Salt tolerant trees and plants

Salt Tolerant Trees and Shrubs
Trees and plants for roadside plantings


Q. Do you have any suggestions for salt-tolerant trees to screen my view of a road? I recently moved into this house, and it appears the previous homeowner planted a variety of trees and shrubs along the road, but many of those ornamental plants have died in the meantime. Do you think it could be due to salt mist from cars passing, or salt runoff in wintertime?

A. Road salt is extremely tough on plants, both from its build-up in the soil near treated surfaces and its physical contact with foliage and branches as salt-laden spray is splashed or aerosolized by fast-moving traffic. You can see the effect of road salt on trees when you travel the Pennsylvania Turnpike, particularly between New Stanton and Donegal in our part of the state.

Snow with salt gets plowed into shrub beds in parking lots
Snow with salt mixed-in, gets plowed into shrub beds near parking lots

Fortunately, there are a number of plants that tolerate road salt that would make an attractive screen for your yard. I will include a short list of books and websites at the end of this article so you can learn more about these plants (size, cultural requirements) and find pictures of them to make sure you like their appearance.

You may find other lists of salt-tolerant plants that include plants not listed here. I have omitted those known to have severe insect and disease problems such as Austrian pine (Pinus nigra) or those non-native plants known to be invasive such as Russian olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia).

Deciduous Trees that tolerate salt

Horsechestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum)

Serviceberry (Amelanchier canadensis.)

Cherry Birch (Betula lenta)

Cockspur Hawthorn (Crataegus crusgalli var.inermis)

Maidenhair Tree (Ginkgo biloba)

Honeylocust (Gleditsia triacanthos var.inermis)

Kentucky Coffeetree (Gymnocladus dioica)

Witchhazel (Hamamelis spp.)

Eastern Redcedar (Juniperus virginiana)

Magnolia (Magnolia spp.)

Black Gum (Nyssa sylvatica)

White Oak (Quercus alba)

Red Oak (Quercus rubra)

Japanese Pagodatree (Sophora japonica)

Shrubs and Groundcovers that tolerate salt

Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)

Chokeberry (Aronia spp.)

Siberian Pea Shrub (Caragana arborescens)

Gray Dogwood (Cornus racemosa)

Spreading Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster divaricatus)

Rock Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster horizontalis)

Scotch Broom (Cytisus scoparius)

Rose-of-Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus)

Hydrangea (Hydrangea spp.)

St. Johnswort (Hypericum spp.)

Winterberry (Ilex verticillata)

Bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica)

Mockorange (Philadelphus spp.)

Potentilla (Potentilla fruiticosa)

Alpine Currant (Ribes alpinum)

Saltspray Rose (Rosa rugosa)

Sumac (Rhus spp.)

Snowberry or Coralberry (Symphoricarpos spp.)

Lilacs (Syringa spp.)

Blueberry/Cranberry (Vaccinium spp.)

Arrowwood (Viburnum dentatum)

Conifers that tolerate salt

Larch (Larix spp.)

White Spruce (Picea glauca)

Colorado Blue Spruce (Picea pungens var. glauca)

Jack Pine (Pinus banksiana)

Mugo Pine (Pinus mugo)

Japanese White Pine (Pinus parviflora)

Ponderosa Pine (Pinus ponderosa)

Japanese Black Pine (Pinus thunbergii)

Baldcypress (Taxodium distichum)

Perennials that tolerate salt

Sea Thrift (Armeria maritima)

‘Powis Castle’ Artemisia (Artemisia x ‘Powis Castle’)

Silver Mound Artemisia (Artemisia schmidtiana ‘Silver Mound’)

‘Karl Foerster’ Reed Grass (Calamagrostis acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’)

Cheddar Pink (Dianthus gratianopolitanus)

Blue Fescue Grass (Festuca glauca ‘Elijah Blue’)

Lenten Rose (Helleborus orientalis)

Daylily (Hemerocallis spp.)

Hosta (Hosta spp.)

Candytuft (Iberis sempervirens)

Sea Lavender (Limonium latifolium)

Lilyturf (Liriope spicata)

Fountain Grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides)

Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ (Sedum spectabile ‘Autumn Joy’)

Little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium)

Barren Strawberry (Waldsteinia fragarioides)

Adam’s-needle Yucca (Yucca filamentosa)


Soil testing – Important!

Deer damage to shrubs

Christmas tree care & history