What is the Effect of Saltwater on Plant Growth

What is the Effect of Saltwater on Plant Growth
Page content

The salt-tolerating plant Samolus valerandi (ssp. valerandi) in stage of flowering.

Many plants cannot tolerate the presence of saltwater and there are those that can endure the effects of saltwater in their system. Each plant differs in their tolerance level for sodium. Although, they need salt to perform their chemical procedure, too much of it can be fatal to terrestrial plants. So, what is the effect of saltwater on plant growth? Here are some of the effects.


Osmosis is the procedure in which water absorption through semi permeable membranes happens at high concentration levels. Semi permeable membranes pertain to tissues found in the plant roots; from there, water will be transported to an area with much lower concentration levels. Fresh water, along with vitamins and minerals found in the soil, flow freely to the roots and up to the stem, leaves and other parts of the plants distributing the nutrients effectively. When salt is present in the water, it tends to play tug of war with the roots. The roots pull in the available water while the salt pulls out the water. After regular exposure to too much sodium, plants will shrivel and die.

Nutritional Imbalance

While most living things need some salt, too much of it can be toxic. This is true in plants, although some can withstand sodium and are more salt-tolerant than others are. Salt is a nutrient than can be absorbed by the plant. When an accumulation of sodium happens, it can severely alter the chemical composition, thus resulting to nutritional imbalance.


As we have discussed how osmosis works, sodium can have a negative impact on plants, sometimes confusing the caregiver. The plant life affected with an over-abundance of saline will have indications of drought (wilted brown/yellow leaves); yet, water will be obviously present in the soil. Even if the soil is damp, the plant cannot absorb required water and nutrients due to the saline present, which is pulling the moisture from the roots, thus leading to dehydration.


When plants are exposed to too much salty water, they have a hard time completing the osmosis process. They spend too much energy playing tug of war with the salt, pulling in as much water as they can – in short, they have to fight for moisture. Because of this, they put in lesser energy into making leaves formation and flowering; as a result, they may not produce or grow as well.


What is the effect of saltwater on plant growth? Unlike freshwater, which can easily be absorbed through the roots without problems, saltwater tends to be more difficult. Aside from the fact that every plant has a different saline level tolerance, several factors are considered when dealing with salt. For instance, the climate, soil condition and soil makeup can affect a plant’s salt-tolerance. Hotter weather requires more energy from plants to get water; therefore, salinity has greater effect during the hotter seasons. In areas where the water is naturally high in salt, try watering your plants with purified water. Also, avoid using tap water if you have a water softening system where sodium is used in the system process.

Image Credits

Christian Fischer - https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/d3/SamolusValerandi2.jpg/690px-SamolusValerandi2.jpg