Maintain Your Green Thumb on Hatteras Island with Salt Tolerant Plants

Warmer weather has graced us with its presence and everyone is walking around with a little “Spring” in their step. We get busy sprucing up our homes whether it’s clearing the clutter, spring cleaning, or ordering fresh new pillows for our living space, but the outdoors are calling! We’ve been cooped up during the short days of winter and we long to head outside to get a good dose of vitamin d and feel the warmth of the sun on our bare skin.

As we step outside and gaze around our yards, for the first time in many, many months, we’re excited to weed last year’s garden beds! (The glamour of weeding quickly fades as warmer temperatures and an increase in humidity = happy plants (and every other living thing that has been lying dormant throughout the winter). Weeding becomes second nature and can get old fairly quickly, so once the beds are weeded the planning commences. What will we plant this year and where? What plants did well last year and what didn’t? Which plants needed more sunlight? Which plants survived the salt air and wind the best? As we juggle all of this in our heads and jump for one scenario to the other, there are certain factors we must, without a doubt, keep in mind. After all, we live on a sandbar, also known as Hatteras Island

There are a few factors to consider when working alongside Mother Nature in your private sand lot at the beach. First and foremost, respect the salt air. There are plants that are very tolerant of salt spray, which are the tiny droplets of salt water carried through the air from waves crashing on the beach. Secondly, windy conditions can also pose a problem for very delicate plants. It is not uncommon to experience a constant 15 mph SW wind during the summer months on Hatteras Island. Of course that does not include gusts, which can reach 25-40mph at times. Other factors are high temperatures and very little rain. We did experience a good amount of rain last summer (2012) but typically Hatteras Island may experience a few brief thunderstorms here and there throughout the summer. Oh, and don’t forget the sandy soil! Sandy soil allows excessive drainage, which can be an issue for certain varieties of plants. In order to enjoy your time in your yard to the max (without breaking the bank), take note of a few plants that do exceptionally well here at the beach.

Review this list of suggestions for nurturing your green thumb while dwelling on an island…
Highly Salt Tolerant:
Live Oak
Century Plant (Agave Americana)
Pampas Grass

Moderately Salt Tolerant:
American Holly
Crepe Myrtle
Sweet Bay
English Ivy
Coral Honeysuckle
Virginia Creeper
Asparagus Fern
Mexican Heather

Slightly Salt Tolerant:
Butterfly Bush
Dwarf Nandina
Fountain Grass
Purple Coneflower
Hardy Hibiscus
Canna Lily

Hopefully this compilation will save you time, money, and the frustration of trying to make the traditional plants of the season thrive in the more challenging conditions of the coastal environment. Do a little research on the above list and decide which plants will work best in your space. Also track sun exposure, as some plants love the sun while others tolerate it for only short periods or prefer to stay in the shade (sounds like some beachgoers you may know).

See you at the garden center!