trees with salinity resistance

Which Trees Should I Plant For My Island Retreat?

  Living in a country surrounded by the sea, there are many times when we are faced with the question “What plants and trees should I put in my garden? ”, which are not only able to withstand the climate of an island, but also to impress. Homes with a magnificent view of the blue, accompanied by the right plant species, always create impressive visual effects. But why are not all species suitable? Unfortunately, not all plants can withstand the salinity of coastal soils, water droplets and strong winds, a phenomenon common to our beloved Aegean islands. It is not rare to find stunted plants, with symptoms such as drying of the leaf tops.

But let’s briefly look at what salinity is and how it affects our plants. Salinity is the presence of high concentrations of sodium (Na+) and chlorine (Cl) ions in the plant’s root environment. This happens because the energy flowing through the water molecules is reduced, as the latter are attracted to the salt ions rather than the plant roots. As a consequence, soil that has ‘salt’ behaves as dry, as very little of the soil water is eventually taken up by the plants.

But enough of the details and let’s get to the main point, starting with the most suitable trees for an island garden.

Tamarisk (Tamarix)

Undoubtedly, tamarix is the “king” of plants with salinity resistance, since it thrives even at a minimum distance from the sea foam. It reaches a height of 6m and a diameter of 4-5m, and has a fast growth rate. Three species are usually sold in Greek nurseries, Tamarix tetrandra, which blooms in spring with white flowers, Tamarix parviflora, which blooms in early summer with pink flowers and finally Tamarix ramosissima, which blooms in late summer.

2 Tamarix trees near the sea Tamarix near the sea

Olive tree (Olea europaea)

For the olive tree, recommendations are superfluous. Perhaps the most beautiful and with the longest fruit-bearing history. It is evergreen and thrives in sunny locations, with well-drained soil. In addition to saline soil, it has excellent drought resistance. Its flowering begins in May, and the fruits ripen in the fall. In Greece there are more than 43 varieties of olive trees, each with its own particular characteristics.

Olive tree leaves with olives Beautiful olive tree suitable for islands


Mulberry tree (Morus)

One of the most popular deciduous trees in the Greek landscape, due to the rich shade provided by its foliage, especially during the summer months. It has excellent resistance to drought, frost, salinity and atmospheric pollution. At the same time, it has no special soil requirements, as it thrives even in arid soils. In sunny places it gives impressive results. It can be found in fruit-bearing varieties, such as white and black mulberry (or common mulberry), but also in fruitless varieties, the so-called ornamental mulberry. The latter is mainly used for decorating areas such as parking lots of buildings, where the fruit is not desirable to fall to the ground.

mulberry tree or morus suitable for island Mulberry tree with red berries

Carob tree (Ceratonia siliqua)

Ideal choice for an island garden. The carob or woodcock is a fruit-bearing, evergreen tree. Its glossy leaves, combined with its fruit (the carob) will give any garden a sense of stateliness. It is no coincidence, after all, that the word karati, has come from the word kerati (the dried seed of the carob tree), which in ancient times was used as a unit of weight for gold and precious stones. As for the soil and climate conditions, it likes dry and warm climates and is particularly resistant to salinity. It will grow very successfully in any soil, even the most arid ones.

Ceratonia siliqua or carob tree Carob tree ideal for garden on islands

Fig tree (Ficus carica)

The fig tree is one of the most beloved fruit trees that are strongly associated with the Greek summer, mainly for its sweet fruit. It loves the sun and high temperatures, and is sensitive to very cold temperatures. It thrives in all soils, with the exception of clay soils, which retain large amounts of water. Of course, one of the reasons why it is preferred is that it does not need much care, which is particularly important for most homeowners in island areas, who often visit their holiday homes only in the summer season. What could be better than a tree that does not bother us with its care and at the same time offers us tasty delights? And an additional tip for the fig tree, if we want it to produce more figs, it is advisable, although it can withstand drought, to assist it with some watering. For more information about the fig tree follow the link.

Fig tree Ficus carica suitable for islands

Pomegranate (Punica granatum)

One of the best known deciduous trees in the Mediterranean garden, originating in Persia. It reaches a height of up to 4 meters and forms a dense crown. The trademark of the pomegranate is its reddish-red crown-shaped fruit. Of course, its red-orange flowers, which appear from spring to autumn, are also impressive. It shows resistance to low temperatures, but not below -10°C, and loves sunny areas with high temperatures.

Punica granatum or pomegranate on island Punica granatum on island

Oak tree (Quercus ilex)

The holly oak, or white oak, is a beautiful evergreen tree, native to the Mediterranean. It reaches a height of up to 15 meters. Its rich cylindrical crown, combined with its grey-green leaves, creates a very beautiful composition with the olive tree. It thrives in moderately moist soils with good drainage. It is a very drought resistant tree, once acclimatized to the site, as well as cold.

Quercus tree leaves and fruit Quercus tree amazing for all gardens

California or Mexican Fan Palm (Washingtonia Fan Palm)

The most classic choice of trees in coastal areas is none other than palm trees and not without reason as they are very resistant to strong winds, drought and sea salinity.  They can even reach heights of up to 15 meters and combine this height with a fast growth rate. At the same time, it gives the space an exotic touch associated with holidays and relaxation.

Washingtonia Fan Palm Washingtonia Fan Palm a tropical vibe to your island garden


Originating from distant Mexico, the yucca is an extremely hardy tropical plant. It’s very high resistance to soil salinity and droplets carried from the sea, combined with its impressive foliage, makes it a favorite plant on the islands. It has long lanceolate leaves 1,5-2 m in size. It flowers in late July, with beautiful white bell-shaped flowers. It multiplies very easily, even if it has a cut stem.

Yucca plant blossom and leaves Yucca plant blossom and leaves

Photinia tree (Photinia)

Photinia is classified as a shrub, but it can also take the form of a tree. It is loved by landscape architects because of the strong color contrasts of its foliage, red in the warm months and green in the cool months. In May, it fills with white flowers, which carry a wonderful fragrance, which result in red fruits that ripen in the fall, enhancing its ornamental value. This evergreen shrub loves the sun, but is also resistant to very low temperatures. Naturally, it has been added to the list of plants suitable for islands, as it is resistant to salinity and also to arid soils.  Finally, the rapid growth of the photinia is remarkable, reaching even 4 meters, a feature which makes it the first choice of plants for hedges.


Photinia shrub that creates a hedge

The list of plant material does not end there, however, as the trees will be complemented by ornamental shrubs ideal for hedges and climbing plants, which, when placed on pergolas, will provide shade.

Briefly, the most popular and not unfairly ornamental shrubs are:

  • Viburnum tinus
  • Metrosideros excels
  • Eleagnus ebbingei
  • Pittosporum tobira
  • Rosmarinus officinalis
  • Lavandula angustifolia
  • Santolina chamaecyparissus
  • Vitex agnus-castus
  • Pistacia lentiscus
  • Nerium oleander
  • Polygala myrtifolia
  • Plumbago auriculata

While of climbing plants are:

  • Ampelopsis quinquefolia
  • Hedera felix
  • Bougainville
List of shrubs, climbing plants and trees suitable for islands List of shrubs, climbing plants and trees suitable for islands