(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on May 13, 2009. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to promptly respond to new questions or comments.)
Living in the piney woods and sand hills of northwest Florida gives me first hand knowledge of the difficulties gardeners face where sand is the rule rather than the exception. The soil in my area of the southeast is simply stated; dead. Naturally occurring nutrients found in the soil wash through the sand or are scorched out by the unrelenting heat of the Florida sun.
Adding insult to injury are the drought conditions we have experienced in the southeastern U.S. in recent years. In order for plants to thrive here the soil must be fed by working in plenty of organic matter on a regular basis and by keeping close watch on moisture conditions of the soil.
Imagine then, how tough a shrub or any other plant must have to be to thrive under these conditions. Many of the plants listed below will live in the soil of my unforgiving property. Others will grow in sandy soil which has had limited amendments. Some will grow in sandy soil but not in the heat and humidity of the Deep South.
Shrubs to Plant in Sandy Soils
Blue Brush (Ceanothus thyrsiflorus) Grow in full sun in zones 8a to 10b. Plant reaches 10 to 12 feet in height. Blooms are blue appearing from mid spring until early summer.
Common Broom (Cytisus scoparius) Grow in full sun in zones 8a to 10b. Plant reaches 4 to 6 feet in height. Blooms are yellow-orange, pale yellow or bright yellow appearing from late spring until early summer. *All parts of plant are poisonous if ingested. Handling plant may cause skin irritation or allergic reaction.
Cyprus Sunrose (Cistus x cyprius) Grow in full sun in zones 8a to 10b. Plant reaches 4 to 6 feet in height. Blooms are white appearing from mid spring until early summer.
Golden Barberry (Berberis empetrifolia) Grow in full sun to partial shade in zones 7a to 9b. Plant reaches 12 to 18 inches in height. Blooms are bright yellow in late spring and early summer. *Plant has spines or sharp edges.
Hardy Fuchsia (Fuchsia magellanica) Grow in light shade in zones 6a to 9b. Plant reaches 4 to 10 feet in height. Blooms are fuchsia, red-purple or purple appearing from mid summer until mid fall. *This plant is hard to grow outside in the climate of Deep South and southwestern United States
Honey Bottles (Ulex europaeus) Grow in full sun in zones 7a to 10b. Plant reaches 4 to 8 feet in height. Bright yellow blooms appear repeatedly throughout the year. * Plant has spines or sharp edges. Plant may be invasive.
Needle Bush (Hakea lissosperma) Grow in full sun in zones 8a to 10b. Plant reaches 6 to 8 feet in height. Blooms are white to near white appearing in mid-summer. *Plant has spines or sharp edges.
Heather (Calluna vulgaris) Grow in full sun to partial shade in zones 4a to 9b. Depending on cultivar; plant reaches 6 to 24 inches in height. Blooms are pink, purple, red or white/near white and appear from mid summer until late winter. Mulch well to help hold moisture near roots.
Sinai Jerusalem Sage (Phlomis aurea) Grow in full sun in zones 7a to 11b. Plant reaches 2 to 4 feet in height. Blooms are bright yellow appearing in late spring through early fall.
Spanish Broom (Spartium junceum) Grow in full sun in zones 8a to 9b. Plant reaches 4 to 8 feet in height. Blooms are bright yellow appearing from mid spring until early summer. *All parts of plant are poisonous if ingested. Plant may be invasive.
Tree Heath (Erica arborea var. alpina) Grow in full sun in zones 7a to 9b. Plant reaches 15 to 20 feet in height. Blooms are white appearing from late winter until mid spring.
Wild Irish Rose (Rosa spinosissima) Grow in full sun to partial shade in zones 3a to 9b. Plant reaches 1½ to 6 feet in height. Blooms are fragrant, white and open from late spring through early summer.
A quick search through the PlantFiles here at Dave's Garden will turn up many more shrubs that will grow and even thrive in sandy soil. To assure success, try growing plants native to your area. If these plants are naturally occurring then they have adapted to local growing conditions and will provide many years of added beauty to your landscape.
Plant characteristics and care tips are a condensed version of what is found in Dave's Garden Plant Files. Please visit plant files for more information and great member photographs.Photos:
Photo at top right, Wild Irish Rose (Rosa spinosissima) by Dave's Garden member 'Weezingreens'
All other photos are by Dave's Garden members and are credited above.