I live on Long Beach Island, NJ, and my property was flooded with salt water during Superstorm Sandy. Subsequently, all of my leyland cypress are browned out. In addition, all hollies have dropped their leaves, photinia leaves are burned, privet has dropped leaves. Any chance for new growth on any of these or should I just have everything pulled and start over? I live on the water so salt-tolerant suggestions are welcome.
The Gardener’s Answer
Hello, Benee in New Jersey: With all the challenges you have faced recently I wish I had better news for you, but from what you described it sounds like these plants were submerged in water for an extended period of time. Plants are pretty tough and can withstand some foul weather but what you and your plants have experienced is altogether a different story. Really only time will tell if they will recover and put on new growth, but when evergreens lose their foliage they typically do not put on new growth to replace the lost. It could take years for them to become lush and happy again and so in the end it may be easier to have them replaced. Choosing plant material that can deal with the environment in which you live is going to be important in terms of longevity. Salt tolerance within plants is divided into three different categories: highly, moderately, and slightly salt tolerant. Plant hardiness, sun exposure, and proximity to the water need to be taken into account when selecting new plant material. The Ocean County Cooperative Extension Service is a great resource for home gardeners. The horticulture agent and/or the Master Gardeners in your area will be a wealth of knowledge. You can visit their Web site at http://ocean.njaes.rutgers.edu
or you can reach them by phone at (732) 349-1152. Your Extension office has posted a publication on their Web site specifically related to plant material damaged by Superstorm Sandy; you can read it at: http://ocean.njaes.rutgers.edu/documents/copingwsaltwtrNov28.pdf.
As for options for replacement plants, The North Carolina Extension Office has provided a detailed list of plant species and cultivars that are salt tolerant: http://pender.ces.ncsu.edu/files/library/71/Salt%20Tolerant%20Plants.pdf. Some of these plants may not be suitable for your gardening zone so you should check with your Extension office or local garden center/nursery before planting. You may want to wait until spring arrives until you do anything. This way you will give the plants a chance to break dormancy and you can better evaluate the damage. Hopefully there will be some lovely surprises.