Sandy soils are among the most interesting and challenging conditions a gardener can face. On the plus side sandy soils drain readily, warm quickly in spring, and are easily worked at planting time. On the challenging side, they retain little organic matter, and offer plants little in the way of nutrients. They heat up to unbearable levels in mid-summer, and drain so rapidly there is little chance for plants to collect enough rainfall. Sandy soils are notorious for requiring copious amounts of water and fertilizer. Even so, if you find yourself faced with a sandy landscape snag, you have some great options for a beautiful garden.
Consider using plants native to the sandy settings surrounding your area. These plants are adapted to low water, low nutrients, and higher soil temperatures. In the lower south, witch hazel, Eastern red cedar, beard tongue, coneflower and brown-eyed Susan are among the most tolerant of sandy conditions. Sand-loving vines include trumpet creeper and native grapes.
Along the Gulf coast consider using blanket flower, Gaillardia, a brightly-flowered perennial and Georgia Savory (Clinopodium georgianum), a small woody sub-shrub with gorgeous pink flowers in late summer. When crushed, the leaves release a most delicious minty fragrance. Other drought-tolerant natives include blue false indigo (Baptisia australis), lupines, and beach sunflower (Helianthus debilis).
Another strategy for dealing with sandy soil is to grow plants from sandy habitats across the globe. Herbs love full sun and sandy settings. For a garden with a Mediterranean feel, use herbs like rosemary, lavender, thyme, and sage. Other sand-loving plants include silvery artemisia, and early-flowering quince. If a desert landscape is to your liking, there are an abundance of sedums, yuccas, cosmos, and gazania to choose from. Other plants that work beautifully in sandy soils include ginkgo biloba, smoketree, flowering crab apples, and crape myrtle, cleome, cosmos, yarrow, and phlox.
If your plants require more organic material, work in some Miracle-Gro® Organic Choice® Garden Soil to add nutrients and help retain moisture.