This article has been checked for horticultural accuracy by Oliver Parsons.
Tamarisk, also known as salt cedar (scientific name: Tamarix), is a beautiful flowering shrub that thrives in gardens and coastal regions throughout the UK, although it's native to the Mediterranean and parts of Asia. It can be easily identified by its delicate, feathery foliage and small pink or white flowers that bloom from spring to early autumn, depending on the species.
Tamarisk is a perennial, deciduous shrub or small tree that typically grows to a height of 2-5 metres. It thrives in a wide range of soils and conditions, making it a versatile choice for gardeners. It grows well in dry, arid environments and is a good choice for rock gardens and xeriscaping (growing without irrigation). Once established, tamarisk requires minimal maintenance and is relatively pest-free. It's also known to have a number of benefits for wildlife, attracting bees, butterflies and other pollinators.
Tamarisk is an evergreen plant in warmer climates, but in the UK it's deciduous and loses its leaves in the winter. It's a relatively fast-growing plant and can reach its full size in just a few years. While tamarisk is not considered invasive in the UK, it can spread rapidly in some situations. It's important to plant it in a suitable location where it has enough space to grow and won't compete with other plants.
How to grow tamarisk
Grow tamarisk in well-drained, neutral to acidic soil in full sun. Prune annually to keep growth in check.
Where to plant tamarisk
Grow tamarisk in neutral to acidic soil with good drainage, in full sun. Plant it as a standalone shrub, as part of a hedge or windbreak, or mixed with other plants.
How to plant tamarisk
Plant tamarisk in autumn or spring. Dig a hole that is slightly larger than the rootball of the plant and add some compost or organic matter to the soil. Place the plant in the hole and backfill with soil, pressing it down firmly around the base of the plant. Water the plant thoroughly and add a layer of mulch around the base to help retain moisture and suppress weeds.
If planting tamarisk as a windbreak or hedge, set the plants 60cm apart.
How to care for tamarisk
In terms of maintenance, tamarisk is a relatively low-maintenance plant. Water regularly during dry periods and feed it with a balanced fertiliser in spring.
How to prune tamarisk
It's essential to prune tamarisk hard each year, or its branches will become tangled. The best time to prune tamarisk varies depending on the type:
- Summer-flowering species should be pruned in March, before new shoots develop
- Spring-flowering tamarisk should be pruned from June onwards to avoid removing developing flowers
To give tamarisk a more tree-like shape, prune between October and March by removing the lowermost side branches. If these branches are thick and very long and heavy, saw them approximately 20cm from the trunk to take the weight off, then cut again much closer to the branch collar. Doing this stops the considerable weight of the branch causing splits or tearing the wood.
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Always leave the branch collar intact, as this helps the cut heal quickly. Remove any crossing or rubbing branches to improve air circulation and reduce the risk of pests and diseases. To encourage new growth and maintain a neat shape, cut back the previous year's growth by up to one-third.
How to propagate tamarisk
Tamarisk can be propagated by taking hardwood cuttings in winter. Select a vigorous, healthy stem from last season’s growth and cut a section about 30cm long. Remove the leaves from the lower two-thirds of the stem and dip the cut end in rooting hormone. Plant the cutting in a pot filled with a mixture of compost and perlite, water it well and cover it with a plastic bag to create a humid environment. Place the pot in a bright, sheltered spot and keep the soil moist. In a few months, the cutting should develop roots and can be planted out in the garden.
Pests and diseases
Tamarisk is generally a healthy and robust plant, free of pests and diseases.
Tamarisk is prone to root rot if the soil is too wet or poorly drained. To avoid this, plant it in free-draining soil and water sparingly. Avoid planting in areas where water tends to collect or where the soil is heavy clay.
Advice on buying tamarisk
- When buying tamarisk, look for healthy plants with strong, well-formed roots. Avoid plants that are wilting, yellowing, or have brown or black spots on the foliage
- Tamarisk needs to grow in free-draining soil in full sun – ensure you have the right growing conditions before buying
Where to buy tamarisk online
Tamarisk varieties to grow
Tamarix tetrandra – the most commonly grown species of tamarisk, known for its delicate pink flowers in spring and early summer.
Height x Spread: 4.5m x 4.5m
Tamarix pentandra – makes a good solitary garden specimen or can be grown as a hedge (often used as a coastal windbreak). It has feathery leaves and rose-pink flowers from summer to early autumn, it may need protection in winter.
H x S: 4.5m x 4.5m
Tamarix ramosissima – this species can be a good choice for smaller gardens. It has feathery blue-green foliage and pink flowers in late summer into autumn.
H x S: 5m x 5m
Tamarix parviflora: This is native to the Middle East and has white and pink flowers in summer, with blue-green foliage.
H x S: 5m x 5m