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Plants for Sandy Soil

Question:

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

Answer:

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.

Achillea, Yarrow
Aster
Celosia
Chaenomeles japonica, Flowering Quince
Cosmos
Echinacea, Purple Coneflower
Elaeagnus, Russian Olive
Gaillardia, Blanket flower
Juniperus chinensis, Chinese Junipers
Lavender
Liatris
Malus, Crabapples
Nepeta, Catmint and Catnip
Perovskia, Russian Sage
Philadelphus coronarius, Mock Orange
Phlox
Pinus strobus, White Pine
Portulaca, Moss Rose
Rhus aromatica, Sumac
Rosemary
Salvia
Santolina (pictured above)
Sedums
Verbena
Yucca filamentosa, Adams Needle
Zinnia