By the Kauai Shore: Plants That Withstand Salty Conditions

Posted by

Sheraton-resort-kauaiLocation is everything when selecting plants that will thrive on Kauai, and the island’s microclimates truly dictate what is the right plant for the right place. Each commercial property must be treated individually: A landscape on the west side of Kauai, which tends to be hot and dry, will require different plants and maintenance than a site on the east side of the island, where salty ocean winds spray gardens.

The “right plant, right place” rule gets tricky when landscaping on Kauai because there are so many different climates and varied weather patterns compacted into a contained geography. It’s practically like condensing the continental United States into a small island.

For a healthy landscape, you’ll want to select plants that can withstand salty ocean spray and high-salinity soil. We know that excessive salt levels can cause dehydration that damages plants. The salt causes water to move out of plants’ roots or leaves, and plants may accumulate sodium or chloride ions that can reach toxic levels. That said, there are plants that tolerate soils with high salinity, salty winds and brackish irrigation.

At No Ka Oi, we carefully review the plant palette for each Kauai commercial property and determine whether the variety can withstand the site’s climate. Plants that are salt tolerant can prevent the absorption of sodium, tolerate salt in its tissues and deal with salty soils.

Where does the wind blow on your side of Kauai, and how does that impact the plant selection for your commercial landscape? Here’s some insight, along with a handy plant list.  

By the Kauai Shore: Plants That Withstand Salty Conditions

North Side: Green and Growing

Kauai’s north shore generally receives lots of rainfall, resulting in lush green landscapes. Some spots on the north side of the island deal with onshore winds that deposit salty spray on commercial landscapes, so salt-tolerant plants are a must.

Other properties on the north side that are more protected are less susceptible to salty winds and soils. These properties have more plant choices because varieties that are less tolerant to salinity will thrive.  

South Side: Kona Storms Rising

Kona’s winter storms can slam the south side of Kauai, bringing harsh onshore winds and gusts of salty spray to landscapes. Choosing Zone 1 plants that are hardy in salt conditions is important. Though as a maintenance firm focused on Kauai commercial properties, we recognize that even plants listed in Zone 1 can experience moderate to severe salt and wind injury during severe storms. That’s why year-round landscape maintenance is important for keeping plants healthy so they can withstand challenging conditions.

East Side: Salty Gardens

Direct ocean winds constantly brush the east side of Kauai. The right plants for this place on the island are highly salt-tolerant Zone 1 plants that can be used in exposed locations, such as areas near the beach that receive direct ocean winds.   

West Side: Warming Up More Plant Options

The hot, dry west side of Kauai does not weather much onshore wind, so there is a much lesser likelihood of soil salinity. This gives west side islanders more options for their landscape beds and gardens, including Zone 2 plants that are generally tolerant of soil salinity and of light salt spray.

Plant Selections: Salt-Tolerant Varieties that Thrive in Kauai

At No Ka Oi, we focus intently on specifying appropriate plants that will grow beautifully and stay healthy in every Kauai microclimate. Here are some of our favorite plants that are highly salt tolerant.

  • Coco palm (Cocos nucifera): Can grow up to 98 feet tall with 4- to 6-inch leaves. It thrives in sandy soils and is highly tolerant of salinity.

  • By the Kauai Shore: Plants That Withstand Salty ConditionsNaupaka (Scaevola taccada): The common shoreline plant has thick, pulpy leaves and small whitish flowers with purple streaks. The plant grows up to 10 feet tall (though most reach about 3 feet), and 15 to 20 feed wide.
  • Aloe (Aloe vera): Highly tolerant to salt spray and soil with high salinity, this “healing” plant is a succulent that grows low to the ground in a rosette formation.

  • Wax-leaf ficus (Ficus microcarpa var. Crassifolia): This drought-tolerant, hardy plant is used as shrub and hedge material in Kauai landscapes. It stands up to the high heat on the island’s west side and really performs well in most of Kauai’s microclimates.

  • By the Kauai Shore: Plants That Withstand Salty Conditions

    Natal plum (Carissa macrocarpa): The dense, closely branched, spiny evergreen has dark, glossy leaves and produces white, star-like flowers. It loves sandy, well-drained soil and full sun, and is an ideal oceanfront foundation hedge.

Right Place: No Ka Oi for Commercial Landscape Maintenance

Why can’t you have the same plants as the neighboring Kauai commercial property? It’s all about microclimates and understanding the individual requirements of every site. Our specialists at No Ka Oi can recommend the best plants for your property, including varieties that can withstand salty ocean winds and high-salinity soil.

Let’s talk more. Give us a call any time at 808-335-5887, or fill out our simple contact form and we’ll get in touch with you! 

Posted in