Q&A with Sandy Feather: Salt-tolerant roadside plants

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Q: I need suggestions for salt-tolerant plants to screen my view of a road. I recently purchased the property, and there have been a variety of shrubs and trees planted along the road, but several have died. My neighbor thinks it is due to road salt runoff in the winter.

A: Road salt is very tough on plants, both from its build-up in the soil near treated surfaces and its physical contact with foliage and branches as salt-laden spray is splashed or aerosolized by fast-moving traffic. You can see the effect of road salt on trees when you travel the Pennsylvania Turnpike, particularly between New Stanton and Donegal.

Fortunately, there are a number of plants that tolerate road salt that would make an attractive screen for your yard. I will include a short list of books and Web sites at the end of this article so you can learn more about these plants (size, cultural requirements) and find pictures of them to make sure you like their appearance. You may find other lists of salt-tolerant plants. I have omitted those known to have severe insect and disease problems, such as Austrian pine (Pinus nigra), or non-native plants known to be invasive, such as Russian olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia).

Deciduous trees

Horsechestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum)

Serviceberry (Amelanchier canadensis)

Cherry birch (Betula lenta)

Cockspur hawthorn (Crataegus crusgalli var. inermis)

Maidenhair (Ginkgo biloba)

Honeylocust (Gleditsia triacanthos var. inermis)

Kentucky coffeetree (Gymnocladus dioica)

Witchhazel (Hamamelis spp.)

Eastern redcedar (Juniperus virginiana)

Magnolia (Magnolia spp.)

Black gum (Nyssa sylvatica)

White oak (Quercus alba)

Red oak (Quercus rubra)

Japanese pagodatree (Sophora japonica)


Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)

Chokeberry (Aronia spp.)

Siberian pea shrub (Caragana arborescens)

Gray dogwood (Cornus racemosa)

Spreading cotoneaster (Cotoneaster divaricatus)

Rock cotoneaster (Cotoneaster horizontalis)

Scotch broom (Cytisus scoparius)

Rose-of-Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus)

Hydrangea (Hydrangea spp.)

St. Johnswort (Hypericum spp.)

Winterberry (Ilex verticillata)

Bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica)

Mockorange (Philadelphus spp.)

Potentilla (Potentilla fruiticosa)

Alpine currant (Ribes alpinum)

Saltspray rose (Rosa rugosa)

Sumac (Rhus spp.)

Snowberry or Coralberry (Symphoricarpos spp.)

Lilacs (Syringa spp.)

Blueberry/cranberry (Vaccinium spp.)

Arrowwood (Viburnum dentatum)


Larch (Larix spp.)

White spruce (Picea glauca)

Colorado blue spruce (Picea pungens var. glauca)

Jack pine (Pinus banksiana)

Mugo pine (Pinus mugo)

Japanese white pine (Pinus parviflora)

Ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa)

Japanese black pine (Pinus thunbergii)

Baldcypress (Taxodium distichum)


Sea thrift (Armeria maritima)

'Powis Castle' Artemisia

'Silver Mound' Artemisia )

'Karl Foerster' reed grass (Calamagrostis acutiflora)

Cheddar pink (Dianthus gratianopolitanus)

'Elijah Blue' Blue Fescue Grass (Festuca glauca)

Lenten rose (Helleborus orientalis)

Daylily (Hemerocallis spp.)


Candytuft (Iberis sempervirens)

Sea lavender (Limonium latifolium)

Lilyturf (Liriope spicata)

Fountain grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides)

Sedum 'Autumn Joy' (Sedum spectabile)

Little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium)

Barren strawberry (Waldsteinia fragarioides)

Adam's-needle Yucca (Yucca filamentosa)


Armitage, Allen M., Armitage's Garden Perennials, Timber Press, 2000. Darke, Rick, The Color Encyclopedia of Ornamental Grasses, Timber Press, 1999.

Dirr, Michael A., Dirr's Hardy Trees, Timber Press, Portland, OR, 1997.

Dirr, Michael A., Manual of Woody Landscape Plants, Stipes Publishing, 1998.

Gerhold, Henry D., et.al., Landscape Tree Factsheets, Penn State University, 2001.

On the Web

Urban Trees and Shrubs


University of Rhode Island Sustainable Trees and Shrubs


Send questions to Sandy Feather by e-mail at slf9@psu.edu or by regular mail c/o Penn State Cooperative Extension, 400 N. Lexington Ave., Pittsburgh 15208.


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