12 Plants That Do Well in Sandy Soils

Gardening is difficult in sandy soil, but despite its less-than-stellar reputation, sand can actually provide a good foundation for certain plants. The key to success in a sandy garden is to know what thrives and what doesn’t. That’s why we’re going to introduce you to 12 plants that flourish in sandy soil. 

How to tell if you have sandy soil

When you’re planning a garden and landscaping, the first step is to determine what kind of plants will survive. The soil type plays a critical role here. It allows you to select plants that will thrive and grow happily. A complete guide to different soil types on Lawn Lawn offers great information about soil types in depth. 

Generally, soil is a combination of sand, clay, and silt, in different percentages. Sand is the largest soil particle, clay is the smallest, while silt stays in the middle. When a soil combination leans more towards one of these components, it creates different soil types.

Sandy soil is light brown and feels grainy. The pros and cons of sandy soil include: 

Pros:

  • Good drainage
  • Easy to dig
  • Warms up quickly in spring, allowing for earlier planting

Cons:

  • Doesn’t hold water and dries out quickly
  • Leaches plant nutrients 
  • Tends to be acidic

If you cannot tell what kind of soil you have from these characteristics, you can perform a simple soil test. Take a handful of soil from the garden, dampen it, and roll it up in a sausage-like shape. If you have sandy soil, this sausage will crumble, fall apart, and you’ll see individual grains. 

Why is it hard to grow plants in sandy soil?

  • Sandy soil is unable to retain moisture and nutrients for the plant roots. It’s made up of large particles that leave cavernous gaps in between. These gaps make it easier for water and water-soluble nutrients to seep through the soil.
  • Fertilizers will wash away, too, because there are no pockets to store and hold anything.
  • Sandy soil also tends to be acidic, which creates a less-than-ideal environment for plants to survive, especially vegetables. 

Making such soil more conductive to plant growth requires some effort, namely adding organic material to enhance moisture retention and infuse the soil with nutrients. 

You can also use biochar, and apply some layers of mulch to keep the sandy soil cool and healthy. Or, simply go for plants that have adapted to sandy soil.

Plants that thrive in sandy soil

Here are some plants that enjoy growing in sandy gardens:

1. Sedum

Sedum, or Oregon stonecrop, is a drought-resistant ground cover plant that flourishes in a wide variety of conditions. This perennial loves the sun and is hardy enough to thrive with less water, intense heat, and poor soil conditions. 

It has fleshy leaves with small, star-shaped, brightly colored flowers that are a huge attraction for pollinators like butterflies and hummingbirds. The plump leaves and thick stems help to store water for longer periods. 

  • Type: Groundcover perennials 
  • Maintenance requirements: Very low
  • Blooming season: Mid-summer to mid-fall
  • Mature size: 12-24 inches wide, 6-25 inches tall
  • Ideal environment: Dry, warm climates
  • Tolerance to challenging conditions: Very high
  • Fertilization needs: None
  • Water needs: None once established, occasional water from rainfall is sufficient
  • Sunlight needs: Full sunlight or partial shade (for some types)
  • Hardiness zones: 3-9 USDA

2. Lavender

The lavender plant not only loves sandy soil, it actually needs high drainage to grow. It is capable of surviving easily through drought-like conditions. It attracts a large number of butterflies and bees with its beautiful color and aroma. 

This plant is native to Europe and can be planted in your sandy garden or can be potted indoors. Lavender also comes in pink and white flower variants apart from its namesake purple flowers. 

  • Type: Perennial herb
  • Maintenance requirements: Low
  • Blooming season: Summer 
  • Mature size: 2-5 feet wide, 2-3 feet tall
  • Ideal environment: Hot summer climates
  • Tolerance to challenging conditions: High
  • Fertilization needs: Twice a year
  • Water needs: Only in the growing season
  • Sunlight needs: Full sun
  • Hardiness zones: 5-8 USDA

 

3. Artemisia 

Artemisia is a fast-growing groundcover that does well in sandy soil. This plant does not flower but has incredibly soft, finely cut leaves. An interesting feature of the Artemisia plant is that it releases a soft, soothing fragrance if you brush its leaves. 

Just like most drought tolerant plants, it is characterized by its gray foliage. Artemisia exhibits antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antifungal, and insecticidal properties and is often used in traditional medicine. 

  • Type: Perennial, herbaceous
  • Maintenance requirements: Low
  • Blooming season: Summer and fall
  • Mature size: 1-10 feet wide, 1-5 feet tall
  • Ideal environment: Dry climates
  • Tolerance to challenging conditions: High
  • Fertilization needs: Light application once in early spring
  • Water needs: None once established, might require supplemental watering in case of prolonged drought
  • Sunlight needs: Full sun
  • Hardiness zones: 3-9 USDA

4. Carrots 

Carrots need sandy soil to burrow easily and grow deep into the soil. These biennial vegetables have fern-like compound leaves with long, orange roots. The leaves are triangular in shape, fine in texture, and held upright in a tufted cluster of tiny leaves. 

If you leave carrot plants in sandy soil for their second growing season, they will bloom in one-foot-tall clusters of white flowers. These flowers are called an umbel. After pollination, seeds form and drop to the ground to germinate. 

  • Type: Biennial vegetable
  • Maintenance requirements: Moderate to low
  • Blooming season: Spring 
  • Mature size: 1-2 inch diameter, 6-12 inch root, 1 foot foliage
  • Ideal environment: Cool temperatures in late fall or early spring
  • Tolerance to challenging conditions: High to moderate 
  • Fertilization needs: Low
  • Water needs: At least one inch every week  
  • Sunlight needs: Full sun to partly shady
  • Hardiness zones: 3-10 

5. Potatoes

The acidic pH of sandy soil works great for potatoes. Acidic soil essentially rules out any chances of scab, a disease that can kill a whole crop of potatoes. It is a root vegetable that requires the looseness of sandy soils for healthy growth. The only issue you could face is too much drainage. You will have to take care of its water and nutrient requirements. It produces flowers at the end of its growing season which dry up and fall off the plant within a week or so. 

  • Type: Annual vegetable
  • Maintenance requirements: High
  • Blooming season: Early summer
  • Mature size: 40 inches tall
  • Ideal environment: Moderate to cool climates
  • Tolerance to challenging conditions: Moderate
  • Fertilization needs: Regular in the growing stage
  • Water needs: High
  • Sunlight needs: Full sun
  • Hardiness zones: 3-10b USDA

6. Radishes 

Just like carrots, radishes are ideal for loose, sandy soils because they come with tap roots that need to penetrate soil easily. This root vegetable is small, round, and red. It belongs to the Brassicaceae family and has a fast growth rate. 

The top leaves are lance-like and small, while a rosette of oblong-shaped leaves covers the area around its hairy stems. The radish plant can produce pink or purple flowers once every growing season. 

  • Type: Annual, vegetable
  • Maintenance requirements: Moderate
  • Blooming season: Summer
  • Mature size: 5-9 inches tall
  • Ideal environment: Cool climates
  • Tolerance to challenging conditions: High to moderate
  • Fertilization needs: Once a year
  • Water needs: Moderate 
  • Sunlight needs: Full sun 
  • Hardiness zones: 2-11 USDA 

7. Cucumbers

Another vegetable that flourishes in sandy soils is cucumber. It requires fast-draining soil but you will have to make some efforts to fulfill its nutrient and water needs to keep it happy. It can grow in a variety of soils but the porous texture of sandy soil makes it a perfect fit for its fast-growing, dense root system. 

Cucumbers grow into luscious, trailing vines that need some support to attach and grow. It has hairy leaves with five to six pointed lobes and also produces a berry known as pepo. The plant may have four or five main stems with curling tendrils branching from them. 

  • Type: Annual, succulent
  • Maintenance requirements: High
  • Blooming season: Early summer 
  • Mature size: 1-2 feet wide, 6-7 feet tall
  • Ideal environment: Warm climates
  • Tolerance to challenging conditions: High
  • Fertilization needs: A small dose every 10-15 days
  • Water needs: Consistent watering, at least an inch per week
  • Sunlight needs: Full sun 
  • Hardiness zones: 4-12 USDA

8. Red chokeberry

This flowering shrub is a member of the prestigious rose family and can grow in any type of soil. It is multi-stemmed and flourishes in sandy and boggy soils. It develops dark green foliage as it grows, and turns red in the fall. You also get to see beautiful white flowers with ornamental berries when it’s fully mature. 

It is a dependable and tough plant that will perk up your garden with glossy redness and scarlet fall foliage. You will have to keep a close eye on your red chokeberry plants as they can clone themselves through suckers into a mass of shrubs. 

  • Type: Perennial shrub
  • Maintenance requirements: Moderate
  • Blooming season: Spring and summer 
  • Mature size: 3-6 feet wide, 6-10 feet tall
  • Ideal environment: Cool climates
  • Tolerance to challenging conditions: High
  • Fertilization needs: Low or none
  • Water needs: Regular, needs moist soil
  • Sunlight needs: Full sun or partial shade
  • Hardiness zones: 4-9 USDA

9. Butterfly bush

The butterfly bush is an attractive, flowering shrub that is highly adaptable to a variety of soil types, including sandy soil. It’s the perfect plant to add some color to your garden. It grows in white, pink, or purple towering flower cones and beautifies your space. 

The butterfly bush has long, narrow leaves that are coarse to touch, and grow along arching, slim stems. This upright deciduous shrub produces clusters of branches with leaves that have jagged edges. 

  • Type: Perennial shrub
  • Maintenance requirements: Very low
  • Blooming season: Mid-summer to early fall 
  • Mature size: 3-8 feet wide, 4-12 feet tall
  • Ideal environment: Spring and fall
  • Tolerance to challenging conditions: Very high
  • Fertilization needs: None
  • Water needs: Moderate deep watering
  • Sunlight needs: Full sun
  • Hardiness zones: 5-10 USDA

10. Daylilies

This flowering plant grows well in moist yet well-draining soil types and requires very little care. It will bloom for years and complement your sandy soil garden with its sunny, warm colors and attractive foliage. 

Daylilies bloom during the late spring and look great if you cluster them. It has plump, dense roots that can store water for drought-like conditions, making it a great choice for homeowners who are on the hunt for low-maintenance plants. The blooms open up in the morning and die or close by the sunset. 

  • Type: Perennial
  • Maintenance requirements: Very low
  • Blooming season: Summer
  • Mature size: 1-10 feet wide, 1-5 feet tall
  • Ideal environment: All climates
  • Tolerance to challenging conditions: High
  • Fertilization needs: Light application once a year
  • Water needs: Moderate to low 
  • Sunlight needs: Full sun to partial shade
  • Hardiness zones: 4-9 USDA

11. Giant allium

Also known as the giant onion, giant allium is a flowering plant that grows well in sandy soil. It produces purple flowers on a large stalk. The flowers are shaped like round pom-poms that sprout atop each stalk and have few to no leaves. 

The captivating flower towers appear from a basal rosette of star-shaped, grayish-green leaves. These leaves die and fall when the plant starts to flower. The scapes and leaves can smell like an onion if bruised.

  • Type: Bulbous perennial 
  • Maintenance requirements: Moderate to low
  • Blooming season: Spring and early summer
  • Mature size: 2 feet wide, 4-6 feet tall
  • Ideal environment: Cool climates
  • Tolerance to challenging conditions: Moderate 
  • Fertilization needs: Twice a year; fall and spring
  • Water needs: Low
  • Sunlight needs: Full sun or partial shade
  • Hardiness zones: 4-9 USDA

12. Sweet alyssum

The sweet alyssum is a low-growing plant that produces beautiful purple, white, or pink blooms and grows perfectly well in sandy soil. It forms a low mat around four to seven inches tall in your sandy garden, giving it a nice texture. This plant smells like honey and is adored by butterflies for the same reason. 

It grows quickly and has four-petal flowers and gray-green, narrow, hairy leaves surrounding each flower. Most color varieties of this plant fade in extra heat but bloom again in the fall. 

  • Type: Perennial, herbaceous
  • Maintenance requirements: Moderate
  • Blooming season: Spring and fall
  • Mature size: 2-4 inches wide, 3-10 inches tall
  • Sunlight needs: Full or partial shade 
  • Hardiness zones: 5-9 USDA

FAQ

Q. How can I make sandy soil more fertile?

1. The following techniques will improve your soil:
Add a layer of mulch: Using grass clippings or wood chips prevents water evaporation and improves retention.
Add organic matter: Peat moss, vermiculite, or coconut coir and other such organic materials help sandy soil hold more water and nutrients.
Install a drip irrigation system: Shallow, frequent watering keeps the soil moist. 
Grow cover crops: It enhances soil health. 

Q. Is sandy soil more prone to disease?

No, sandy soils have few aggregates due to their large particle size which creates an unfavorable environment for bacteria or fungi to stay or grow.

Q. Is it safe to add lime to adjust the pH level of sandy soil?

Yes, lime is an ideal natural source to adjust sandy soil’s acidity. It offers calcium and some quantities of magnesium to the soil which helps the plants absorb nutrients better.

Final word

Sandy soil can be tough to work with, but knowing what plants to choose will make building your dream garden a breeze. 

You can always count on Lawn Love pros to come through if you need help revitalizing your sandy garden or building it from scratch.

Main Photo by Rebekah Vos | Unsplash

Farah Nauman

Farah Nauman is a freelance writer and an accountant based in Pakistan. She spends most of her time combating the South Asian heat and being a mom to her three fluffy cats and a dozen little Aloe Veras in her house.