Plants for a coastal garden

Plants for a coastal garden

Gardening by the sea? Check out some of our favourite coastal plants to grow.

The challenges of a coastal garden, including strong winds and fast-draining soils, can easily be turned to your advantage with the right plants.

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If your garden is particularly exposed, there’s a good range of robust trees and shrubs that can be planted to serve as a windbreak for the rest of the garden, opening up your planting opportunities.

If you’re ever unsure about what to plant, go for native species that are adapted to growing by the coast and will be able to handle whatever the weather throws at them. If you’re short of inspiration, Derek Jarman’s Prospect Cottage in Dungeness, Kent, is a shining example of what can be achieved in a coastal garden.

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Discover some of the best plants suited to growing by the coast, below.


Pittosporum tobira

Pittosporum tobira
Pittosporum tobira

If you’re after a windbreak, this evergreen can be grown as a dense hedge to block out winds, or can be grown as an attractive tree. Pittosporum tobira can easily withstand direct, salt-laden winds. On top of this, the clustered white flowers have a heavenly scent similar to orange blossom.

Height x spread: 2m x 150cm.


Sea campion

Silene uniflora 'Alba'
Silene uniflora ‘Alba’

Sea campion, Silene uniflora, is a coastal native with charming white flowers and a low-growing habit. Use it to tumble over wall edges, plug crevices between paving stones or edge borders.

H x S: 15cm x 15cm.


Ornamental grasses

Hordeum jubatum
Hordeum jubatum with chocolate cosmos and anaphalis

Ornamental grasses like this foxtail barley, Hordeum jubatum, have tough, flexible stems that can bend without breaking in winds. As they move, they bring a lovely, airy texture. Follow our growing advice on ornamental grasses.


Mallow

Malva sylvestris 'Brave Heart'
Malva sylvestris ‘Brave Heart’

Often spotted growing naturally by the coast, mallows like this common mallow (Malva sylvestris) have lovely pink-purple flowers that are popular with pollinating insects. Great for a spot with well-drained soil in full sun.

H x S: 1m x 60cm.


Sea thrift

Sea thrift, Armeria maritima
Sea thrift, Armeria maritima

Sea thrift is a tough perennial that can be found growing on the most exposed sea cliffs and shores. The pink flowers resemble those of chives and appear in the summer months. This evergreen enjoys full sun and poor, well-drained soil.

H x S: 50cm x 50cm.


Sea holly

Eryngium giganteum 'Silver Ghost'
Eryngium giganteum ‘Silver Ghost’ and a pink cistus

Eryngiums are a great additions to wildlife-friendly coastal gardens – the architectural flowers are covered in pollinating insects from mid- to late-summer. They make fabulous flowers for dried arrangements, too.

H x S: 1m x 60cm.


Sea kale

Crambe maritima
Crambe maritima

You can often spot the glaucous mounds of sea kale foliage on shingle beaches, and from late spring to midsummer, you’ll see their pollinator-friendly, honey-scented flowers, too. Crambe cordifolia is an even larger species equally suited to coastal gardens.

H x S: 75cm x 60cm.


Kniphofias

Orange kniphofias
Orange kniphofias with eryngiums and stipa

Hot-toned kniphofias look especially good when grown alongside contrasting colours, like the steely blues and indigos of these eryngiums, echinops and perovskia. Grow them in moist, well-drained soil in full sun.

H x S: 1m x 60cm.


Valerian

Centranthus ruber
Centranthus ruber

While many consider red valerian a bit of a nuisance, it’s a brilliant plant for wildlife that thrives in coastal locations. It has a propensity to self-seed, but when grown in a loose soil the seedlings are easy to pull up. It can also be cut back to get a second flush of flowers.

H x S: 1m x 50cm.


More plants for coastal gardens

Libertia and pittosporum
Libertia and pittosporum

Trees: Scot’s pine, hawthorn, holm oak, hornbeam, alder

Shrubs: sea buckthorn, berberis, elder, phlomis, privet-leaved ageratina

Perennials: erigeron, limonium, nepeta, agapanthus, libertia, pennisetum

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Annuals: calendulas, cosmos, snapdragons