20 Best Plants for a Coastal Garden
Which foliage and flowering coastal plants will survive and thrive, and how to design your beautiful beach garden.
Bringing your outdoor space to life in a coastal area is not difficult as long as you take strong winds, often poor, sandy, dry soil and salt air in to consideration.
What is a Coastal Garden?
A coastal garden is a space created in a beach or seaside location. They are a thing of beauty and inspiration as well as being an easy low maintenance garden idea.
Many Mediterranean and UK plants thrive in salt-laden, coastal situations. Although a little more challenging, coastal gardening is just as much, if not more satisfying, as any other garden style.
My list of the 20 best plants for a coastal garden will inspire you to develop and design your own beach side garden using plants that will not only thrive in salty, sea air but will look beautiful too, throughout the seasons.
There are numerous foliage plants and coastal flowering plants that you can choose to include in your garden.
As well as the 20 Best plants for a coastal garden, that I shall talk about here in more detail, also include native coastal grasses, these indigenous, seaside-hardy plants will be the backbone to your garden design. They will also help with soil erosion as well as acting as a buffer and protection for other plants from wind and salt.
Create a dreamy garden that conjures up wildness, nature and driftwood with silvery foliage and flowering coastal plants that in a gentle sea breeze will add movement and texture.
For information on which gardens to visit for coastal gardening ideas, read here.
Coastal Garden Foliage Plants
Of course there are many more plants to choose from than the ones that I have elected to include here. The following plants are of differing sizes, shapes and texture so that you can select a wide variety of ones you wish to grow.
They are all easy maintenance, they will all look great in gravel beds either as a key specimen plant or in mass plantings.
Crambe maritima (Sea Kale)
A pretty low growing foliage plant, which is edible too. It does die back in winter but will come back each year.
A pretty, hardy grey/blue grass that is low growing and very much looks after itself.
They look wonderful planted with white and blue flowering plants in containers or in the beds and borders.
Cordyline and Phormuim
Gorgeous spiky foliage plants that thrive in dry, drought conditions. There are some wonderful colour varieties of these lovely architectural plants.
Corynephorus Spiky Blue
Attractive tufts of blue-gray grass that make excellent ground cover or can be used to soften the edges of hard landscaping. A great combination with heather, sedum or thyme. ( All further plant options for a coastal theme) Tolerant of drought and dry, sandy soil.
This wonderfully glossy leafed shrub is tough as old boots and looks great in any garden situation. Tolerant of many soil types, drought and frost alike. A coastal garden poses no great challenge for it.
Another tough plant that you can leave to do it’s own thing. Berries in autumn and winter will provide further interest and colour, not to mention food for birds and small garden mammals
Miscanthus are a valuable plant in any scheme, but beach side they add lots of movement and texture and can withstand coastal winds.
Carex is an evergreen sedge. A distinctive ornamental grass which adds long-lasting interest throughout the year to any garden.
Helichtotrichon sempervirens Sapphire (Blue Oat Grass)
A useful foliage, evergreen grass with fine blue blades. The blue tones of this grass give a cool look to any seaside space.
Coastal Flowering Plants
The best thing about some of these plants is that their name gives you the best clue as to where they will thrive and survive. Sea holly, sea lavender or sea breeze and thrift…they epitomise coastal planting and their main habitat, naturally is on cliffs or sandy beaches. Their names alone afford them a soft, romantic seaside reputation.
So let’s take a look at what flowers grow well at the beach.
Eryngium (Sea Holly)
Eryngium is a firm favourite for gardeners everywhere, their spiky, holly like form is a sharp contrast to the softer grasses that you can grow with them. Steel blues and silver colours fit right in with the beach theme.
Very easy to grow and care for.
Tall stems bearing lots of flowers that start off pink then turn to a vivid blue/purple as they mature.
Attractive and easy to grow, soon becoming large clumps that flower all summer.
There are many varieties of Scilla, native to seashores throughout Europe. They are a bulb forming plant with strap leaves and blue star or bell shaped leaves.
Ameria maritima (Thrift)
This is a native plant of cliffs and beaches, it clings to sandy rocks in crevices, so it lends itself perfectly for a coastal scheme.
Limonium Latifolium (Sea Lavender)
Sea lavender can be found along salt marshes and coastal areas of England, flowering from June to October with a profusion of blue, mauve, purple, lavender flowers. Popular with bees and other pollinators.
Easy to grow, it’s looks grand planted in large swathes.
Erigeron sea breeze (Fleabane)
This lovely pink daisy flower looks well in nooks and crannies of rockeries and shale beds. It spread quickly and has a profusion of flowers right through the summer.
Originally from South Africa this majestic plant with huge blue, white or mauve flowers will be totally happy in sandy, stony soils. Once established it requires very little attention and survives hot, dry spells.
Achemilia is a very pretty low growing planting with fan shapes leaves and yellow flowers in spring through to early autumn. No care needed , except to cut it back after flowering. It soon starts to send out new growth.
Crocosmia has long strap like leaves with arching stems of orange, red or yellow flowers. It spread easily and look lovely in beds and borders amongst a variety of other plants.
Kniphofia (Red hot poker)
These are ideal plants for seaside gardens, tall and majestic, with large cones of red and orange flowers. Happy in most conditions.
Best Design Features for a Coastal Garden
As with any type of garden, protection from the elements for your flowering coastal plants can be provided by planting larger shrubs, trees and hedging. By growing a living hedge you can block the worst of storms thereby aiding your less tolerant plants to survive. It will also give you a wider choice of plants to include. See Best Evergreen Windbreak Shrubs and Trees for Coastal Gardens.
Natural wind breaks act and look better than walls or fences. An old stone wall in a garden however is an attractive feature and can be used to support climbing plants.
For other designs and style of gardens read How to Make a Mediterranean Garden
Hard Landscaping Ideas for Coastal Garden
Stone pavings, graveled areas, a pebble ‘beach’ and wooden decking are all key design features for a coastal garden.
A more relaxed, informal approach works best. Planting in and around rock and stone features will instantly create a soft, fluid, beach look.
Pathways and wooden steps can be edged with smooth pebbles, weathered wooden support posts with rope hand holds look fabulous too.
Driftwood artifacts will support the coastal atmosphere, they look charming, adding a further seaside element to your finished design.
Sun Bleached wood- natural wood shades are ideal for sheds, fences, furniture and other wooden features.
Or you can use beach side colours to help create an attractive, fun theme.
I hope that you have enjoyed this article, you don’t have to live on the coast in order to enjoy a simple coastal design. The plants featured in this post will be happy in a lot of different situations. But for those of you that live in coastal areas, with the weather elements to contend with this article will go some way to assure that you too can have a terrific garden by choosing the right plants for the right situation.
Take a look here for coastal gardens to visit in order gain further ideas and inspiration.
Further examples of gardens to visit that showcase this style of planting can be found at…
For a more comprehensive list of suitable plants take a look at the RHS coastal plant list
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I much appreciate any question or views so pop them in the comments box and I will reply.