Often referred to as light or hungry soil. Sandy soils are often well-drained but will dry out quickly and can struggle to naturally hold plant nutrients.

The plants that do thrive in this soil, have developed root systems that penetrate the ground deeply in order to reach the nutrients that they need to flourish. They often have developed leaves which reduce the loss of moisture. Interestingly, these leaves can be small and reflexed, evergreen and glossy or have a covering of hair.

What are sandy soils?

Simply pick up a handful of your garden soil and rub it between your fingers. If you can see individual grains and it feels gritty between your fingers or doesn’t roll into a sausage shape, instead falling apart and not holding its shape, the soil is sandy.

These types of soils drain well and hold little water, so aren’t prone to waterlogging. In addition, they are light and easy to dig compared to clay soils.

On the other hand, because of the gaps between particles in sandy soil being larger, water can flow away quickly, so can be prone to drought.

How to improve your sandy soil?

Mulching is a great way of adding organic matter such as compost or manure to your sandy soil to improve the soil and make it more drought-proof. This organic matter will improve moisture retention in the soil, which will also allow for reduced watering before summer.

The matter will also break down to release vital nutrients to plants. These nutrients are bound to the organic matter, meaning they don’t wash away easily.

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Golden rules for sandy soil

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• By planting further apart, the plants will have access to more soil, so they aren’t competing for essential nutrients in the sandy soil.

• If digging sandy soil, it is best to do so in spring compared to autumn. When you do dig you may need to tread down the surface to aid the retention of moisture.

• Adding a good amount of well-rotted organic matter is needed every year to improve the moisture retention of sandy soils.

• Sandy soils are best dug in late winter or early spring.

With these tips and plant recommendations, your garden will be full of magnificent plants that are in the perfect conditions to grow. Here are some of the best plants for sandy soil:

Trees

If you’ve got a spare spot for a tree, there are several options to choose from:

Pinus sylvestris (Scots pine)

This tall evergreen can grow up to 50 metres high, making it great for a larger garden. The towering beauty produces yellow flowers in the summer and in autumn cones of fruit will appear.

• Sun – Full sun
• Position – South, North, East or West facing
• Exposure – Exposed or sheltered
• Moisture – Well-drained
• Soil – Chalk, clay, sand or loam

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Betula ermanii (gold birch)

With yellow or brown flowers being produced in spring, this deciduous tree will grow over 12m and is a good option for a medium sized garden.

• Sun – Full sun or partial shade
• Position – South, North, West or East facing
• Exposure – Exposed or sheltered
• Moisture – Well-drained
• Soil – Sand, clay, chalk or loam

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Thuja occidentalis (white cedar) ‘Holmstrup’

Providing colour all year round, the foliage is tinged bronze in the winter and will grow up to 4m tall, adding some lovely texture to a low-maintenance small or medium plot.

• Sun – Full sun
• Position – South North, East or West facing
• Exposure – Exposed or sheltered
• Moisture – Moist but well-drained
• Soil – Sand, chalk, clay or loam

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Shrubs

Buddleja davidii (butterfly bush)

In summer and autumn, sprays of small fragrant flowers in shades of purple will adorn the green-grey foliage. The perfect plant for pollinators, you’ll be sure to spot some butterflies in your garden.

• Sun – Full sun or partial shade
• Position – South, East or West facing
• Exposure – Exposed or sheltered
• Moisture – Well-drained
• Soil – Sand, chalk, clay or loam

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Rosa spinosissima (Scotch rose)

These hardy shrubs have single, white flowers in summer which are followed in autumn by black hips. A striking addition to a border in a cottage garden, or an option as a low hedge.

• Sun – Full sun or partial shade
• Position – South, North, East, West facing
• Exposure – Exposed or sheltered
• Moisture – Moist but well-drained
• Soil – Sand, chalk, clay or loam

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Climbers

Lapagerua rosea (Chilean bellflower)

This evergreen climber has leathery green leaves, that are complemented by rose pink bell-shaped flowers in autumn, adding a pop of colour to a wall-side border.

• Sun – Partial shade or full shade
• Position – West, East or North facing
• Exposure – Sheltered
• Moisture –Moist but well-drained
• Soil – Sand, clay or loam

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Clematis

An extremely popular climber, they can be found as deciduous or evergreen shrubs, with showy flowers to emphasise a wall-side border in a cottage or courtyard garden.

• Sun – Full sun or partial shade
• Position – South, West, East or North facing
• Exposure – Exposed or sheltered
• Moisture – Moist, but well-drained
• Soil – Sand, chalk, clay or loam

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Perennials

Agapanthus (African lily) ‘Northern Star’

Growing up to 1m, the tall stems are topped with rounded heads of striped purple flowers. Fit for borders or containers, these perennials will suit any garden, from Mediterranean inspired to city gardens.

• Sun – Full sun
• Position – South, West or East facing
• Exposure – Sheltered
• Moisture – Moist but well-drained
• Soil – Sand, chalk, clay or loam

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Campanula (bellflower)

Perfect for an informal bed or border, these hardy, columnar plants flower in spring or summer, to reveal bell or star shaped flowers, most commonly found in blue or purple.

• Sun – Full sun or partial shade
• Position – South, West or East facing
• Exposure – Sheltered
• Moisture – Moist but well-drained
• Soil – Sand, chalk, clay or loam

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Kniphofia (red-hot poker)

To add some fiery colour to your Mediterranean style garden, these will add vibrant shades as well as height, growing up to 1 metre. A striking plant that will enhance your border.

• Sun – Full sun or partial shade
• Position – South or West facing
• Exposure – Exposed or sheltered
• Moisture – Moist but well-drained
• Soil – Sand or loam

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Limonium platyphyllum (broad-leaved statice)

Sprays of tiny, pale violet flowers bloom in summer, complementing the broad green leaves. Marvellous in a coastal or gravel garden that’s got a spare sunny spot.

• Sun – Full sun
• Position – South facing
• Exposure – Exposed or sheltered
• Moisture – Well-drained
• Soil – Sand, chalk or loam

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Grasses

Eragrotis curvula (African love grass)

Also known as weeping love grass, this plant will offer some soft texture in a low-maintenance garden where they will grow to approximately 1.5 metres tall.

• Sun – Full sun
• Position – South, West or East facing
• Exposure – Sheltered
• Moisture – Well-drained
• Soil – Sand, chalk or loam

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Pnicum virgatum (switch grass) ‘Heavy Metal’

Weeping, tufted grass with blue-grey leaves will deliver upright sweeping backdrop in an informal garden or will look right at home in a wildlife garden.

• Sun – Full sun
• Position – South or West facing
• Exposure – Exposed or sheltered
• Moisture – Well-drained
• Soil – Sand, chalk or loam

Annuals and biennials

Antirrhinum (snapdragon)

Vibrant and jolly flowers that will bring some joy to your patio containers, whilst also being a great choice for kids due to their bright colours. Let the kids plant them up in a container as their own.

• Sun – Full sun
• Position – South or West facing
• Exposure – Sheltered
• Moisture – Well-drained
• Soil – Sand, chalk or loam

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Coreopsis tinctorial (dyer’s tickseed)

A favourite for pollinators, these fast-growing annuals have bright daisy-like flowers with red centres on long stalks in summer and autumn.

• Sun – Full sun
• Position – South, West or East facing
• Exposure – Exposed or sheltered
• Moisture – Well-drained
• Soil – Sand, chalk or loam

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Tagetes erecta (African marigold)

Double flowers found in yellow, orange and white bloom in summer autumn. When the leaves and flowers are brushed, so position them in a border which will be walked past often.

• Sun – Full sun
• Position – South, West or East facing
• Exposure – Exposed or sheltered
• Moisture – Well-drained
• Soil – Sand, clay or loam

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Tanacetum parthenium (feverfew)

Dainty daisy-like flowers bloom in summer, to contrast with the strongly aromatic, green foliage that is well suited in a courtyard garden.

• Sun – Full sun
• Position – South, West or East facing
• Exposure – Exposed or sheltered
• Moisture – Well-drained
• Soil – Sand or loam

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Rock plants

Achillea x lewisii (yarrow) ‘King Edward’

This compact semi-evergreen will be a welcome addition to a rock garden. The silvery foliage that persists all year round is joined by heads of tiny yellow flowers in the summer which gradually turn cream.

• Sun – Full sun
• Position – South, West or East facing
• Exposure – Exposed or sheltered
• Moisture – Well-drained
• Soil – Sand or chalk

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Dianthus deltoides (maiden pink)

Add some vibrancy to your rock garden or border with these deep red or pink flowers that bloom in summer. These small and compact evergreens are hardy throughout the UK.

• Sun – Full sun
• Position – South, West or East facing
• Exposure – Exposed or sheltered
• Moisture – Well-drained

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Bulbs

Allium

Known for their umbels or star or bell-shaped flowers atop an upright, leafless stem, they have a strong scent of onion or garlic. If a cottage style garden is what you are after, alliums will fit right in.

• Sun – Full sun
• Position – South, North, West or East facing
• Exposure – Sheltered
• Moisture – Well-drained
• Soil – Sand, chalk, clay or loam

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Ixia viridiflora (green-flowered corn lily)

A perennial with star shaped flowers that flourish in spring and summer on thin, wiry stems. They aren’t fully hardy, and don’t survive frosty conditions.

• Sun – Full sun
• Position – South or West facing
• Exposure – Sheltered
• Moisture – Well-drained
• Soil – Sand or loam

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Muscari armeniacum (Armenian grape hyacinth)

Hardy bulbous perennials which grow to 20cm in height, will bear spikes of purple egg-shaped flowers in spring. Suited to a wildflower garden or as underplanting of roses and shrubs, these low maintenance plants will bring joy to your garden.

• Sun – Full sun or partial shade
• Position – South, North, West or East facing
• Exposure – Exposed or sheltered
• Moisture – Well-drained
• Soil – Sand, clay, chalk or loam

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There are plants for every soil type, so get to know your soil using my expert guide and you’re well on your way to creating a glorious garden that’s full of colour, texture and dynamic designs.

Spring is on its way, see my post on spring pollinators:

Or check out my Pinterest board for more ideas:

spring pollinators
Spring pollinators
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Pinterest Board