Right now, a lot of you are noticing a shrub on the side of the road that seems to be smothered in white flowers. You like it, but don’t know what it is, so you go to the one infallible source who can tell you – your humble yet omniscient Grumpy Gardener.
The plant in question is called saltbush or groundsel bush (Baccharis halimifolia). Distinctly oval or rounded in shape, this multi-stemmed semi-evergreen to deciduous shrub grows 6 to 10 feet tall and wide and features handsome gray-green to rich green leaves. What appear to be autumn blooms aren’t flowers at all. They’re actually silky, white seed heads. The true flowers open in summer and are inconspicuous.
So Salty, So Easy
You’ll look long and hard before you discover a plant that’s easier to grow. All salt bush wants is sun. It tolerates almost any soil, from dry to rocky to sandy to moist to wet. It grows well at the beach too, withstanding salt spray, which may be how it gets its common name. Heat, cold, wind, bugs, and fungi pose no problems. For all I know, it’s immune to gamma rays too, but until I acquire nuclear technology, I’ll never know for sure.
Moving On In
Saltbush grows wild throughout most of the eastern U.S., but most people encounter it along the side of the road or in cut-over fields and waterfront. That’s because it’s a primary colonizer of disturbed soil, rapidly moving into newly sunny areas and staying there until trees grow up to shade it out. If seeds drop into the water, they float until they reach the shoreline, then boing! They sprout. Saltbush grows quickly from seed (3 to 4 feet a year is easily within reach) and produces flowers and seeds on new growth. Prune it in late winter and spring.
One word of caution – saltbush can be invasive. All I did to get mine is to pick a few seeds and throw them down at the edge of my woods. So if you’re worried about it taking over, cut off the seed heads in fall before the seeds ripen and drop. They look great in arrangements.
Where to Order
Need a mail-order source for saltbush? As always, Grumpy is ready with helpful information to make your life easier. You can order it online from Top Tropicals (www.toptropicals.com).
More about Saltbush If you’d like to read more about saltbush and see some nice tidewater photos, check out “A Tidewater Gardener” by clicking below: