The Q&A Archives: Gardens Subject To Sea Spray

Question: We have a home on the south shore of the Potomac R. where it enters Chesapeake Bay. We would like to have a perennial garden along the waters edge which occasionally receives sea spray during storms. Need recommendations of perennials and small shrubs that will survive. Since garden may be as much as 100 feet by 10 feet, cost is a factor.

Answer: By far and wide my favorite salt tolerant plant is the flowering perennial Eryngium variifolium or "Moroccan Sea Holly". This plant has foliage that is silvery in color, with rosettes that rise from short flower spikes with small blue blooms in the center. It is a most unusual plant. It looks great with some other plants tolerant of similar conditions including Santolina (Lavender Cotton), and Armeria maritima (Sea Pink or Sea Thrift). Some other salt tolerant plants to try in that area include Yucca, Lambs Ears (Stachys), Bee Balm (Monarda) and Daylilies (Hemerocallis). A good salt tolerant shrub is Elaeagnus angustifolia (Autumn Olive). It can be grown as a shrub or a tree dependent upon pruning. It too has great silvery foliage and dainty butter yellow flowers. These are tough plants and they should withstand some salt. Keep in mind though that salt is hard on all plants except for the type of plants you see growing naturally at seaside.

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