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Get to know your garden intimately-part three Sandy Soils.

Updated on February 20, 2015

Sandy soil on agricultural land | Source


Part one in this series covered how to read the soil pH level and to discover which type of soil we had in our gardens,along with the aspect and other conditions. In part two we looked at Acidic soils and clay soils. Here in part three we look at gardens with sandy soils and discover which plants thrive in such medium. The series is aimed at beginners and those that are unsure in respect of gardening and which plants to grow.

After doing the soil test we now know we have sandy soil.

What is sandy soil ?

Healthy soil is regarded as that which consists of 45% minerals,25 % water ,25% air and 5% organic matter. Unfortunately sandy soil in much poorer than that. However,all is not doom and gloom and we shall discover there is a large range of plants that will happily grow in sandy conditions.

Without getting to scientific { the aim of this series is to keep it as simple as possible}, sand consists of tiny pieces of rock such granite,limestone and others. As a general rule it is less fertile than clay soil. Sandy soil is quick to warm up in the spring and air flows freely through sandy soil,but water drains away much quicker.

Sandy soils can be improved by adding organic matter and compost if so desired. However, when you add such materials the pH level and nutrients may well change and therefore the plants you choose to grow in it may be different also. Home-made compost which consists of green,brown and kitchen waste material breaks down overtime to make a good bulky compost which will add nutrients and texture to the sandy soil. However, for the sake of this article we look at the plants which will grow in sandy soils without any additional material being added.

Such soil is often referred to in botanical parlance as hungry soil because of the need for it to be kept regularly watered and fed. Sandy soil needs to be watered often, but do not pour on to much at a time for the excess will just drain away without the roots of the plants getting any benefit from it.

Because a lot of nutrients and minerals are lost through the medium draining so fast it is essential to place the type of plants in it that will be happy growing there. Below we look at some examples which may inspire your choice in this regard.

Anchusa capensis

UC Botanical gardens California USA
UC Botanical gardens California USA | Source

'Busy Lizzie' Impatiens Africano


Perennials Annuals and Biennials.

Anchusa capensis { Such as the one photographed above} make an attractive display.

Anchusa capensis 'Blue Angel' is a bushy perennial ,often grown as an annual. It has lance shaped bristly leaves .It produces heads of shallowly bowl-shaped blooms of a brilliant blue colour. which are borne in summer. They have a height and spread of eight inches { 20cm}

This plant requires full sun and well drained soil and is frost hardy. because of it needing well drained soil it is a plant that needs to be watered often but sparingly at a time.

Impatiens 'Busy Lizzy' are ideal bedding plants that produce flowers throughout the summer. They are cheerful and will enhance borders and containers. Always read the label some varieties such as the 'Confection' series and the 'Novette' series prefer moist soil and will need regular watering. They will also tolerate partial shade. Other Busy Lizzies prefer well drained soils.

Busy Lizzy varieties -Summer blooms

Originally posted to Flickr uploaded to Wiki-commons by Matanya
Originally posted to Flickr uploaded to Wiki-commons by Matanya | Source

Yellow bloom of Chrysanthemum segetum.


Chrysanthemum segetum

Chrysanthemum segetum is a moderately fast growing annual. The leaves are grey green and lance shaped. They produce daisy-like yellow flowers with single heads up to three inches wide {8 cm }. They are produced in summer and during early autumn. They have the added advantage of making ideal cut flowers. They attain the height of eighteen inches {45 cm } and a spread of twelve inches {30 cm }. These plants thrive best in full sun and well drained soil. they are fully frost hardy.

Many species of Chrysanthemum will thrive in well drained soils but again always read the label before purchasing.

Coreopsis is another genus that will enjoy well drained soils and full sun. However they do like fertile soil and will need regular feeding with a liquid feed. They are treated as annuals.

Other annuals which will enjoy your sandy soil include- Tagettes, Zinnia, Ursinia, Calceolaria, Nasturtiums, some Viola's and Antirrhinums. and many many more. Google annuals that like well drained soils.

Coreopsis tinctoria is a beautiful flower.


Arenaria montana

Taken at Serra Madrona Spain.
Taken at Serra Madrona Spain. | Source

Arabis procurrens


Rockery plants for sandy soils.

Arenaria montana is a fine rockery plant .Arenaria species have the common name of Sandwort so they will be suited to your sandy soils. They do need to have full sun and well drained soils. But they do require a moist soil so regular watering will be necessary. They are also suitable for growing on walls as well as in the rockery. Arenaria tetraquerta is another species that forms a hard green cushion and a plethora of white flowers.

Arabis is another genus of plants suitable for the rockery and they are robust and make good ground cover. These do need full sun and well drained soils. There are species, or more correctly varieties with yellow and cream foliage and yellow and white foliage. A.procurrens is pictured below.

The genus Dianthus {pinks} has many suitable varieties also. such as D.deltoides variety 'Flashing Light' is an evergreen that produces many small flat,facing upwards,flowers borne singly above tiny oblong,pointed leaves. they need full sun and a well drained soil. they grow to the height of four to six inches { 10-15 cm } and have a spread of eight inches { 20 cm }.

Daianthus deltoides


Tigridia variety


Tigridia flower

Taken in Germany
Taken in Germany | Source

Bulbs for sandy soils

There is a great variety of bulbs to suit sandy conditions among which are Crocus, Freesia, Muscari, Scilla and Tigridia. We should all be familiar with Crocus and Freesia so here I will look at a bulb plant you may not be so familiar with the Tigridia.

Tigridia are a genus of summer flowering bulbs. they are grown for their beautiful but short lived flowers. They have three large outer petals. This genus needs well drained soil but need to be watered regularly, often, with small amounts as excess water will just drain away and be wasted.

The species Tigridia pavonia has many varieties and shades of colour see images. They have sword shaped,pleated erect foliage near the base of the flowering stem. A succession of short lived flowers vary in colour depending on the variety, often with contrasting spots. They grow to the height of eighteen inches {45 cm } and a spread of four to six inches {10-12 cm}

Tigridia pavonia 'Cameriensis'

Taken in Germany
Taken in Germany | Source

Need something taller for sandy soils.?

if you are tree and shrub fan then here are some trees and shrubs to suit your sandy soil.

Betula pendula the birch tree , Pine and other conifers such as Juniper will grow well in sandy soils.Shrubs such as Cysisus scoparia and herb shrubs such as Lavender and Rosemary will all do well in these conditions ,the latter two being herbs that can all so be utilized for health and beauty products.

So as we have seen there is a large and varied range of plants that suit our sandy soils,and as we can also see the colours will make the garden beautiful and pleasant to be in. I hope I have managed to inspire some ideas for you. For more just Google plants for sandy soils.

In the next in this series we shall look at plants that prefer moist ground in shade.

Lavender looks nice smells nice and is benficial in health and beauty products.



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    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from Lancashire north west England


      hi Deb glad you liked this,and I will do my best to produce more. Best wishes to you.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      These are all such great tips for problematic soils. I tip my hat to your green thumb and hope to hear more on this subject.

    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from Lancashire north west England


      Hello Devika ,it wont be long now before we can get in the garden to work rest and play. Thank you for your encouraging comments and the votes. Best wishes to you.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Informative, and useful. Gardening can be such a pleasure if one put their minds to it. I find gardening most relaxing. Greatly informed about a special time spent outdoors. Voted up. interesting and useful.

    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from Lancashire north west England


      A senior moment-Never. They do have a look of the Bee orchid, I must admit. Have a good Sunday.

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 

      3 years ago from Norfolk

      Oops, you are quite right, they sure look like some of the local wild orchids. I should have remembered. Must be having a senior moment!

    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      Hi Sally,

      Like you I will glad when the winter is over and we can get in the garden loving our plants and the nature they attract. I think the flowers you refer to are not orchids, although they have orchid like flowers, they are in fact Tigridia of the Iris family. Thank you for your kind comments. Best wishes to you Sally.

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 

      3 years ago from Norfolk



      Nice, a taste of what is to come. Will be pleased to put Winter behind me and get on with a spot of gardening. Very informative with some gorgeous images, especially love the orchids. Thanks for sharing.



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