Salty plants

By  Shaun Moser, Conservation Garden Park

Salt is an issue in our landscapes that can cause plants to die and can cause homeowners frustration. Much of Utah is located within the seafloor of the ancient inland sea known as Lake Bonneville. As a result, our soils are naturally salty or alkaline—more so in some places than others. If you are watering your plants with secondary irrigation water (untreated non-drinking water) there can be high levels of salt in the water. Salt applied to roadways in winter can also increase salts in your park strip—those on busy streets are hit especially hard.

Salt damage with plants looks a lot like symptoms of drought. The main symptoms of salt damage are leaf yellowing and stunted growth. These symptoms can cause confusion as homeowners may think their plant isn’t getting enough water, when in reality the salty secondary water is causing the problem.

Changing the salt levels in your landscape can be difficult so the best thing to do is to use plants that are tolerant of salty conditions in the first place. Here are some of the best salt tolerant plants for Utah:

  • Imperial Honeylocust- Gleditsia triacanthos ‘Impcole’

An excellent medium sized tree that is adaptable to many different landscape conditions. This is a thornless variety with fernlike leaves that make an excellent canopy for shade in the heat of the summer.

  • Ginkgo- Ginkgo biloba

This columnar tree is very tolerant of urban areas with bad air and soil. It is very recognizable with its green fan-shaped leaves that turn bright yellow in the fall. This tree has been around for a very long time with fossils dating back 270 million years.

  • Globe Peashrub- Caragana frutex ‘Globosa’

A compact/rounded deciduous shrub that looks great throughout the year. It will keep its tidy rounded form without any pruning. This is an excellent replacement plant for Boxwood here in Utah. Boxwoods tend to suffer from winter damage here in Utah making parts of the plant die. Globe Peashrub doesn’t suffer from this issue.

  • English Lavender- Lavandula angustifolia

People love the smell of Lavender in oils and other fragrances. It can also be an excellent addition to you landscape here in Utah. They are a very tough and hardy shrub that can take a range of soil and climate conditions. Here at the Conservation Garden Park we have some Lavender that survives on rain and snow melt alone.

  • Ice Plant- Delosperma

A mat-forming groundcover succulent that has amazing blooms. There are many types of Hardy Ice Plant but Table Mountain Ice Plant is one of our favorites here at the garden. It blooms in the early-summer with an unforgettable mass of purple flowers. This is an excellent choice for rock walls and park strips.

  • Desert Four O’clock

One of our favorite perennial flowers here at the garden. It grows to be 15” tall and 72” wide so you can get lots of bang for your buck with this plant. It has a mass of magenta-pink flowers that bloom all summer long.

For more plant ideas and to download a copy of our free Salt-Tolerant plant list, visit