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Sea orache, the saltbush for seaside gardens… with edible leaves!

Sea orache, or salbush, leaves

Sea orache key facts :

Botanical nameAtriplex halimus
Common names – sea orache
Family – Chenopodiaceae
Type – shrub

Bearing – bushy
Height – 5 to 6 feet (1.50 to 2 m)
Breadth – 6 to 10 feet (2 to 3 meters)

Exposure – full sun
Soil – any type
Foliage – semi-evergreen
Flowering: June-July, rather insignificant

Sea orache, as its name hints, is a shrub that loves living along the coast.

It’s very common along the Atlantic and Mediterranean coastlines. Its small blue-gray leaves resist sea spray very well: it isn’t afraid of these tiny, salt-laden drops of seawater.

If you’re looking for a coastal garden plant for a flower bed or hedge, Atriplex halimus will meet your needs!

Planting sea orache

Atriplex halimus adapts to all types of soil. It resists chalky soil very well, and does fine in sandy ground. However, to grow properly, you must give it full sun exposure.
For it to settle in faster, plant in fall. To plant your sea orache, you must:

  • Planting sea orache, here to form a hedgeDig a hole at least 12 inches deep (30 cm).
  • Break up the clump after pulling it from its pot. Roots will spread out faster and won’t grow into a tight knot.
  • Settle the shrub in, and backfill with particular care: you don’t want to bury the root crown (an intermediate portion of a plant that connects the roots and the trunk). Also remember to press the soil down well, so that wind can’t pull the shrub out again.

If you’re aiming to grow a sea orache hedge, plant them 3 to 4 feet apart.

Caring for sea orache

Atriplex halimus doesn’t require any specific care.

Over the summer that follows planting, stay on the lookout for drought, and water if need be. After that, once properly settled in, your sea orache will do fine on its own.

If your goal is to prune, do so after the blooming or at the very beginning of spring.

Propagating sea orache:

Propagation of sea orache is easy through cuttingsIn order to multiply your shrub, you can either:

  • cut out shoots from the base of the stem to plant them elsewhere;
  • prepare cuttings at the beginning of summer.

Diseases and pests

Sea orache resists diseases well, and isn’t vulnerable to pests.

Landscaping and pairing

Whether in a garden bed or a pot, hedge or standalone, you can use sea orache creatively.

In a flower bed or hedge, pair it with:

  • Eleagnus x ebbingei: Leaves are similar to those of Atriplex halimus , but they’re a bit larger. There are also many different-colored cultivars (‘Limelight’, ‘Gilt Edge’, ‘Maculata’). Ideal for a hedge or to fill in a shrub bed.
  • Dodonea viscosa: It also resists harsh seaside growing conditions well. The copper-green leaves pair well with those of sea orache. There’s even a purple-leaved cultivar called ‘Purpurea’.
  • Photinia: The bright red color of young leaves will add an original touch to your hedge.
  • Escallonia: The thick, shiny, leathery leaves will mark a welcome contrast with those of sea orache. Small summer flowers will also bring a hint of fantasy to your landscaping.
  • Olearia: shiny leaves and short, stocky bearing will make this a great pair for sea orache

Did you know…?

Sea orache leaves are edible. They’re loaded with trace elements, and you can harvest them at any time during the year, whenever you need them.

Single large sea orache bush near the sea

Image credits (edits Gaspard Lorthiois):
CC BY 2.0: Lies Van Rompaey
Public Domain: Val Def
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