Top 5 Plants for Seaside Gardens

By Teo Spengler | November 25, 2017
Image by Tim_Lescinski
by Teo Spengler
November 25, 2017

If you are lucky enough to live by the sea, you already know about the joys of an invigorating sea breeze. Your plants may experience that sea breeze and other oceanfront conditions a little differently, however—as obstacles to survival. But you can find trees, shrubs and flowers that thrive in the conditions your seaside garden offers. Here’s a few tips for making a success of blustery backyards, as well as the top 5 plant picks for gardens by the sea.

Tips for seaside planting

What does the ground look like in seaside gardens? Often it’s sand, sand and more sand. This can be another problem for plants. Sand drains well, but it doesn’t offer many nutrients to plant roots. You can and should enrich the sandy soil by adding organic material to the planting area. Use compost, aged manure or peat moss. These amendments increase the sandy soil’s ability to hold water and nutrients.

Layer at least 5 inches of organic material on the garden bed, then work it through the top few feet of soil. Plan to top the garden with 3 inches of organic mulch once the plants are in. This helps keep the soil moist.

No matter how much compost you add to your garden soil, you’ll do better to pick plants that thrive in dry, sandy soil. Go with native plants as much as you can. If a native plant’s already happily growing nearby on similar soil, that plant is a good bet to do well in your garden.

Plants for seaside gardens

Hedge plants

You’ll have far more options for your seaside garden if you first install hedges to shelter more fragile plants. Put in tough, tall shrubs that can take wind, salt-spray and sand.

Numbers 1 and 2 on the list – Consider Rugosa rose (Rosa rugosa) and bayberry (Morella pensylvanica) for an outer hedge. They grow in densely to form a low, tough wall of defense. In plant screens, it’s best to put a lower hedge on the windward side.

3 and 4 – A double row of evergreens can stand right behind, staggered to provide the most protection. Japanese white pine (Pinus parviflora) and Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana) work well for this.


Pick trees that grow happily in sandy soils and can also take the impact of vigorous sea breezes.

5 and 6Live oak (Quercus virginiana) and Sabal palm (Sabal palmetto). Live oaks are magnificent giants inland, but they tolerate sandy dunes and constant breezes. Seaside live oaks develop into gracefully rounded dwarf trees that recover quickly from wind damage. Sabal palm trees are iconic on the south Atlantic coast. Their straight trunk grows unbranched to 40 feet or more with a tuft of fan-like leaves taller than you are at the crown. These palms are particularly resistant to both salt and wind damage.


7 and 8 – Install both Allegheny serviceberry (Amelanchier laevis) and beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) into your backyard and your birds with thank you. Both plants tolerate salt spray, and produce white flowers in spring and berries in autumn.

Herb plants

9 and 10 – Plant seashore mallow (Kosteletzkya pentacarpos/K. virginica) for its saline tolerance and bright pink blossoms that look like hibiscus. You’ll have wave after wave of them through summer into fall. For a color contrast, install with seaside goldenrod (Solidago sempervirens) with its clusters of yellow flowers.

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