Plants for a fabulous oceanfront garden: seaside shrubs, beachfront grasses, ocean-loving trees…

Garden plants for seaside oceanfront landscaping

Coastal climate batters seaside garden plants with many hardships: strong winds (even hurricanes), sea spray, dry summers, poor soil…

With all these difficulties, maybe you’re thinking it’s impossible to get flowers growing in your coastal garden? Think again! There are actually a great many plants that love this particular growing environment! Follow our guide to discover the best beach garden plants.

Seaside perennials

Crambe maritima

Crambe maritima lined up along a dike with seawaterAlso going by the name sea kale because of its large, smooth leaves, Crambe maritima is among the seaside plants that grows particularly well in sandy, rocky and salty soil. It doesn’t like long-lasting droughts, though. From May to July, it’s covered in little white flowers and will definitely add an original touch to all your flower beds.

Silver ragwort

Dusty miller with seagrass pods in the backgroundEasily recognizable thanks to its blue-gray leaves and bright yellow flowers, Cineraria maritima definitely deserves its name. It just loves rocky, sandy soil, and survives lack of water without any symptoms. It’s perfect for any ocean climate. Learn more

Phormium

Phormium leaves with many colorsVery common around the Mediterranean, Phormium or New Zealand flax is more and more present in our own gardens, too. Its main asset is its upright bearing and its many-colored leaves: purple, green, variegated. It can take on any kind of soil, and favors growing in full sun.

Armeria sp.

Armeria field covered in small pink flower with an ocean bay in the backgroundOriginal perennials, both thanks to their flowers and their leafage, the Armeria botanical genus loves poor or ordinary soil, as long as it isn’t too dry. They also tolerate sandy soil and light substrates, so they won’t have any trouble growing along the coast. Learn more

Potentilla sp.

Cinquefoil flowers heavily near the oceanCinquefoil is a group of very interesting seaside perennials because they resist harsh growing environments: drought and poor soil (rocks, sand). They also have another great advantage: diversity. Indeed, you can find leafage that ranges in a multitude of colors, from blue-gray to shiny bright green. Flowers, too: hues range from white to red, with yellow and pink blooms available, too. It would be very easy to create an entire flower bed with only this species of plants. Learn more

Liatris scariosa

Blue purple flowers of the Blazing starClearly prefers dry, well-draining soils, so growing on or near a beach in sandy soil is perfect for this plant. Additionally, it loves getting hit by full sun! With its long, flowing one-of-a-kind inflorescence that boast velvety violet flowers, it will definitely bring a touch of originality to your flower beds.

Jovibarba sp.

Gravel and seawater won't kill off jovibarba plantsHouseleek are ground cover perennials with leaves wrapped into neat rosettes. They bloom in summer. They particularly love hot, sunny spots, and only need a handful of dirt to grow. So Jovibarba is simply ideal to add plants that will survive along the seaside. Note that Sempervivum (or Jupiter’s beard) looks nearly identical to it, but has different flowers with more petals on each. It is also well-suited for growing in oceanic climates. Discover more

Seaside grasses

Ammophila arenaria

Beach grass swaying in the dunesAlso goes by the name marram grass, european beach grass and dune grass, this grassy plant carries its name well. It’s especially happy in sandy soil, and salty sea spray doesn’t disturb it in the least. Incidentally, this plant is a prime choice for fighting against sand dune erosion because its deep-running roots stabilize the dunes.

Leymus arenarius

Blue lyme is a grass that takes sea spray easilyAlso known under the name blue lyme grass and rye grass, this plant plays a big role in stabilizing sand dunes. Just like marram beach grass, it offers an astounding adaptation to seaside beach life. Its bright blue leafage and and blooming are similar to that of rye.

Lagurus ovatus

Rabbit hare grass tuftsA familiar sight near beaches, Lagurus ovatus (also called hare’s grass and hare’s-tail grass) prospers in sandy beachfronts. Its fuzzy oval seed clusters are soft and they pleasingly sway with the wind. Moreover, they excel as dried cut flowers.

Hordeum jubatum

Hordeum jubatum is a pattern-rich grass for seaside gardensAt the end of summer, foxtail barley bears beautiful salmon-colored flowers with long silky barbs. This annual spontaneously re-seeds and is most magnificent when planted as a group. Easy to grow and care for, it won’t have any problems growing near the beach.

Shrubs for coastal gardens

Eleagnus angustifolia

Silverberry is another name for elaeagnus angustifoliaThe Russian olive shrub is a tall 20 to 25 foot shrub (7Y to 8 meters) with uncommon gray-green silvery deciduous foliage. These leathery leaves are able to resist salty sea spray and its roots cope well with all types of soil, even chalky ones. Note that its spiky stems make it an excellent option for intruder hedges. Learn more

Atriplex halimus

Saltbush frondThe common names of this one leave no space for doubt. Saltbush has semi-evergreen leaves that’s a gray-blue color. It’s well suited to all situations as long as it has full sun. With its rather smallish size (6 feet or 2 meters when mature), it’s ideal for small gardens.

Arbutus unedo

Arbutus unedo tree with berriesAlso called strawberry tree, this shrub grows from 10 to 15 feet tall (3 to 5 meters), grows fine in chalky soil, and prefers full sun. As a standalone, in a shrub bed or in a pot, it’ll work wonders for your garden by the sea. Learn more

Hydrangea macrophylla

Hydrangea copes very well with seaside climatesA typical find in the British Isles, Hydrangea is a plant that grows very well along the coastline. The great variety of available leafage, flowers and bearing will for sure help you find the one that will complement your seaside garden. Learn more

Olearia traversii

Flowering daisy shrub, a tree that bears beautiful flowersOlearia is a cute evergreen shrub with shiny green leaves. It’s covered in small white flowers in the summertime. It requires planting in the sun and in light soil. Thus, Olearia traversii is simply perfect for a coastal garden. Note that this is a hardy plant that can cope with temperatures as low as 15°F (-10°C).

Pittosporum tobira

Seed pods of pittosporum tobiraAutralian laurel has lush green, thick evergreen leaves that give it a great resilience in the face of sea spray. A compact shrub, it’s perfect for small gardens. To thrive, it needs sun. However, the type of soil doesn’t matteR. In April-May, the creamy-white blooming exhales a delicious orange-blossom fragrance.

Cistus sp.

Single cystus flower by the seaThe Cistus botanical genus is vast and includes a great many species. The blooming ranges fro May to September, and flowers hues are either white, pale pink, or bright pink. Not very demanding in terms of soil, these shrubs nonetheless require full sun to grow best. Learn more

Cordyline australis

Cabbage tree growing tall near the beachReaching 10 to 12 feet when mature, the cabbage tree looks like a palm tree: the perfect silhouette for a seaside garden. This shrubby plant also survives through drought and tolerates poor soil.

Dodonea

Dodonea fruits shining pinkCommon around the Mediterranean, hop-bush is a plant with long, narrow evergreen leaves that are very similar to those of the willow tree. Not difficult to care for, they thrive in all types of soil and seem to have evolved perfectly to grow along the seashore. The Dodonea viscosa ‘Purpurea’ cultivar has leaves that are a beautiful violet-red hue.

Tamaris tetrandra

Tamarix tetrandra is a variety of tamarixEven though, as a general rule, all the tamarisk species love growing along the coast, tetrandra is the most highly recommended species. It tolerates poor, dry soil well and copes well with sea spray. For maximum blooming, an emplacement that is richly endowed with sunlight is preferable. Your Tamarisk will pay you back for that effort with fabulous soft pink flowers at the beginning of summer. Learn more

Teucrium fruticans

Tree germander flowers grow nicelyAlso called Tree Germander, this shrub displays fragrant blue-gray evergreen leaves. It is covered in cute little elongated lavender blue flowers. It prefers sunny spots in the garden, and light, well-drained soil. It’ll fit right into your flower beds near the ocean. Learn more

Trees that grow near the sea

Pinus pinea

Stone pine tall shade giver near the beachFamous for its tall, elegant silhouette, maritime pine or Pinus pinaster is for sure the first pine tree to come to mind when thinking of conifers for a seaside garden. However, if you’re up to a little more originality, opt for Pinus pinea , the stone pine. It has an umbrella-like bearing that is typical and resists harsh coastal climates very well. Learn more

Albizia julibrissin

Albizia is a tree that loves growing close to the seaRemarkable thanks to its magnificent pink flowers, the Persian silk tree has bright green leafage and spreads out in a characteristic, shade-giving manner. It’ll adapt perfectly well to any type of soil, but does require exposure to full sun in order to develop harmoniously. Learn more

Cupressus macrocarpa

Cypress on the tip of a rocky hillLambert’s cypress is very interesting in several respects: it grows fast, resists cold weather and is particularly happy alongside the sea, where it won’t fear salty splashes of seawater. Growing to a height of nearly 60 feet when mature, it is excellent as a windbreaker tree.

Mimosa

Mimosa flowers shining like goldMimosa is part of the botanical genus named acacia. The most famous member of this family is, for sure, winter mimosa (A. dealbata). This species unfurls evergreen, yellow-green leaves with tiny leaflets. From January to March, it unleashes an abundant bright yellow blooming with a pleasant fragrance. For proper growth, set set it up in the sun and avoid chalky soil. Learn more

Quercus ilex

Evergreen oak copes well with seaside summer dry spellsEasy to recognize thanks to its holly-like evergreen leaves, thick an green-blue in color, evergreen oak or Quercus ilex is an excellent tree for growing along the sea. The leaves resist the salty caress of sea winds, and it copes fine with chalky soil. Not a very hardy tree, however, so it isn’t recommended if winters are harsh in your area.

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Credits for images shared to Nature & Garden (all edits by Gaspard Lorthiois):
Seaside coastal garden by lumix2004 under Pixabay license
Sea kale on a rock dike by Joost J. Bakker IJmuiden under © CC BY 2.0
Silver-studded leaves by Swallowtail Garden Seeds under © CC BY 2.0
Like bladed jewels by ~jar{} under © CC BY 2.0
Field of armeria by hen63 under Pixabay license
Single yellow flower by hedera.baltica under © CC BY-SA 2.0
Upright violet stems by Andrew Cannizzaro under © CC BY 2.0
Clump of grass in sand by Christian Ferrer under © CC BY 2.0
Jovibarba Roller by Stephen Boisvert under © CC BY 2.0
Boardwalk by K M under © CC BY 2.0
Tiny swaying tails by Laurel Compton under Pixabay license
Bushel of bristles by Matt Lavin under © CC BY-SA 2.0
In light and dark by Vahe Martirosyan under © CC BY 2.0
Hazy young leaves by an anonymous photographer under Pixabay license
Three berries by Myriam under Pixabay license
Blue and pink snowballs by Hans Braxmeier under Pixabay license
Leaves and white flowers by Wendy Cutler under © CC BY-SA 2.0
Yellow fruits, orange seeds by Teresa Grau Ros under © CC BY-SA 2.0
Single cistus flower by Lies Van Rompaey under © CC BY 2.0
Like a palm near the sea by Tomas Sobek under © CC BY 2.0
Hop bush species by John Jennings under © CC BY 2.0
Conifer with white flowers by Yurii Basov under Public Domain
Two open flowers by Miguel under © CC BY-SA 2.0
Trees and the sea by Antonio Castagna under © CC BY 2.0
Silky pink flowers by Cathie Bird under © CC BY-SA 2.0
Lone cypress by russellstreet under © CC BY-SA 2.0
Acorns, Burst of yellow by Rosalyn & Gaspard Lorthiois, own work