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Unusually tolerant of direct seashore conditions and highly alkaline desert soils, saltbushes are grown for their gray or silvery foliage. Flowers and seeds attract birds. Need good drainage. Often become straggly with age; to keep them compact, cut back previous year’s growth by one-third each year before the first flush of spring growth. Plants are fire resistant.

Atriplex confertifolia (photo courtesy of Mark Turner)
Atriplex confertifolia (photo courtesy of Mark Turner)

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Atriplex confertifolia

Native to high plains and mesas from eastern Oregon and California to North Dakota, and south to northern Arizona, western Texas, and Mexico. A mounded, woody, spiny subshrub, 1–3 ft. tall and wide, with rounded, whitish leaves and pinkish or yellowish flower spikes in early summer.

Atriplex lentiformis

Native to alkali wastes in California valleys and deserts and east to Nevada, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico. Densely branched, sometimes spiny shrub, to 3–10 ft. high and 6–12 ft. wide. Oval, bluish gray leaves 1/2–2 in. long. Useful as salt-tolerant informal hedge or windbreak.

Atriplex lentiformis breweri

Native to California coast south of San Francisco Bay and to Channel Islands. Resembles A. lentiformis but is not spiny. Grows 5–7 ft. high and 6–8 ft. wide. Useful gray plant on oceanfront; will grow in reclaimed marine soil. Sometimes sheared into a hedge.

Atriplex semibaccata

Native to Australia but naturalized in parts of the West and Southwest. Forms a dense, foot-high mat of 1/2–1 1/2-in.-long, gray-green leaves. Spreads from 1–6 ft. or even wider. Excellent groundcover; plant 3 ft. apart.

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