By Kate Wall
Sandy soils can be very free draining and do not hold a lot of moisture or nutrients for plants. Plants which naturally grow in sandy soils will perform best in gardens with similar soils. Very few soils are pure sand, and most plants which like sandy soils will still prefer to grow in gardens which have had organic matter added to increase the ability of the soil to hold moisture and nutrients.
Improved sandy soils can be very well suited to plants which do not like a lot of water or which do not like having excessive moisture around the roots. This includes many arid zone plants, many Australian natives, especially those from Western Australia or the Sydney region and even many Mediterranean plants.
Aussie Rambler™ Carpobrotus glaucescens ‘CAR10’ PBR is an ideal plant for sandy soils, having been bred from a sand dune plant. It is a hardy and attractive ground cover with huge pink flowers. Its thick fleshy leaves make it a type of succulent – a highly varied group of plants which all do well in free draining sandy soils. Another succulent, which is very dramatic and large – not a ground cover at all, is the Sea Urchin™ Aloe hybrid ‘ANDsea’ PBR. It can make a spectacular show in sandy soils.
Australian native plants can feature very well in gardens with sandy soils, with many of the very iconic natives preferring sandy soils. This includes many of the Banksias and Grevilleas, Eremophilas, Kangaroo Paws, Westringias, Correas, Waratahs, Flannel Flowers and Callistemons. The Ozbreed Velvet Range of Kangaroo Paws are ideal for spectacular effect in sandy soils. The South African proteas are closely related to some of the Australian natives and have similar growing conditions, also preferring sandy soils.
Blue Horizon™ Eremophila glabra prostrate ‘EREM1’ PBR makes a great dense low growing shrub or ground cover for Western Australia or South Australia, with beautiful blue-green to grey foliage and will prefer sandy soils. Aussie Flat Bush™ Rhagodia spinescens ‘SAB01’ PBR is another stunning shrub or ground cover with beautiful blue-green foliage that works throughout Australia. If your looking for a smaller shrubs or hedging plant with blue-green to grey foliage, this can also be achieved using Grey Box™ Westringia fruticosa ‘WES04’ PBR.
The Ozbreed range of Westringias all work very well in sandy soils, and can provide hardy plants from ground covers, such as Low Horizon™ Westringia ‘WES06’ PBR, to beautiful compact flowering shrubs, such as Blue Gem™ Westringia ‘WES03’ PBR and Ozbreed Aussie Box® Westringia ‘WES02’/’WES08’ PBR, which is the perfect alternative to box hedges for sandy soil types.
Many other native shrubs prefer free drainage and therefore do well in sandy soils. Free Fall™ Casuarina glauca prostrate ‘CAS01’ PBR can make an unusual ground cover or can drape effectively over retaining walls or down slopes. Cherry Cluster™ Grevillea rhyolitica x juniperina ‘TWD01’ PBR is another ground cover which works especially well in sandy soils.
Flowering shrubs such as Crimson Villea™ Grevillea rosmarinifolia ‘H16’ PBR, Coastal Pink™ Correa alba ‘COR10’ PBR and Crimson Tide™ Correa pulchella ‘COR9’ PBR can be highly successful in sandy soils as can the non- native Cosmic White™ Rhaphiolepis indica ‘RAPH01’ PBR and Cosmic Pink™ Rhaphiolepis indica ‘RAPH02’ PBR.
Callistemons are very tolerant of sandy soils, and both Better John™ Callistemon viminalis ‘LJ1’ PBR and Green John™ Callistemon viminalis ‘LJ23’ PBR will make excellent hedges in sandy soils, where some of the more traditional hedge plants will struggle.
All of the Lomandras and Dianellas will cope well with most soil types including most sandy soils, although they will struggle in very poor soils. These strappy leafed plants can make beautiful accent features in a garden or be massed planted to give very hardy erosion control. Amongst the best for sandy soils are Lomandra longifolia ‘Katrinus‘ PBR and Lomandra longifolia 'Katrinus Deluxe' PBR with masses of flowers, the compact fine leafed Tanika® Lomandra longifolia ‘LM300’ PBR, and Nyalla® Lomandra longifolia ‘LM400’ PBR which is particularly well suited to coastal plantings.
Feather Top™ Baloskion tetraphyllum is a beautiful sedge that will grow in both sandy and clay soils but is best suited to areas with a shallow water table where it can receive plenty of water, and will even tolerate periods of inundation.
Many garden plants will grow very happily in sandy loam soils. These are soils which although sandy and free draining, have had sufficient organic matter added to become reasonably good quality soils. The poorer the quality of your soil, the more care these plants will need in terms of additional water and fertiliser, to perform well in your soil. You will find information on improving sandy soils here.