Having trouble growing plants in sandy soil? Check out our gallery of 20 plants (plus growing tips) that will thrive in this environment.
Some areas of the country have sandy soil, while others have clay soil. If you live in a desert region or an area that is located near the coast, it is possible that the soil where your plants will grow is sandy. This type of soil is not known to be a great option for most plants because it will not hold water or nutrients for long, which means that the plants in the soil will have a difficult time growing without regular water and fertilizer. In fact, one of the best ways to help increase the growth potential of sandy soil is to mix it with compost. This will help build up the organic matter that is common in soil and help increase the nutrients that are available to your plants.
Another concern with this type of soil is the potential for erosion to occur because sandy soil is going to be much looser than clay soil. On the other hand, some plants prefer this type of well-drained soil, so if you find the right plant, you will be able to have a beautiful garden in no time. In general, some of the plants that will thrive in sandy soil include cacti, succulents, and similar plants that can live without a lot of outside maintenance and care.
One of the best types of gardens to grow in this environment is a rock garden because plants that tend to grow well in rocky soil will also grow well in sandy soil. Gardens that have a lot of ground cover will also do well in sandy soil, so you will have options for your garden.
In this guide, we are going to take a look at 20 different plants that will thrive in sandy soil.
- Russian Sage
- Butterfly Weed
- Joe Pye Weed
- Black Eyed Susan
- Crape Myrtle
- Groundcovers and Perennials
- Annuals and Bulbs
- Sandy Soil Growing Regions
- Right Plant, Right Place
- Top 5 Plants for Sandy Soil
- Best Plants for Sandy Soil
- The Easiest Plants to Grow in Sandy Soil
- Shrubs for Sandy Soil
- Know Your Garden Soil: How to Make the Most of Your Soil Type
- The Six Types of Soil
Sedum is a hardy succulent that can be used as ground cover. It can grow without much water, in poor soil, and in intense sun and heat. These plants have flowers in shades of pink, and they grow best in zones three through 10.
This purple sage actually prefers dry conditions, so it will thrive in sandy soil in growing zones five through 10. It is also a plant that does not require a lot of water or sun. They do spread, so you may need to prune and separate the plant.
This plant can easily handle harsh conditions including drought and poor soil, so if you need a flowering annual that can attract butterflies, birds, and bees, then this may be an option. They tend to grow best in zones two through 11.
Salvia is a plant that can tolerate a lot of heat and dry soil while attracting butterflies and other pollinators. They prefer well-drained soil, which helps them thrive in sandy soil, and they tend to grow the best in hardiness zones eight to 10.
Larkspurs can grow anywhere from one to seven feet in height. These plants can tolerate dry soil, but you will want to combine it with mulch. This plant grows best in zones two through 10, and they prefer shady conditions.
If you are looking for lush foliage for a sandy soil garden, then hostas are worth considering. They grow best in zones three through nine, and they can tolerate high temperatures and drier soil, so they will thrive in sandy soil.
Lavender is a lovely smelling plant that is ideal for this type of environment because it grows best in well-drained soil. It does not need a lot of nutrients to grow, and it loves the heat. This plant grows best in zones five through nine.
If you want to attract butterflies and other pollinators, then butterfly weed is going to be ideal. This lovely orange flowering plant grows in hardiness zones three through nine, and it can grow in dry, rocky soil and drought conditions.
Phlox is a beautiful violet ground cover that will grow well in sandy soil. It can grow in most soil conditions, and it likes a lot of sunlight. They grow best in zones four through eight.
This is a plant that can easily grow to be up to five feet tall. It is very versatile, so it will grow well in sandy soil, especially in zones five through nine. The flowers that it produces are purple.
Growing best in zones three through nine, the columbine plant is one that will attract hummingbirds to your garden. Typically, the plants grow to be about two feet tall with blooms that can be many colors. They grow best in well-drained soil.
Joe Pye Weed
Joe Pye Weed is an attractive pink flowering plant that grows best in zones four through nine. It can grow in both full or partial shade, and it will tolerate drier conditions. It’s great for adding height to your garden because it can easily grow to 12 feet.
Foxglove are very vibrant plants that grow well in zones four through 10. These plants prefer well-drained soil and partial shade, but they can tolerate most growing conditions. These plants are poisonous, so grow them in an area away from kids and pets.
Also known as spider flowers, a cleome plant is a great option for sandy soil in zones four to 10. These plants are great at tolerating drought conditions, but they also don’t tend to bloom until they are well established in your garden.
This extremely low maintenance plant grows best in zones nine through 11. Resembling a colorful daisy, these plants will bloom in dry, sandy, or poorly fertilized soil. They are also drought-resistant plants, so they will not die if you forget about them.
Yarrow is a common plant to grow in this type of soil. This resilient, easy-to-grow plant loves a lot of heat and sunlight, so it’s ideal for areas where sandy soil is common. This plant tends to grow best in zones three through nine.
Seen most in zones four through nine, the daylily is a plant that can tolerate almost any type of soil. They also do not attract pests, so they require very little care to thrive. The blooms open in the morning, and by sunsets, they die.
Black Eyed Susan
In zones three through nine, you can easily grow Black-eyed Susan. Technically, the yellow and dark brown plant is a wildflower, but it is a plant that will tolerate a lot of sun, and it prefers well-drained soil.
If you are looking for a plant that can live in cold conditions where the soil is not that great, then the crape myrtle is ideal. It produces beautiful blooms, and it does not require a lot of care. These plants grow best in zones seven through 10.
Growing in hardiness zones three through 10, the zinnia is one of the easiest plants to grow, especially in sandy soil. They like heat and well-drained soil, but they can also easily adapt to most growing conditions, especially if you add fertilizer to the soil.
Popular Garden Ideas
Popular Garden Ideas
Choosing Plants for Sandy Soils
By Kate Wall
Sandy soils can be very free draining and do not hold a lot of moisture or nutrients for plants. Plants which naturally grow in sandy soils will perform best in gardens with similar soils. Very few soils are pure sand, and most plants which like sandy soils will still prefer to grow in gardens which have had organic matter added to increase the ability of the soil to hold moisture and nutrients.
Improved sandy soils can be very well suited to plants which do not like a lot of water or which do not like having excessive moisture around the roots. This includes many arid zone plants, many Australian natives, especially those from Western Australia or the Sydney region and even many Mediterranean plants.
Aussie Rambler™ Carpobrotus glaucescens ‘CAR10’ PBR is an ideal plant for sandy soils, having been bred from a sand dune plant. It is a hardy and attractive ground cover with huge pink flowers. Its thick fleshy leaves make it a type of succulent – a highly varied group of plants which all do well in free draining sandy soils. Another succulent, which is very dramatic and large – not a ground cover at all, is the Sea Urchin™ Aloe hybrid ‘ANDsea’ PBR. It can make a spectacular show in sandy soils.
Australian native plants can feature very well in gardens with sandy soils, with many of the very iconic natives preferring sandy soils. This includes many of the Banksias and Grevilleas, Eremophilas, Kangaroo Paws, Westringias, Correas, Waratahs, Flannel Flowers and Callistemons. The Ozbreed Velvet Range of Kangaroo Paws are ideal for spectacular effect in sandy soils. The South African proteas are closely related to some of the Australian natives and have similar growing conditions, also preferring sandy soils.
Blue Horizon™ Eremophila glabra prostrate ‘EREM1’ PBR makes a great dense low growing shrub or ground cover for Western Australia or South Australia, with beautiful blue-green to grey foliage and will prefer sandy soils. Aussie Flat Bush™ Rhagodia spinescens ‘SAB01’ PBR is another stunning shrub or ground cover with beautiful blue-green foliage that works throughout Australia. If your looking for a smaller shrubs or hedging plant with blue-green to grey foliage, this can also be achieved using Grey Box™ Westringia fruticosa ‘WES04’ PBR.
The Ozbreed range of Westringias all work very well in sandy soils, and can provide hardy plants from ground covers, such as Low Horizon™ Westringia ‘WES06’ PBR, to beautiful compact flowering shrubs, such as Blue Gem™ Westringia ‘WES03’ PBR and Ozbreed Aussie Box® Westringia ‘WES02’/’WES08’ PBR, which is the perfect alternative to box hedges for sandy soil types.
Many other native shrubs prefer free drainage and therefore do well in sandy soils. Free Fall™ Casuarina glauca prostrate ‘CAS01’ PBR can make an unusual ground cover or can drape effectively over retaining walls or down slopes. Cherry Cluster™ Grevillea rhyolitica x juniperina ‘TWD01’ PBR is another ground cover which works especially well in sandy soils.
Flowering shrubs such as Crimson Villea™ Grevillea rosmarinifolia ‘H16’ PBR, Coastal Pink™ Correa alba ‘COR10’ PBR and Crimson Tide™ Correa pulchella ‘COR9’ PBR can be highly successful in sandy soils as can the non- native Cosmic White™ Rhaphiolepis indica ‘RAPH01’ PBR and Cosmic Pink™ Rhaphiolepis indica ‘RAPH02’ PBR.
Callistemons are very tolerant of sandy soils, and both Better John™ Callistemon viminalis ‘LJ1’ PBR and Green John™ Callistemon viminalis ‘LJ23’ PBR will make excellent hedges in sandy soils, where some of the more traditional hedge plants will struggle.
All of the Lomandras and Dianellas will cope well with most soil types including most sandy soils, although they will struggle in very poor soils. These strappy leafed plants can make beautiful accent features in a garden or be massed planted to give very hardy erosion control. Amongst the best for sandy soils are Lomandra longifolia ‘Katrinus Deluxe’ PBR with masses of flowers, the compact fine leafed Tanika® Lomandra longifolia ‘LM300’ PBR, and Nyalla® Lomandra longifolia ‘LM400’ PBR which is particularly well suited to coastal plantings.
Several of the dianellas are also very tolerant of sandy soils, including Cassa Blue® Dianella caerulea ‘DBB03’ PBR and Tasred® Dianella tasmanica ‘TR20’ PBR.
Feather Top™ Baloskion tetraphyllum is a beautiful sedge that will grow in both sandy and clay soils but is best suited to areas with a shallow water table where it can receive plenty of water, and will even tolerate periods of inundation.
Many garden plants will grow very happily in sandy loam soils. These are soils which although sandy and free draining, have had sufficient organic matter added to become reasonably good quality soils. The poorer the quality of your soil, the more care these plants will need in terms of additional water and fertiliser, to perform well in your soil. You will find information on improving sandy soils here.
Sandy soil has its advantages. It drains well, is easy to dig in and warms up faster in spring than clay soils, meaning that plants start growing earlier – but there are fewer species adapted to it compared to other soil types. Sandy soil is relatively uncommon in nature and has several distinct disadvantages – it does not hold on to either water or nutrients for long.
Groundcovers and Perennials
Plant a groundcover or perennial to make maintenance easy.
Lavender is hard not to love. Originating in the dry, rocky hills of the Mediterranean basin, it is not only tolerant of sandy soil, it actually requires the excellent drainage provided by sandy soils. Plant it in full sun and water it only enough to get the roots established. Lavender is especially effective in long rows that can be used as a low garden border.
These low-growing perennials have the grey foliage that characterizes many of the most drought tolerant plants. The leaves are finely cut and incredibly soft to the touch; when you brush up against them a delicious fragrance is released. Artemisias are primarily a foliage plant, as the flowers of most varieties are inconspicuous, but they add a unique texture and color to perennial borders or can be used en masse as a groundcover.
Rosemary is another familiar herb that thrives in dry, sandy soil. It never needs water once established and blooms in late winter when most other plants are still waking up from dormancy. Try one of the prostrate varieties, like Lockwood de Forest or Irene, for use as a large scale groundcover in sandy soil.
There are an incredible diversity of sedums available in nurseries these days. They are succulents, so by nature they are adapted to dry, sandy soil. Most are tiny groundcovers that make great rock garden plants. There is also a taller variety called Autumn Joy that is a good choice for its extremely late bloom.
Annuals and Bulbs
Living in a sandy region doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice colorful plants in your yard.
Annual salvias add a strong shot of color to summer flower beds – crimson red, deep purple, and electric blue shades are all available. They grow quickly to one or two feet in height, depending on the variety. The blooms last for weeks, but once they fade, cut them back and they will bloom again until the first frost of fall. They are relatively drought tolerant for an annual bedding plant and are adored by hummingbirds.
This is an unusual specimen for flower borders – it is closely related to onions, but is grown for it enormous purple pom-pom flowers that rise on a single stalk three to four feet above the sparse foliage. Giant alliums will bloom year after year in sandy soil with little care, making them a good choice for a semi-naturalized meadow planting.
This bedding plant is adored by butterflies and smells like honey. It grows in sandy soil and is likely to seed itself in cracks in the driveway, bringing color to the harsh, hot concrete. Sweet alyssum forms a low mat four to six inches tall and spreads up to two feet across. Pink, purple, and white varieties are available.
Shrubs are excellent choices for privacy, and flowering varieties make beautiful additions to any garden in sandy soil.
Butterflies flock to the elongated purple flower cones of this upright deciduous shrub. Butterfly bush adapts to most soil types, including sandy ones. White- and pink-flowered varieties are also available.
Siberian Pea Shrub
This is probably one of the hardiest plants in the world. As you might guess from the name it is extremely cold tolerant, but it is also tolerant of light, sandy soils. Siberian pea shrub grows 10 to 20 feet tall and five to 10 feet wide, depending on the variety. It is deciduous and makes a dazzling display in mid-summer with its bright yellow flowers.
Siberian Pea Shrub
Rose of Sharon
A trouble-free plant for tough conditions, rose of Sharon produces two- to three-inch hibiscus-like blooms in late summer – rose, purple, and white are the most common colors. In sandy soil, be sure to give it plenty of water to support luxuriant growth and stimulate profuse flowering.
Rose of Sharon
Trees are a focal point for many homeowners, regardless of soil type.
Also known as mimosa, this fast-growing deciduous tree is one of the best for sandy soils. It typically grows to about 30 feet, not quite what is normally considered a shade tree, but it does provide some shade and it doesn’t take decades to do it – five to seven years to maturity is typical.
This is a tall, upright hardwood tree that also grows at an unusually fast rate, even in sandy soil. Fragrant white flower clusters emerge from the bare branches in early spring, followed by finely cut foliage and then decorative seed pods in fall. Purple Robe is a popular variety that sports magenta blossoms, instead of the typical white.
Black Locust Tree
All species of eucalyptus hail from Australia, a continent with a disproportionate amount of sandy soil. There are numerous varieties, but most are enormous, fast-growing shade trees, some reaching up to 150 feet in height. They are evergreen and emit a pleasing wintergreen-like fragrance from the leaves.
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.
Right Plant, Right Place
The key to success in gardening is matching the characteristics of your property to the plants that want to grow there. When it comes to sandy soil, the options are slightly limited, but there are still plenty to choose from. Because they share certain physiological traits that make them adapted to sandy soil, these plants also tend to look good together in the landscape.
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
- Siberian Elm
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:
- Western Sword Fern
- Sea Holly
- Butterfly Gaura
- Lamb’s Ears
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.
- Silky Thread Grass
- Pampas Grass
- Maiden Grass
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.
We live on the coastal border between North and South Carolina. I’m finding it very hard to get anything to grow. We have very sandy soil. It’s been amended time and time again with top soil, lime and still nothing seems to survive. Can you recommend any plants that do well in this challenging soil? Thanks, Donna
Less than ideal environmental conditions sure make gardening a challenge and every gardener has something they have to work around! Sandy soil is not the easiest soil to garden in, but that doesn’t mean all hope is lost.
As you have learned, soil needs a continuous supply of organic matter and humus to stay viable. Organic matter consists of various living organisms, plant materials and animal (manure) residues in various stages of decomposition. Humus is what you have when the decomposition is finished. Organic matter is very important in changing the physical structure of the soil making it easier on plant roots and increasing the movement and retention of water. Humus adds a steady supply of nutrients for plant growth. A compost bin is a great way to produce the organic matter and humus you need to revitalize your soil on a continuing basis.
While amending your soil is the key to success, plant selection is also very important. Look for plants that thrive in sandy soil. Typically these are plants that are drought tolerant and appreciate soil that drains quickly. To help with the selection look around your neighborhood to see which plants are doing well in your neighbor’s yards and investigate plants that are local or native to your area.
Once you make your plant selection and are ready to plant, be sure to incorporate organic matter and humus into your soil as you plant each item.
Also, add 2 to 3 inches of mulch to the bed to help preserve moisture and possibly invest in some drip watering lines to make efficient use of water when natural precipitation is low.
Here is a list of plants that may be good choices for your sandy soil. Some are salt tolerant for coastal areas and some of them are native to your area. Make sure they can take all your seasonal weather extremes for your location or treat them as annuals.
Chaenomeles japonica, Flowering Quince
Echinacea, Purple Coneflower
Elaeagnus, Russian Olive
Gaillardia, Blanket flower
Juniperus chinensis, Chinese Junipers
Nepeta, Catmint and Catnip
Perovskia, Russian Sage
Philadelphus coronarius, Mock Orange
Pinus strobus, White Pine
Portulaca, Moss Rose
Rhus aromatica, Sumac
Santolina (pictured above)
Yucca filamentosa, Adams Needle
Best Plants for Sandy Soil
However, sandy soils are typically low in nutrients. This is because the large pore space and fast drainage washes out any available nutrients.
Sandy soils also warm up and cool down relatively quickly from the air temperature changes, meaning growth in the spring will start quickly but cool nights in the autumn will make the perennials go into dormancy earlier as well.
In general, perennials that prefer sandy soils are happy being on the drier side and function well with little nutrients – a great recipe for a lower maintenance garden!
Here is a list of some of the most reliable perennials for your sandy soil garden. Whether you are looking for a specific color, height, or bloom time in your region, this list will help you identify what would be perfect for what you need!
The Easiest Plants to Grow in Sandy Soil
Bearded Iris (Iris germanica) – Zone 3-9
Coming in nearly every color you can imagine, bearded irises are a garden favorite! They require very little attention and have no problem competing for their place in the garden. The rhizomes multiply fairly quickly, so it is helpful to divide the plants every few years to avoid overcrowding and spread your iris collection! Many bearded irises are reblooming, so you can enjoy their color both in late spring and in early to mid-fall.
Black Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia) – Zone 4-9
Black Eyed Susans are a must have in your garden! They produce yellow daisy-like flowers with black centers topping off at 3’tall. ‘Goldsturm’ is a popular variety blooming profusely from mid-summer to early-fall.
Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) – Zone 4-9
This purple-blue colored bloom opens mid-late summer on a 3-4’ spikes. The easy maintenance and reliable color of Russian sage makes it a sandy soil favorite
Salvia (Salvia nemorosa) – Zone 4-9
‘Lyrical Silvertone’ is a 2’ tall purple salvia that blooms from late spring to early summer. As a member of the mint family, it is low maintenance and reliable. A more compact option that adds blue to the summer garden is ‘Blue Marvel.’Only getting 10-12” tall, ‘Blue Marvel’ is perfect for short border edges and constant color from late spring to fall.
Sedum (Sedum) – Zone 3-9
‘Autumn Joy’ produces a reliable pink clump about 2’ tall. Blooming mid-summer to mid-fall, you get this bright color as other perennials are starting to slow down. This is a very carefree plant, requiring little attention. Just plant it, sit back, and enjoy!
Shrubs for Sandy Soil
(Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on May 13, 2009. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to promptly respond to new questions or comments.)
Living in the piney woods and sand hills of northwest Florida gives me first hand knowledge of the difficulties gardeners face where sand is the rule rather than the exception. The soil in my area of the southeast is simply stated; dead. Naturally occurring nutrients found in the soil wash through the sand or are scorched out by the unrelenting heat of the Florida sun.
Adding insult to injury are the drought conditions we have experienced in the southeastern U.S. in recent years. In order for plants to thrive here the soil must be fed by working in plenty of organic matter on a regular basis and by keeping close watch on moisture conditions of the soil.
Imagine then, how tough a shrub or any other plant must have to be to thrive under these conditions. Many of the plants listed below will live in the soil of my unforgiving property. Others will grow in sandy soil which has had limited amendments. Some will grow in sandy soil but not in the heat and humidity of the Deep South.
Shrubs to Plant in Sandy Soils
Spartium junceum by Dave’s
Garden member ‘kennedyh’
Erica arborea by Dave’s
Garden member ‘bootandall’
Ulex Europaeus by Dave’s
Garden member ‘kennedyh’
Fuchsia magellanica by Dave’s
Garden member ‘kennedyh’
Hakea lissosperma by Dave’s
Garden member ‘kennedyh’
Blue Brush (Ceanothus thyrsiflorus) Grow in full sun in zones 8a to 10b. Plant reaches 10 to 12 feet in height. Blooms are blue appearing from mid spring until early summer.
Common Broom (Cytisus scoparius) Grow in full sun in zones 8a to 10b. Plant reaches 4 to 6 feet in height. Blooms are yellow-orange, pale yellow or bright yellow appearing from late spring until early summer. *All parts of plant are poisonous if ingested. Handling plant may cause skin irritation or allergic reaction.
Cyprus Sunrose (Cistus x cyprius) Grow in full sun in zones 8a to 10b. Plant reaches 4 to 6 feet in height. Blooms are white appearing from mid spring until early summer.
Golden Barberry (Berberis empetrifolia) Grow in full sun to partial shade in zones 7a to 9b. Plant reaches 12 to 18 inches in height. Blooms are bright yellow in late spring and early summer. *Plant has spines or sharp edges.
Hardy Fuchsia (Fuchsia magellanica) Grow in light shade in zones 6a to 9b. Plant reaches 4 to 10 feet in height. Blooms are fuchsia, red-purple or purple appearing from mid summer until mid fall. *This plant is hard to grow outside in the climate of Deep South and southwestern United States
Honey Bottles (Ulex europaeus) Grow in full sun in zones 7a to 10b. Plant reaches 4 to 8 feet in height. Bright yellow blooms appear repeatedly throughout the year. * Plant has spines or sharp edges. Plant may be invasive.
Needle Bush (Hakea lissosperma) Grow in full sun in zones 8a to 10b. Plant reaches 6 to 8 feet in height. Blooms are white to near white appearing in mid-summer. *Plant has spines or sharp edges.
Heather (Calluna vulgaris) Grow in full sun to partial shade in zones 4a to 9b. Depending on cultivar; plant reaches 6 to 24 inches in height. Blooms are pink, purple, red or white/near white and appear from mid summer until late winter. Mulch well to help hold moisture near roots.
Sinai Jerusalem Sage (Phlomis aurea) Grow in full sun in zones 7a to 11b. Plant reaches 2 to 4 feet in height. Blooms are bright yellow appearing in late spring through early fall.
Spanish Broom (Spartium junceum) Grow in full sun in zones 8a to 9b. Plant reaches 4 to 8 feet in height. Blooms are bright yellow appearing from mid spring until early summer. *All parts of plant are poisonous if ingested. Plant may be invasive.
Tree Heath (Erica arborea var. alpina) Grow in full sun in zones 7a to 9b. Plant reaches 15 to 20 feet in height. Blooms are white appearing from late winter until mid spring.
Wild Irish Rose (Rosa spinosissima) Grow in full sun to partial shade in zones 3a to 9b. Plant reaches 1½ to 6 feet in height. Blooms are fragrant, white and open from late spring through early summer.
A quick search through the PlantFiles here at Dave’s Garden will turn up many more shrubs that will grow and even thrive in sandy soil. To assure success, try growing plants native to your area. If these plants are naturally occurring then they have adapted to local growing conditions and will provide many years of added beauty to your landscape.
Plant characteristics and care tips are a condensed version of what is found in Dave’s Garden Plant Files. Please visit plant files for more information and great member photographs.
Photo at top right, Wild Irish Rose (Rosa spinosissima) by Dave’s Garden member ‘Weezingreens’
All other photos are by Dave’s Garden members and are credited above.
Know Your Garden Soil: How to Make the Most of Your Soil Type
The Six Types of Soil
There are six main soil groups: clay, sandy, silty, peaty, chalky and loamy. They each have different properties and it is important to know these to make the best choices and get the most from your garden.
1. Clay Soil
Clay soil feels lumpy and is sticky when wet and rock hard when dry. Clay soil is poor at draining and has few air spaces. The soil will warm up slowly in spring and it is heavy to cultivate. If the drainage for the soil is enhanced, then plants will develop and grow well as clay soil can be rich in nutrients.
Great for: Perennials and shrubs such as Helen’s Flower, Aster, Bergamot, Flowering quince. Early vegetable crops and soft berry crops can be difficult to grow in clay soil because of its cool, compact nature. Summer crop vegetables, however, can be high yielding vigorous plants. Fruit trees, ornamental trees and shrubs thrive on clay soils.
2. Sandy Soil
Sandy soil feels gritty. It drains easily, dries out fast and is easy to cultivate. Sandy soil warms up fast in spring and tends to hold fewer nutrients as these are often washed away during wetter spells. Sandy soil requires organic amendments such as glacial rock dust, greensand, kelp meal, or other organic fertilizer blends. It also benefits from mulching to help retain moisture.
Great for: Shrubs and bulbs such as Tulips, Tree mallow, Sun roses, Hibiscus. Vegetable root crops like carrots, parsnips and potatoes favour sandy soils. Lettuce, strawberries, peppers, corn, squash, zucchini, collard greens and tomatoes are grown commercially in sandy soils.
3. Silty Soil
Silty soil feels soft and soapy, it holds moisture, is usually very rich in nutrients. The soil is easily cultivated and can be compacted with little effort. This is a great soil for your garden if drainage is provided and managed. Mixing in composted organic matter is usually needed to improve drainage and structure while adding nutrients.
Great for: Shrubs, climbers, grasses and perennials such as Mahonia, New Zealand flax. Moisture-loving trees such as Willow, Birch, Dogwood and Cypress do well in silty soils. Most vegetable and fruit crops thrive in silty soils which have adequate adequate drainage.
4. Peaty Soil
Peaty soil is a darker soil and feels damp and spongy due to its higher levels of peat. It is an acidic soil which slows down decomposition and leads to the soil having fewer nutrients. The soil heats up quickly during spring and can retain a lot of water which usually requires drainage. Drainage channels may need to be dug for soils with high peat content. Peat soil is great for growth when blended with rich organic matter, compost and lime to reduce the acidity. You can also use soil amendments such as glacial rock dust to raise pH in acidic soils.
Great for: Shrubs such as Heather, Lantern Trees, Witch Hazel, Camellia, Rhododendron. Vegetable crops such as Brassicas, legumes, root crops and salad crops do well in well-drained peaty soils.
5. Chalky Soil
Chalky soil is larger grained and generally stonier compared to other soils. It is free draining and usually overlays chalk or limestone bedrock. The soil is alkaline in nature which sometimes leads to stunted growth and yellowish leaves – this can be resolved by using appropriate fertilizers and balancing the pH. Adding humus is recommended to improve water retention and workability.
Great for: Trees, bulbs and shrubs such as Lilac, Weigela, Madonna lilies, Pinks, Mock Oranges. Vegetables such as spinach, beets, sweet corn, and cabbage do well in chalky soils.
6. Loamy Soil
Loamy soil, a relatively even mix of sand, silt and clay, feels fine-textured and slightly damp. It has ideal characteristics for gardening, lawns and shrubs. Loamy soil has great structure, adequate drainage, is moisture retaining, full of nutrients, easily cultivated and it warms up quickly in spring, but doesn’t dry out quickly in summer. Loamy soils require replenishing with organic matter regularly, and tend to be acidic.
Great for: Climbers. bamboos, perennials, shrubs and tubers such as Wisteria, Dog’s-tooth violets, Black Bamboo, Rubus, Delphinium. Most vegetable crops and berry crops will do well since loamy soil can be the most productive of soil types. However, loamy soil requires careful management to prevent depletion and drying out. Rotating crops, planting green manure crops, using mulches and adding compost and organic nutrients is essential to retain soil vitality.