Season Your Fall Garden with Saltbush

November 5, 2008 | By | Comments (3)

Salt1
Saltbush definitely has a place in home gardens, as evidenced by this shot I took in my neighborhood.

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.

Salt2
Frothy clouds of white smother the shrub in October and November.

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.

Salt3
What appear to be flowers are actually silky white seed heads.

Caveat Emptor
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:
atidewatergardener.blogspot.com/2008/10/little-wild-around-edges.html

COMMENTS

  1. Les

    Thank you for the link. This plant is one of my favorite natives.

    November 11, 2009 at 7:26 am
  2. Grumpy Gardener

    Caution is advised; however, I can’t think of a prettier shrub for fall!

    November 6, 2008 at 3:23 pm
  3. Cameron (Defining Your Home Garden)

    Of course, this one is deer resistant! :-)
    Or at least, it bounces back if deer decide to sample. They’ve been sampling lantana, salvia, monarda, hypericum lately — a sure sign that the deer have over populated our area. That sort of browsing of unpalatable plants shouldn’t happen until February.
    Saltbush is gorgeous, but I’ve always been apprehensive about it as I’ve seen the widespread and glorious displays along the roadways.
    You’ve convinced me to go forth and try it. There are several shrubs that I already keep cut back to prevent seeding.
    Thanks,
    Cameron

    November 6, 2008 at 8:48 am

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