Sand is an inhospitable medium for plant growth; however, that doesn't mean that all plants can't flourish.
Sand consists of fine crystal quartz that makes it difficult to retain water and nutrients; hence, anything planted in it should be hardy and require little moisture.
There are many trees, grasses, and plants that grow in sand. Although it might pose a challenge for a gardener, the results are worthwhile.
Hardy native plants are the best option; succulents such as sedum and coreopsis thrive on neglect, as do cacti.
Don't feel limited to plants; sand-loving trees and grasses are another option to enhance your outdoor space.
Plants that Grow in Sand
Some of the plants that grow in sandy conditions to add interest and color to beach, coastal, and desert environments include;
If you have a large area to cover, we recommend sedum. It belongs to the succulent family and thrives in hot and dry conditions.
It is ideally suited to hardiness zones 3-10.
It adds lots of color to a garden; Rich green of the thick leaves and pink shades from the tiny flowers.
Too much moisture collecting at the roots of sedum plants results in their death; this makes them ideal for sand and sandy soil conditions.
Lamb's ears – Stachys byzantina
Lamb's ears might look, and feel, soft and delicate, but they are very hardy and capable of growing in desert and high heat conditions. They are fast growers and form compact mounds up to 8" tall; when flowering, they might reach 18".
Their silver-green leaves might scorch if they don't receive some water, so sand is a good growing medium. Water drains through quickly, allowing the plant just enough time to get the small amount it needs.
Lance Leaf Coreopsis – Coreopsis lanceolata
Lance leaf is one species of coreopsis that grows in virtually any conditions and mediums.
It flourishes whether planted in heavy clay or pure sand and enjoys full sun.
It is an evergreen perennial to cover large areas; it might become invasive if left unmanaged.
The flowers are stunning, a single, bright yellow daisy-like head on stalks that grow 2-3-feet tall.
Purple coneflower – Echinacea purpurea
Another attractive plant that adds color and interest to a flower bed, the purple coneflower thrives in full sun.
It spreads well and flowers in spring, each head containing a central gathering of small orange, yellow, or brown florets. Long lavender petals droop around each mound, just bright enough to attract bees and butterflies.
They are a native of mid-western and southeastern United States and grow best in hardiness range 7-10 where the sand is well-drained.
There are more than 2000 species of euphorbia, each one different from the last. The obesa, so-called due to its rounded, plump appearance, is just one of the types that thrive in the sand or poor quality soil.
Often seen planted among the rocks in sandy gardens, the obesa survives in USDA hardiness zones 10a through 11b.
The ball-shaped plant is greyish-green and has numerous reddish hoops around its perimeter. It flowers during summer; small yellow heads appear on short stalks at the top of the plant. As it matures, it grows into an 8" cylinder.
The obesa adores hot sunshine and survives drought; it is an ideal plant for sandy planting.
Lavender is native to the dry, rocky hills of the Mediterranean, meaning it enjoys warm, sandy positioning.
The stunning array of purple flowers make attractive borders when planted in long rows, inviting bees and butterflies.
Lavender needs irrigation until the roots establish, then it thrives on neglect. It suits raised beds as the air circulates well and moisture simply drains.
Similar to lavender, rosemary is a herb that doesn't need water once the roots have been established. Unlike many other plants, it doesn't fully bloom until late winter, providing your garden with year-round color and aroma.
Lockwood de Forest and Irene are two rosemary species' that provide large scale ground cover in sandy planting conditions.
These plants are a member of the onion family and, as such, prosper well in sandy conditions with very little care.
Each tall stalk reaches 3-4' high, topped by a bright purple pom-pom style flower.
Their long roots anchor into the sand, allowing them to bloom year after year.
Most of us picture cacti when we think of plants that grow in sand. They require excellent drainage and plenty of aeration, so sand is the ideal medium for growing cactus.
There are hundreds of types of cactus plants that vary in size, shape, and color.
Cacti are one of the lowest maintenance plants available. They love full sun but survive low temperatures.
Grasses that Grow in Sand
Before considering planting any grasses into the sand, it is worth mixing in organic matter or fertilizer. It gives the roots a better chance to take hold and germinate.
Zoysia is the ideal grass for sandy gardens near the beach; it adores full sun and is well-adapted to drought. It grows deep roots and spreads quickly, especially when water is scarce.
Ideal for USDA zones 6-9.
With added organic matter, bentgrass thrives in the sand and near beaches. It is perfect for southern lawns; with additional treatments, it provides good grass coverage in northern states.
Fescues grow speedily in well-drained, sandy soil. Red fescue grows slower, resulting in low-maintenance, easy to manage grass.
Trees that Grow Well in Sand
Native to Australia, the eucalyptus has adapted to growing in conditions where sand outweighs most other growing mediums.
Numerous varieties can grow to heights of 150-feet.
They are evergreen trees with leaves that emit a minty-fresh fragrance when brushed with the gentlest breeze.
More often known as the mimosa, it is a fast-growing, deciduous tree. It takes only 5-7 years to reach full maturity.
It grows to around 30' tall and during spring becomes loaded with beautiful flowers of vivid pinks and yellows.
This popular tree thrives in the sand or sandy soil conditions. It is a fast grower that, during early spring, fills the air with a sweet aroma from its fragrant white flowers.
In fall, long seed pods hang and spiral in the breeze.
The Pros and Cons of Growing Plants in Sand
- Sand is easier to dig and to till
- The ground warms up faster in spring.
- Due to superb drainage, there is little possibility of over-watering
- Root networks grow easily
- It's an easy medium to add fertilizer and organic matter to
- Sand doesn't retain water or nutrients
- It might be affected by severe changes in temperature
- Only certain fertilizers respond to sand
- Less planting options
In general, plants that grow in sand require little or no maintenance.
Even pure sand has a small percentage of silt particles, enabling it to hold water and some nutrients. If possible, mix some high-quality soil, fertilizer, and organic matter with the sand to give any plants the best chance of survival in a sandy-loam mix.