Water passes quickly through sandy soil, making it dry, but some flowers, perennials, shrubs and trees grow well in the freely draining conditions. Because sandy soil doesn't hold water well, plants growing in it need frequent, light watering. Add 5 percent garden compost or aged manure or other organic matter to sandy soil to improve its water-holding ability and to help provide nutrients for plants.
Annual flowers that grow in sandy soil provide blooms summer through fall. Creeping zinnia 'Classic' (Zinnia angustifolia 'Classic') grows 9 to 12 inches tall and wide, and produces single, daisylike blooms from early summer to the first frost. 'Classic' is a low-maintenance annual flower that tolerates hot and humid weather as well as drought.
Feather celiosa 'New Look' (Celosia argentea 'New Look') features purple bronze leaves and bright red, plumelike blooms. Growing 12 to 18 inches tall and 9 to 12 inches wide, 'New Look' tolerates dry soil and drought. Remove fading flowers to encourage more blooms.
Sandy soil is no barrier to growing certain perennial plants, which return year after year. Ox eye Summer Sun (Heliopsis helianthoides var. scabra 'Sommersonne') offers 2- to 3-inch-wide yellow summer blooms with orange-yellow centers, which appear on clumps 2 to 3 feet tall and 1 1/2 to 2 feet wide. Summer Sun is hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 9, and tolerates sandy soil but flowers best with regular watering.
Catmint 'Walker's Low' (Nepeta racemosa 'Walker's Low'), which is hardy in USDA zones 4 through 8, grows 2 to 2 1/2 feet tall and 2 1/2 feet to 3 feet wide. Spikes of small, two-lipped, lavender blue flowers appear above aromatic, gray-green leaves spring through late summer. 'Walker's Low' thrives in sandy soil and tolerates air pollution.
Shrubs provide structure in a garden, and some thrive in sandy soil. Flannel bush 'California Glory' (Fremontodendron 'Californian Glory') is hardy in USDA zones 8 through 10, and bears bright yellow, cup-shaped spring blooms 3 inches wide. Growing 6 to 10 feet tall and 4 to 8 feet wide, 'California Glory' grows vigorously in freely draining soil.
Korean lilac 'Palibin' (Syringa meyeri 'Palibin') prefers growing in evenly moist soil, but tolerates dry soil. Hardy in USDA zones 3 through 7, 'Palibin' features clusters of fragrant, pale pink spring blooms, and grows 4 to 5 feet tall and 5 to 7 feet wide.
Drought-tolerant trees grow well in sandy soil, and can provide flowers and fall color. Green hawthorn 'Winter King' (Crataegus viridis 'Winter King') bears 2-inch-wide clusters of white spring blooms, and its fall leaves are red to purplish red. Bright red fruits that persist through winter are another feature of this decorative tree. Hardy in USDA zones 4 through 7, 'Winter King' grows 25 to 35 feet tall and wide.
Scarlet oak (Quercus coccinea)is named for the color of its fall leaves. A rounded tree that grows 50 to 70 feet tall and 40 to 50 feet wide, scarlet oak also offers glossy green, divided leaves and fall acorns. This deciduous tree is hardy in USDA zones 4 through 9.