Best Plants for Sandy Soil

Understanding The Benefits and Downsides of Gardening in Sandy Soil

gardengarden

Your sandy soil garden might be difficult at times, but do not despair! Using these “best plants for sandy soil” perennial lists, you can create a beautiful extended-bloom garden. The key to success in your sandy soil garden is to understand the properties of this soil type and to choose plants that have adapted to thrive there.

That way, instead of fighting with nature for plants that don’t want to live there, you can sit back and enjoy a great looking garden with very little maintenance.

How to ID and Understand Your Soil Type

Soil plays a critical role in determining what plants will grow happily and thrive, or what plants will struggle and die. Learning what type of soil you have in your garden is important to help choose what will succeed there. In general, soil is made up of a percent of each clay, sand, and silt. Clay is the smallest soil particle while sand is the largest, with silt finding the happy medium in between.

Most soils lean towards one of these components, but still encompass smaller percentages of the others. There are strengths and weaknesses of all types of soil. Some drain better, while others hold onto water tighter. Some hold nutrients while others are more sterile. Some erode quickly and some have little aeration.

Understanding what type of soil you have and its strengths and weaknesses will help you determine what plants will live happily in your garden.

So what does it mean if you’ve determined that your soil is dominated by sand? Because sand is the largest soil particle it means that water can move through the large pore spaces rapidly. This fast drainage is an advantage for growing plants that like to be dry.

butterfly weed and coreopsisbutterfly weed and coreopsis
Native plants like Butterfly Weed and Coreopsis are often well-adapted to nutrient-poor, sandy soils.
butterfly bushbutterfly bush
Colorful Butterfly Bushes, like <a href="/perennials/butterfly-bush/butterfly-bush-black-knight">Black Knight</a> (pictured here) are great choices for shrubs that grow well in sandy soils.

However, sandy soils are typically low in nutrients. This is because the large pore space and fast drainage washes out any available nutrients.

Sandy soils also warm up and cool down relatively quickly from the air temperature changes, meaning growth in the spring will start quickly but cool nights in the autumn will make the perennials go into dormancy earlier as well.

In general, perennials that prefer sandy soils are happy being on the drier side and function well with little nutrients – a great recipe for a lower maintenance garden!

Here is a list of some of the most reliable perennials for your sandy soil garden. Whether you are looking for a specific color, height, or bloom time in your region, this list will help you identify what would be perfect for what you need!

The Easiest Plants to Grow in Sandy Soil

Bearded Iris (Iris germanica) – Zone 3-9

Coming in nearly every color you can imagine, bearded irises are a garden favorite! They require very little attention and have no problem competing for their place in the garden. The rhizomes multiply fairly quickly, so it is helpful to divide the plants every few years to avoid overcrowding and spread your iris collection! Many bearded irises are reblooming, so you can enjoy their color both in late spring and in early to mid-fall.

Black Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia) – Zone 4-9

Black Eyed Susans are a must have in your garden! They produce yellow daisy-like flowers with black centers topping off at 3’tall. ‘Goldsturm’ is a popular variety blooming profusely from mid-summer to early-fall.

Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) – Zone 4-9

This purple-blue colored bloom opens mid-late summer on a 3-4’ spikes. The easy maintenance and reliable color of Russian sage makes it a sandy soil favorite

Salvia (Salvia nemorosa) – Zone 4-9

‘Lyrical Silvertone’ is a 2’ tall purple salvia that blooms from late spring to early summer. As a member of the mint family, it is low maintenance and reliable. A more compact option that adds blue to the summer garden is ‘Blue Marvel.’Only getting 10-12” tall, ‘Blue Marvel’ is perfect for short border edges and constant color from late spring to fall.

Sedum (Sedum) – Zone 3-9

‘Autumn Joy’ produces a reliable pink clump about 2’ tall. Blooming mid-summer to mid-fall, you get this bright color as other perennials are starting to slow down. This is a very carefree plant, requiring little attention. Just plant it, sit back, and enjoy!

  1. Raven Girl Bearded Iris

    Raven Girl Bearded Iris, like the iridescence of a raven's wing, arrives with purple-black splendor in the late spring garden. The standards (upward petals) shimmer in deep purple, a...

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    Raven Girl Bearded Iris Raven Girl Bearded Iris Iris germanica Raven Girl
    $11.98 Sale $5.99
    Per Bag of 1
    Raven Girl Bearded Iris, like the iridescence of a raven's wing, arrives with purple-black splendor in the late spring garden. The standards (upward petals) shimmer in deep purple, almost black, and the falls (downward petals) are a magnificent jet black. Beautifully ruffled and a heavy bloomer this is one that must be tried! Deer and rabbit resistant. (Iris germanica)
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  2. Deschutes Bearded Iris, Iris germanica Deschutes

    Deschutes Bearded Iris casts a glow to harmonize and enhance the perennial garden. Ruffled twilight blue petals and sky-blue beards create a calm, serene presence in the late spring ...

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    Deschutes Bearded Iris Deschutes Bearded Iris Iris germanica Deschutes
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    Deschutes Bearded Iris casts a glow to harmonize and enhance the perennial garden. Ruffled twilight blue petals and sky-blue beards create a calm, serene presence in the late spring garden. Prolific blooms with up to 7 flowers per stalk will add a unique color to your garden and cut flower arrangements. A deer and rabbit resistant and drought tolerant perennial. (Iris germanica)
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  3. Orange Bearded Iris Frimousse, Iris germanica, Bearded Iris or German Iris

    'Frimousse' Bearded Iris, originally from France, illuminates the mid-summer garden with peach-colored blooms, wide raspberry-pink falls, and rust-orange beards. A truly bold and uni...

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    Frimousse Bearded Iris Frimousse Bearded Iris Iris germanica Frimousse
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    Per Bag of 1
    'Frimousse' Bearded Iris, originally from France, illuminates the mid-summer garden with peach-colored blooms, wide raspberry-pink falls, and rust-orange beards. A truly bold and unique statement in any garden. (Iris germanica)
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  4. Valentino Bearded Iris, Iris germanica Valentino

    Valentino Bearded Iris adds a silky ruffled texture to the garden with terra cotta red standards above iridescent burgundy falls. A bright yellow beard and throat adds a dazzling fla...

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    Valentino Bearded Iris Valentino Bearded Iris Iris germanica Valentino
    $11.98 Sale $5.99
    Per Bag of 1
    Valentino Bearded Iris adds a silky ruffled texture to the garden with terra cotta red standards above iridescent burgundy falls. A bright yellow beard and throat adds a dazzling flash of color. Blooming from early-to-late spring, it’s a fragrant, deer-resistant, and easy-to-grow addition to the garden. (Iris germanica)
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Best Plants for Sandy Soil in Full Sun

These full sun lovers will give you a variety of color and long lasting stamina through the heat of the sunny summer days.

Plants for Sandy Soil in Shade

These plants will perform well in those deeper, shady corners of the border or in the understory of the forest floor.

bearded irisbearded iris
<a href="/perennials/iris/bearded-iris">Bearded Iris</a> are tough plants that thrive in many conditions. Best of all, they are sold in a rainbow of colors.
columbinecolumbine
delphiniumsdelphiniums
<a href="/perennials/delphinium">Delphiniums</a> do well in fast-draining sandy soils that are amended with compost, fertilizer, or organic matter.

Plants for Sandy Soil in Hot, Dry Areas

No need to give supplemental water to these dry loving plants! They will perform well in the heat and drought unlike others.

Plants for Sandy Soil in Hot, Humid Areas

These perennials will easily tolerate the humid southern regions up through the summer humidity of the east coast.

lavenderlavender
<a href="/perennials/lavender">Lavender</a> is known for its preference towards sandy, even gritty or gravelly, soils. These plants also prefer dry heat.
phloxphlox
<a href="/perennials/phlox">Phlox</a> is an old-fashioned, cottage garden staple that can bring bold color to the sandy soil garden.
butterfly weedbutterfly weed
<a href="/perennials/milkweed">Butterfly Weed</a>, aka Asclepias tuberosa, is the preferred milkweed variety for sandy soils.

Plants for Sandy Soil that Attract Pollinators and Hummingbirds

Say hello to a buzzing garden, from butterflies and bees to hummingbirds you will have a colorful garden full of life!

Plants for Sandy Soil that Repel Deer and Other Critters

These easy-care sandy soil plants naturally deter deer and rabbits leaving them low maintenance and beautiful all season long.

black eyed susan black eyed susan
<a href="/perennials/black-eyed-susan">Black Eyed Susan</a>, aka Rudbeckia is a great pollinator attractor. Goldfinches will also flock to it.
joe pye weedjoe pye weed
<a href="/perennials/unique-perennials/joe-pye-weed-baby-joe">Joe Pye Weed</a> is a striking native perennial that provides late-season food for hungry pollinators.
sedumsedum
<a href="/perennials/sedum/autumn-joy-sedum">Sedum</a>, also called Stonecrop, is a succulent perennial that is built to conserve water.

Getting a Full Season of Blooms in the Sandy Soil Garden

Hopefully this list has helped you determine that there are many options for perennial color in your sandy soil garden. Looking at their bloom time is important in creating a garden with constant color.

Start the season early with your bearded irises opening up in early spring and lasting to the beginning of summer. These can be paired with creeping phlox for a happy pink and purple carpet in the spring.Early summer brings the end of iris season and the start of salvias, lavenders, and butterfly weeds.

Your mid-summer garden starts to fill out with taller perennials including the black eyed susans and joe pye weed that carry the blooms through the rest of summer. With autumn comes soft sedums and Russian sage. At this time, you can enjoy your bearded iris again if you have reblooming varieties!

You can even add winter interest to your garden with the sandy loving evergreen Christmas fern. This four season sandy soil garden will keep you enthralled and proud all year long!


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