt-tolerant Plants on Gardening in a Minute for more suggestions.

Before planting anything, first identify where the salt is coming from; have your soil and irrigation tested. High levels of salt in soils can be leached out at the root zone, using excessive amounts of irrigation water, or naturally with abundant rainfall. Water from coastal wells is often high in salt content; if possible, try to find another source of irrigation water.

If you find that your water is high in salinity, or that your soil is prone to salt build up, try planting some of the salt-tolerant plants listed above. Salt-tolerant lawn grasses, like St. Augustinegrass and zoysiagrass, are also an option.


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