by Matt Gibson
If you live in an area with lots of sandy soil, you’ll need to evaluate your options before you jump into amending your sandy soil with organic matter to get ready for gardening. Once you learn about these 35 plants that thrive in sandy soil, you might decide to keep your well-draining soil and plan your garden around these picks instead.
Often, gardeners who have a sandy type of soil will go to great lengths to amend their garden beds with organic material to try to create a more sustainable habitat for a wider variety of plants. Many plants perform poorly in sandy soil conditions because the porous medium does not hold water or nutrients for very long.
However, despite its less than stellar reputation among gardeners, sandy soil does have advantages of its own. It has good drainage, it’s easy to dig in, and it’s less susceptible to bacterial and fungal diseases in the garden. Sandy soil also tends to warm up earlier in the spring than other soil types, which can mean new plant life earlier in the season.
Though there are not a ton of plant species that thrive in sandy soil, sand-based soils are much easier to amend than clay soils, and the plants that do perform well in sandy soil habitats are useful, attractive, and generally, low-maintenance plants.
So, if you live in an area that has a sandy soil garden, you may want to look for the right plants that perform well in your area and plan your garden out to include some of those options. You may find that you only need to amend a few small beds to accommodate your needs, saving you lots of work in the rest of the yard. Or you might embrace your sandy soil completely and create a low maintenance garden that makes the most out of what your property offers. Even if you ultimately decide to amend the majority of your garden space despite the wide array of plants that thrive in sandy soil, you are sure to find one or two plants on this list that you will enjoy growing in the sandy spots of your garden.
Vegetables that Thrive in Sandy Soil
Carrots have tap roots, which means that carrots grow better when their root systems can easily penetrate the ground. That need for depth makes sandy soil a perfect medium for growing carrots. Clods of soil, like those present in clay-based soil types, can impede and disrupt the development of carrot root development.
Like carrots, radishes also have tap roots, which need to be able to easily burrow into the ground. Sandy soils are porous and more malleable than clay-based mediums, so they are therefore suited to be a habitat for radishes, carrots, and other root vegetables.
Potatoes are another root vegetable and are the perfect plant to grow in sandy soil. This is mainly because sandy soils have an acidic soil pH balance. Acidic soils eliminate the possibility of scab, a disease that plagues potatoes, often affecting entire crops.
Learn more about growing potatoes.
Lettuce, more than many other leafy green vegetables, tends to tolerate the dryness of sandy soils as long as gardeners make sure that plants are watered daily and regularly, never allowing the soil above the roots to completely dry out. Regular watering is especially important on abnormally hot or windy days.
Like lettuce, collard greens are able to tolerate the dry conditions of sandy soils better than other leafy greens. Collards also perform well in the early spring, which makes them more suited for sandy soils, which warm up faster than clay-based or loamy soil.
Tomatoes are sun-loving fruits that perform exceptionally well in the heat-retaining, well-draining habitat that sandy soils provide. Though they’re sometimes grown as annuals in the summer, tomatoes are usually grown as perennials that are harvested throughout a long growing season.
Zucchini is an annual summer crop and a heavy feeder that enjoys the warmth and excellent drainage of sandy soil habitats. As long as the plant’s fertilizer needs are met when it’s grown in sandy soil, zucchini will produce fruit that can be harvested in abundance.
Like zucchini, corn is a heavy-feeding annual summer vegetable that thrives in sandy soil as long as it is well fertilized.
Grown best from the crowns in a sandy soil medium, asparagus is well-suited to growing in trenches. Use bone meal or rock phosphate to fertilize your asparagus twice per week when growing in sandy soils for the highest yields.
Watermelon requires a longer growing season than other fruits of its type but enjoys the warmth and well-draining environment that sandy soil provides. Just make sure you provide sufficient space between plants for each watermelon to develop, as these plants will only thrive if they are not having to battle other plants for water and nutrients.
Though beans do best in a loose, well-draining soil, such as a sandy one, be sure to add in lots of compost to your sandy soil before planting beans for maximum yield.
Cucumbers need fast-draining soil to thrive, so a sandy medium is a great fit. However, you will need to go the extra mile in providing lots of water and nutrients for your cucumbers to keep them happy. A trellis must also be provided to give the cucumber vine a support to attach itself to and grow upon.
Herbs that Thrive in Sandy Soil
Thyme enjoys the slightly acidic content of sandy soils as well as the excellent drainage. Hardy in USDA zones five through nine, thyme thrives in rocky to sandy soils with full sunlight exposure. Learn more about growing thyme.
Rosemary loves sandy soil and full sunlight exposure. Hardy in USDA zones eight to 10, rosemary enjoys the excellent drainage and acidic nature of sandy soil. Learn more about growing rosemary.
Like rosemary and thyme, oregano also enjoys the acidity and excellent drainage that sandy soil provides. Most oregano varieties should be planted in full sunlight. Oregano with golden or variegated foliage, however, should be given some shade during the hottest hours of the day, as these varieties are more sensitive to direct sun.
Groundcovers and Perennials that Thrive in Sandy Soil
Oregon stonecrop is a groundcover that thrives in a wide variety of growing conditions. This plant’s drought resistance makes it perfect for sandy soils. Oregon stonecrop grown best in full sun to partial shade and it produces star-shaped yellow flowers that attract butterflies and other pollinators.
Moss phlox grows well in just about any poor soil condition, but it especially flourishes in sandy or gravelly soils. Moss phlox is a groundcover that reaches about six inches in height and sprouts red, purple, and white flowers that attract butterflies.
Catmint is a fragrant, flowering perennial that is hardy in USDA zones three through 10. Its stunning blooms attract bees and butterflies—not to mention cats.
Lavender grows in USDA zones five through nine, and lavender plants perform well in sandy soils and drought-like conditions. Lavender is resistant to deer and rabbits and is also a great attractor for bees and butterflies.
Artemisia is a low-growing, ground-covering perennial that loves sandy soil. Grown primarily for its beautiful and fragrant foliage, the artemisia doesn’t flower, but if you brush one of its leaves gently, it emits a strange and delicious aroma.
Like most succulents, sedum is suited to hot, dry conditions, making it a great candidate for sandy soils. Available in countless varieties in nurseries, most sedums are tiny groundcovers that are perfect for rock gardens.
Annuals and Bulbs that Thrive in Sandy Soil
Armed with dense, plump roots that store water for plants to use during times of drought, daylilies are the perfect plants to grow in sandy soil conditions. Though it is not a very fragrant plant, the daylily’s beautiful blooms make up in appearance what the flowers lack in aroma.
Salvia is drought tolerant and well suited to sandy soil environments. These showy annuals quickly grow to one or two feet in height, adding streaks of vibrant color to your garden beds with spikes of pronounced red, purple, and blue flower clusters.
Massive purple flowers shaped like pom-poms sprout atop a single stalk with very little foliage. The flower stalks tower three to four feet above the ground, making giant allium a showstopper in the back row of sandy flower beds.
Forming a low mat around four to six inches in height and two feet wide, sweet alyssum makes a lovely pink, purple, or white bed of color on your sandy garden floor.
Flowering Shrubs that Thrive in Sandy Soil
Adaptable to most any soil type, including sandy soils, the butterfly bush is a great choice for a flowering shrub that will draw the eye of passersby. The butterfly bush adds a swatch of color to the garden with its white, purple, or pink towering flower cones.
Siberian Pea Shrub
The Siberian pea shrub is cold tolerant and adaptable to dry, sandy soils. It’s bright yellow flower display is a sight for sore eyes in mid-summer.
Rose Of Sharon
This easy-to-grow shrub makes hibiscus-like flowers in the late summer months. It requires lots of water for ideal production when grown in sandy soil, but Rose of Sharon’s rose, white, or purple blooms are well worth the extra effort.
Red chokeberry grows heartily in all soil conditions, including boggy and sandy types. Ranging from six to 10 feet tall when fully mature, red chokeberry’s white flowers, ornamental berries, and dark green foliage (which turns red in the fall) combine for a pristine display of the beauty of nature.
Native to China, flowering quince produces spiny twigs and scarlet-red blooms that appear before the leaves emerge. Flowering quince can reach heights of six to 10 feet in well-draining soil.
Evergreens that Thrive in Sandy Soil
Reaching two to three feet in height, evergreen spurge is a versatile plant that can adapt to just about any growing condition, as long as it has a well-draining soil. Evergreen spurge is adored for its yellow bottlebrush-style flowers.
Western Sword Fern
The Western sword fern is a shade-loving evergreen that thrives in sandy soil. Growing as high as four feet tall, the western sword fern doesn’t flower, instead producing thick fronds of leathery-looking foliage.
Trees that Thrive in Sandy Soil
The silk tree, also called the mimosa tree, takes five to seven years to reach full maturity, when it averages 30 feet high. A natural fit for sandy soils, the silk tree is a fast-growing deciduous tree with a lot of personality.
Black locust trees show bare branches that sprout fragrant white clusters of flowers in the early spring, followed by finely cut foliage, then decorative seed pods. Black locust trees tend to grow very quickly, even in sandy soils.
Eucalyptus is native to Australia, which is famous for its sandy soil. Though there are many varieties of eucalyptus tree available, all of them are fast-growing shade trees that produce a pleasing minty odor.
Videos About Sandy Soil
This short video highlights eight of the 35 plants we featured in this article, also offering a few growing tips for each featured plant:
This film from natural farmer John Kaisner explains how to use weeds to amend and improve sandy soil:
Just want to know which grass will perform the best in sandy soil environments? This tutorial video will show you how to grow grass in sandy soil while spotlighting several grass species that will thrive in sand soil types:
Want to Learn More about Sandy Soil?
Birds and Blooms covers Top 10 Plants for Sandy Soil
Garden Lovers Club covers Sandy Soil Plants
LoveToKnow Home & Garden covers Plants That Thrive in Sandy Soil
SFGate Homeguides covers List of Crops That Grow in Sandy Soil
SFGate Homeguides covers What Flowers & Plants Grow Well in Sandy Soil
Sheri Trent says
I’m eager to learn how to grow my little garden in Sandy soil and mostly full sun. I lost over half the plants I planted last year. I just moved here and am trying to learn what will and will not grow in my yard. Come on spring I’m anxious to get going. Thanks
In the South East Coast of South Africa… I find Tick Seed which is a beautiful yellow flowering plant.. I believe wild flower, Lavender, Jade, Desert Rose Succulents and so far all the succulents are doing well In Sandy soil.
We current have drought and water restrictions too so these plants only get water when it rains. And they are doing pretty well.
Amani Nolasco says
Anyone with an experience of growing Irish potatoes in sandy soil please… Did it do well?
Yes. Red potatoes are what we planted. It was February when we planted them. I was able to gently scratch around the potato hill or find the potatoes that are breaking through the soil. I pulled those from the plant and then covered it back up and let them keep growing and they produced more potatoes. My momma called this procedure “graveling potatoes”. You can repeat this as long as the plant is green and healthy. Then you get a big crop of large potatoes when you plow up the potato rows.
Does millets do well in a Sandy soil?
I have sandstone under my clay soil, I’m growing sunflowers the edible kind, how well will they do?
They will be fantastic !