Different plant species have different levels of salt tolerance, according to Alberta's Agriculture and Rural Development Ministry. While some plants demand a salty environment, others can't tolerate the smallest trace of salinity. The level of growth plants achieve in saline soil depends on their salt tolerance. Texas gardeners, whether coping with saline soil or coastal salt spray, should choose plants rated tolerant or highly tolerant to salt.
Screwbean mesquite (Prosopis pubescens), a pea family shrub or small tree, takes its name from its screw-like seedpods. Native to desert washes from western Texas to southern California, this vase-shaped, multiple-trunked plant has delicate grayish-green foliage and spiny, slender branches. Between May and July, they bear 2- to 3-inch spikes of yellow or white flowers. Clustered tan seedpods up to 3 inches long follow. Edible and sweet, they provided ground meal and syrup for Native Americans.
This salt-tolerant mesquite, according to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, likes a partly shady location with moist, well-drained sand or loam soil. It does best in areas with occasional flooding. Pruning its branch tips will increase the shrub's density.
Saltgrass (Distichlis spicata) is a stiff, upright plant with deep green, leafy stems standing up to 3 feet tall. A perennial grass native to salt marshes and alkaline flats or Washington State south to Texas and California, saltgrass has short seed-heads of smooth spikelets. Its colony-forming habit makes it very useful for re-vegetating salty areas, according to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. While it prefers sunny locations with wet, salty alkaline soil, it also tolerates to dry clay, sand and silt.
Texas sage (Leucophyllum frutescens) is a 2- to 5-foot tall shrub with silvery or greenish, soft, downy leaves up to 1 1/4 inches long. Native to Texas' Rio Grande Palin, Edwards Plateau and southern trans-Pecos regions, Texas sage flowers periodically throughout the year. Bell-shaped, purple flowers up to 1 inch long appear for a few days at a time following rain. Variously colored commercial cultivars are available.
Use perennial Texas sage as a hedge or screen, recommends the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. It grows in full sun to partial shade in dry, rocky, sand, loam or clay soil. Plants will not survive in humid areas with high nighttime temperatures. Those plants in moist soil are susceptible to root rot.
Four-wing saltbush (Atriplex canescens), a 3- to-8-foot tall shrub grows wild on Texas' dry flats, slopes and washes. The plants form varies from small and round to sprawling or even treelike. Thick down gives its branches and small green leaves a silvery sheen. Yellow flowers appear from April to October. Female plants produce ornamental clusters of four-winged, golden brown seedpods. Salt-tolerant saltbush likes dry, alkaline well-drained locations and partial shade, advises the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Saltbrush will grow in sand, loam, clay or limestone soil. Plant it for soil stabilization and wildlife shelter. Note that plants accumulate selenium and may be toxic to livestock.
Beach Morning Glory
Beach morning glory (Ipomea pes-caprae) is a salt-tolerant, creeping vine from the West Indies. It grows wild on coastal sand dunes from Florida to Texas, providing a summer and fall display of 2- to-3-inch red-throated lavender flowers. This vigorous grower may reach up to 75 feet, according to the University of Florida Cooperative Extension Service's Edward F. Gilman, PhD. Space the drought-resistant plants 2 to 3 feet apart in full sun and sandy or loamy soil.