Inside the Floodplain

What Is It?

Cost: Varies based on plant species.
Applications: Retrofitting or new construction. Check individual plant species for more specific applications.
Service Life: Variable based on plant species.

Not all plants can survive an encounter with saltwater. As sea levels rise, planting beds may become inundated with high-salinity water during flooding events, killing or damaging most land-based species. Coastal Massachusetts is home to many saltwater-hardy plant species, and many more imported plants can grow and flourish in this climate. Landscaping with saltwater-hardy plants can help to lessen the financial impacts of flooding, mitigate erosion, and beautify sites.

Saltwater-hardy plants are species that can survive infrequent seawater inundation. They are often native to coastal areas and are frequently planted at beach properties where regular flooding is expected. These plants tend to require sandier soil to grow and monitoring the soil type and pH will help plants to thrive.

Garden supply companies sell saltwater-hardy trees, grasses, shrubs and seasonal plantings. Selecting saltwater-hardy plant species ensures that sea level rise has a minimum effect on landscaping. For larger landscaped properties, switching from less tolerant species could represent a noteworthy savings on repairs after a flood event.


  • A saline flood would do less damage to the landscape.
  • Salt-tolerant plants are also safe from winter road salt runoff, which can otherwise “burn” plants.
  • The planting beds can serve as bioretention pools for seawater flood events.
  • Plants contribute to beautifying the urban landscape.
  • Plantings can help stabilize dunes and decrease erosion.


  • Sandier soil retains less water for faster infiltration.

Additional Resources

Project Examples



Photo credit: Marco Schmidt: Salicornia europaea, Wikimedia Commons