Paver sand is commonly deployed in filling up the spaces between tiles and pavers. Famed among hardscaping enthusiasts for binding concrete elements and tiles, this sand assures you of durable joints and relief from erosion and insects.

But then you may have wondered, “is paver sand good for plants?” 

On its own, paver sand is not ideal for plants because it lacks the sufficient amounts of essential nutrients most plants need. Nonetheless, paver sand can be great for plants when used in amending soil, improving highly dense soils like clay soil, enhancing drainage, and facilitating the penetration of plant roots. When used as an additive, paver sand also supplies reasonable amounts of silica to your plants, ramping up the plant’s resilience to abiotic stress.  

To better ascertain the suitability of paver sand for plants, we need to understand its composition characteristics (strength and weaknesses) and how we can adapt this into developing a soil composition where plants can flourish.

What really is paver sand?

Paver sand is essentially fine sand that is mixed with an additive. This composition aims to tap into the adhesive capacities of the additive to create more compact soil when the combo is exposed to water. 

As a binding agent, paver sand is typically achieved by combining fine sand and silica. Silica is renowned among landscapers for its binding property, precisely how efficiently it interlocks larger and more porous sand particles. 

Diving deeper into the chemical composition, the generality of paver sand has silica accounting for 80%-95% of its content. But then, paver sand retains the intrinsic characteristics of fine sand (majorly its porosity) until the binding agent is activated. 

Such activation – which transforms paver sand to a gel-like compound – is achieved when water is added to the paver sand.

Can plants roots access nourishment in paver sand?

As a standalone soil – say you are planting in 100% paver sand – paver sand is almost useless for plants.

When water touches a soil sample made of just paver sand, it almost turns into sticky glue with minimal nutritional value for your plants. 

This means your plants would struggle to source the needed nutrients they need to thrive as paver sand doesn’t contain significant amounts of primary plant nutrients like nitrogen, hydrogen, carbon, potassium, and phosphorus.

That said, when used in combination with soils like clay loam, paver sand can dramatically improve the drainage of such grounds, allowing for easier access of plant roots to water and nutrients.

With its permeability between clay and sandy soil, paver sand provides the befitting porosity that keeps nutrients within the plant’s rich. 

How else does paver sand help plants?

As early advocated, paver sand can positively affect your plants when used as an additive instead of standalone soil.

Silicon is the primary nutrient contained in paver sand. When introduced slightly to a soil already providing the said primary nutrients (your plants need), the silicon derivable from paver sand can improve your plants’ resilience against environmental stress and strengthen your crops’ cell wall.

Yes, the silica in paver sand would significantly upgrade your plants’ capacity to withstand abiotic stress. When introduced as additives, Paver sand creates an exciting physiological reaction in plants, ramping up the connection between the plants’ cell wall structure and overall metabolism. 

Such stress resilience can be attributed to the alkalizing effect paver sand has on soils with heavy metallic composition. In reducing such high concentrations, paver sand – courtesy of its silica content – disburses antioxidant enzymes that relieve your plants of oxidative stress. 

The leaves of your plants will also be grateful as such silica content from your paver sand additive would increase their chlorophyll levels. For your plants, this is absolutely good for business!

What is more, such silicon input will not only enhance the absorption of minerals and moisture by your plant roots it will also protect your plants from powdery mildew and other fungal diseases. 

Can paver sand damage plants?

The answer to this question is mainly subjective to how paver sand is used to improve existing soil. If used in a supplementary capacity to the right soil type and is procedurally introduced (say in progressive bits while examining the results), paver sand shouldn’t damage your plants.

This brings us to how best you can add paver sand to plants. The truth is, paver sand is best introduced to plants as a nutrient solution. 

This nutrition solution is not necessarily a one-time application thing that you just dump once on your plants. Remember that paver sand has a strong alkalizing effect. 

If your plants absorb significant amounts of silica from your paver sand – courtesy when the paver sand composition is excessive – it will damage your plant owing to its toxicity.

Therefore, this nutrient solution should be delivered in chunks across the plant’s lifespan. This is from seedling to harvest.

As your plants mature and show positive developments from the paver sand being introduced, you can increase the quantity of paver sand you add. 

Which plants will do well with paver sand?

Provided paver sand is used to amend the correct type of soil – and in the proper nutrient solutions – plants should generally do well with paver sand. That said, some plants will perform more spectacularly with paver sand. Let us look at some of such plants.

Carrots

Carrots top the list of vegetables that would do well with paver sand. Being furnished with tap roots, carrot roots have superior penetrative capacity. 

Since paver sand would be used to loosen heavily dense clay soils, such carrot roots have less resistance to beat to access vital nutrients. 

Zucchini

Zucchini is another crop that excels in paver sand. First, zucchini savors the improved drainage that comes with paver sand and its superior warmth.

Provided the soil composition is regularly enhanced with befitting fertilizers, zucchini will flourish in paver sand soil compositions. 

Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera is one of the most rugged succulents you will come across. It would thrive even in a paver-sand-rich soil composition because it has ridiculously reduced nutritional demand and resilience to stress. This makes it suited to sandy-leaning soils (like paver sands) where low-maintenance plants bloom. 

What is the right way to amend soil with paver sand?

Paver send is best used in amending clay soils. Given that clay better mixes with materials when dry, you need to eliminate as much moisture from your clay soil before introducing your paver sand. 

Factors like your garden dimensions and intended depth of amended soil would determine how much paver sand you bring into the clay.  

Anywhere from 10-24′ would do for your amendment soil. 

If you have large shrubs and trees, you may require amendment soil up to 24 inches. For smaller bedding plants, amendment soil of 10 inches would suffice.

Now, take note that just paver and clay soil wouldn’t do for a properly amended soil. To achieve the befitting nourishment, soil structure, and temperature, you also need to bring in soil conditioner and compost material.

Your compost material should provide substantial quantities of primary nutrients like potassium, nitrogen, and phosphorus. Overall, the amended soil should provide reasonable amounts of secondary nutrients like boron, magnesium, and iron for your plants.

The composting materials to be used would depend on the type of plants you would be cultivating in the amended soil. 

Introducing rotting plant material into the soil at the plant seedling stage would do if the plant species majorly derives its nourishment from its roots. 

It is different for plants that derive their food from the tank’s water column. For this latter category, wait until your plant has fairly sprouted before enhancing the amended soil with liquid fertilizer.

Are there better sand alternatives than paver sand for plants?

While paver sand would do just fine for your plants if moderately used as an additive, there is a better sand option. This is horticultural sand. 

Essentially, horticultural sand is a bit grittier, comprising of particles derivable from quartz, crushed granite, and sandstone. 

When mixed with proper peat, this soil combines better, creating highly nourishing soils with superior drainage. Altogether, this creates a befitting loose soil structure that is less selective of plants than paver sand, facilitating germination. 

Horticultural sand excels when deployed in potting mix, especially for container growing. Compared to paver sand, this sand has fewer propensities to becoming compacted. 

Boasting improved drainage, plant roots in such potting mix are less vulnerable to suffocation and consequent death. 

However, horticultural sand would perform even more poorly than paver sand in a potting mix if you don’t get the peat-horticultural sand combination ratio right.

The ratio would be defined by the plants you would cultivate in the potting mix. If you are growing succulents like jade plants, eve’s pins, bunny ears cactus, and peyotes that need grittier soil structure, a 50-50 ratio will do. But for other plants, two parts of compost would be matched with one part of horticultural sand.

The depth to which you mix your horticultural sand with the extant clay soil (to be enhanced) depends on the density of the clay soil. 

You need to dig into about 10 inches of the soil for high-density clay soil before introducing your horticultural soil and then mixing it.

Resources

https://enviromom.com/paver-sand-vs-play-sand/
https://garden.org/thread/view/122254/Amending-soil-with-paver-sand/
https://homeguides.sfgate.com/paver-sand-55261.html
https://techniseal.com/pro_en_us/why-choose-polymeric-sand-for-paver-jointing
https://www.paverprotectors.com/blog/ep-3-sand-levels-brick-pavers