Plants for coastal areas

Strong, often salt laden, winds present a challenge for planting in coastal gardens. Providing windbreaks in the form of hedges or netting will widen the range of plants that can be grown.

Olearia macrodonta is a good choice for coastal gardens. Image: RHS/Graham Titchmarsh

Quick facts

Top five plants for coastal planting:
Armeria maritima
Crambe cordifolia
Griselinia littoralis
Euonymus japonicus
Pinus nigra

Practical considerations

To establish plants successfully in exposed situations it is essential is to form a windbreak or shelter belt against the prevailing coastal wind. It is best to develop a wind-filtering screen of trees or shrubs, but polypropylene webbing or woven hurdles of willow or hazel are alternatives. It is not advisable to use solid structures such as walls or fences, as these can create turbulence and add to the problems. A windbreak can reduce wind on its leeward side for a distance of ten times its height.

Once a barrier has been established, it may be possible to grow quite a wide range of coastal-tolerant plants.

Mulching with shingle, flint, grit or gravel will provide sharp drainage while conserving moisture at the roots and aid the cultivation of an even wider range of plants.

Suitable plants

Suitable Plants

(n) suited to colder coastal areas in the north
(m) suited to especially milder coastal areas including the south and south west
(e) evergreen
(v) variegated foliage
AGM - The RHS Award of Garden Merit

For a larger range of suitable plants see the RHS Plant Selector

Trees tolerant of full exposure to sea winds

Acer pseudoplatanus (n)
Alnus glutinosa
 (common alder) (n)
Carpinus betulus
AGM (hornbeam) (n)
Crataegus
(hawthorn) including C. × persimilis 'Prunifolia' AGM (n)
Cupressus macrocarpa (e)
Fraxinus angustifolia, F. excelsior
Juniperus scopulorum
cultivars (e)
Pinus mugo
(dwarf mountain pine) (n), P. nigra (European black pine) (n),
P. pinaster
(Maritime pine), P. pinea AGM (stone pine), P. thunbergii (Japanese black pine),
P. radiata (Monterey pine) (e) all
Populus alba (white poplar) (n), P. tremula (Common aspen) 
Quercus cerris (Turkey oak), Q. ilex AGM (Holm oak) (e), Q. petraea (Sessile oak), Q. robur (common oak)
Salix alba (n), S. caprea (n)
Thuja plicata (e)

Trees for planting slightly back from the sea

Acer platanoides AGM (Norway maple)
Arbutus unedo (e)
Betula pendula
Castanea sativa
Cercis siliquastrum
Cordyline australis (e)

Crataegus laevigata (hawthorn)
Elaeagnus 'Quicksilver'
Genista aetnensis AGM
Ginkgo biloba AGM
Gleditsia triacanthos f. inermis 'Sunburst' 
Griselinia littoralis AGM (e)
Ilex altaclerensis, I. aquifolium (e)
Laburnum
Laurus nobilis
(bay) (e)
Phillyrea latifolia (e)
Picea abies, P. omorika
AGM (e)
Pinus sylvestris AGM (Scots pine)
Podocarpus lawrencei, P. nivalis, P. salignus (e)
Prunus cerasifera
'Nigra' AGM 
Sorbus aria (whitebeam) (n), S. aucuparia (rowan) (n)
Syringa vulgaris

Shrubs for exposed situations liable to salt winds

Berberis (n)
Bacharis patagonica (n)
Bupleurum fruticosum (n) (e)
Elaeagnus × ebbingei (n)
Euonymus japonicus
 (Japanese spindle) (n) (e)
Hippophae rhamnoides
AGM (sea buckthorn) (n)
Lonicera nitida (n), L. pileata (n) (e)
Olearia × haastii, O. ilicifolia, O. macrodonta
 AGM,  O. phlogopappa 'Comber's Blue', O. traversii (e) all
Prunus spinosa (n)
Pyracantha (n)
Rhamnus alaternus
'Argenteovariegata' AGM (e) (v)
Rosa rubiginosa, R. rugosa
AGM, R. spinosissima (n) all
Sambucus nigra (n), S. racemosa (n)
Tamarix tetrandra

Shrubs for open situations slightly back from the sea

Argyrocytisus battandieri (pineapple broom)
Brachyglottis (e)
Buddleja davidii, B. globosa AGM
Ceanothus including C. × delileanus 'Gloire de Versailles AGM, C. × pallidus 'Perle Rose' AGM,
C. 'Autumnal Blue' AGM (e), C. thrysiflorus var. repens AGM (e)
Cistus including C. creticus, C. × cyprius AGM, C. dansereaui 'Decumbens' AGM (e) all
Colutea arborescens (m)
Cytisus × kewensis AGM, C. nigricans 'Cyni' AGM, C. × praecox AGM, C. scoparius
Genista lydia
AGM, G. 'Porlock' AGM
Lavandula including L. angustifolia 'Hidcote' AGM (e)
Phlomis chrysophylla AGM, P. fruticosa AGM, P. italic, P. lanata (e) all
Shrub roses including Rosa [Harlow Carr] = 'Aushouse', R. [Hyde Hall] = 'Ausbosky',
R. 'Roseraie de l'Hay' AGM, R. [Wild Edric] = 'Aushedge' AGM

Shrubs for hedges with some protection from direct sea-wind

Ageratina ligustrina (syn. Eupatorium ligustrinum) (e)
Berberis darwinii
 (e)
Cotoneaster lacteus AGM, C. franchettii, C. simonsii (e) all
Elaeagnus × ebbingei AGM, E. pungens (e)
Escallonia 'Apple Blossom' AGM, E. rubra 'Crimson Spire' AGM, E. rubra var. macrantha (e) all
Fuchsia magellanica AGM, F. magellanica 'Versicolor' AGM (v), F. 'Mrs Popple' AGM
Griselinia littoralis AGM (e)
Hebe salicifolia (e)
Ilex aquifolium (e)
Lonicera nitida, L. pileata (e)
Olearia × haastii (e)
 
Pittosporum tenuifolium (e)
Prunus spinosa

Additional shrubs for planting after a windbreak is established

Abelia × grandiflora AGM
Acca sellowiana (pineapple guava) (m)
Callistemon (e)

Ceratostigma willmotianum [Forest Blue] = 'Lice' AGM
Cestrum elegans (e), C. 'Newellii AGM (e), C. parqui AGM (m)
Choisya (e)
Convolvulus cneorum (e)
Coprosma
cultivars (e) (m)
Corokia cotoneaster (e) , C. virgata cultivars (e)
Cotinus coggygria AGM
Dichroa febrifugia (m)
Dodonea viscosa '
Purpurea' (e) (m)
Erica arborea
var. alpina AGM, E. lusitanica AGM (e), E. × veitchii 'Exeter' AGM (e) all
Forsythia
Grevillea
'Canberra Gem' AGM (e), G. rosmarinifolia AGM (e)
Halimium (e)
× Halimiocistus (e)
Hebe (e)
Helianthemum  (e)

Hibiscus syriacus
Jovellana violacea
AGM
Lavandula (e)
Lavatera × clementii, L. maritima
AGM, L. olbia
Leptospermum
'Silver Sheen' AGM (e), L. scoparium 'Red Damask' AGM (e)
Leycesteria formosa
Lomatia myricoides, L. tinctoria (e) (m)
Ozothamnus ledifolius, O. rosmarifolius (e) 

Perovskia atriplicifolia AGM
Phormium tenax (e)
Pittosporum tenuifolium (e), P. tobira
AGM (e)
Potentilla fruticosa
Prostanthera cuneata
AGM (e), P. 'Poorinda Ballerina' (e)
Pseudopanax lessonii
'Gold Splash' AGM (e) (v)
Pseudowinteri colorata (e) (v)
Ribes odoratum, R. sanguineum
Romneya coulteri
AGM
Rosa
Rosmarinus officinalis (e)
Rubus
'Benenden' AGM, R. lineatus, R. spectablis 'Olympic Double'
Salix exigua AGM, S. fargesii AGM, S. lanata AGM
Salvia greggii (autumn sage) (e), S. × jamensis (e), S. microphylla (e)
Sambucus racemosa
Santolina chamaecyparissus (e), S. pinnata (e), S. rosmarinifolia (e)
Sophora molloyi
'Dragons Gold' (e)
Spartium junceum
Spiraea
Syringa × laciniata, S. meyeri
'Palabin' AGM, S. 'Red Pixie'
Teucrium fruticans (e), T. × lucidrys (e)
Trachycarpus fortunei
AGM (e)
Viburnum × bodnantense
cultivars, V. davidii (e)

Wall shrubs and climbers for sheltered walls

Azara microphylla AGM
Billardiera longiflora AGM 
Campsis radicans
Celastrus orbiculatus
Cissus striata (e)
Clianthus puniceus (e)
Dregea sinensis
Eccremocarpus scaber
(Chilean glory flower) 
Hydrangea anomala ssp. petiolaris AGM, H. seemanii (e) 
Jasminum beesianum, J. officinale 'Argenteovariegatum' AGM (v)
Muehlenbeckia complexa

Parthenocissus quinquifolia AGM (Virginia creeper)
Passiflora caerulea AGM
Ribes speciosum AGM (fuchsia-flowered currant)
Solanum crispum 'Glasnevin' AGM
Sophora Sun King = 'Hilsop' AGM (e)
Trachelospermum jasminoides
AGM (e)
Tropaeolum tuberosum var. lineamaculatum
'Ken Aslet' AGM

Rock garden plants

Alchemilla conjuncta, A. erythropoda AGM
Allium
Anthemis punctata subsp. cupaniana AGM
Armeria maritima (sea thrift)
Arthropodium candidum, A. cirratum
Aurinia saxatilis AGM
Ceratostigma plumbagnoides AGM 
Chionodoxa
Crocus (some)
Dianthus alpinus cultivars
Diascia barberae cultivars, D. vigilis AGM
Erigeron aureus 'Canary Bird' AGM, E. karvinskianus AGM
Erodium
Gladiolus communis subsp. byzantinus AGM
Helianthemum cultivars
Hypericum olympicum AGM
Jasminum parkeri
Nerine bowdenii
AGM
Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens' AGM
Parahebe
Phlox subulata
Pulsatilla vulgaris
AGM
Rhodanthemum hosmariense (m)
Saxifraga (n)
Silene uniflora
Tulipa species
Watsonia (m)

Hardy perennials

Achillea
Agapanthus
Alchemilla mollis
AGM
Anthemis tinctoria 'E.C. Buxton'
Astelia chathamica
AGM (e)
Aubretia
Beschorneria yuccoides
AGM (e)
Canna
Catanache caerulea
'Major' AGM
Centaurea cyanus (cornflower), C. 'John Coutts' AGM
Centranthus ruber
Crambe cordifolia AGM, C. maritima (sea kale)
Crinum × powellii AGM 
Crocosmia 
Cynara cardunculus AGM
Dianella tasmanica (m)
Dierama pulcherrimum
Dietes bicolor (m)
Echinops banaticus
Echium pininana
AGM (m), E. vulgare 
Erymurus robustus
Eryngium maritimum (sea holly), E. variifolium
Erysimum '
Bowles Mauve' AGM
Euphorbia including E. characias cultivars, E. mellifera AGM, E. myrsinites AGM
Euryops pectinatus (m)
Fascicularia bicolor (e)
Foeniculum vulgare '
Purpureum' (bronze fennel)
Glaucium flavum (yellow horned poppy)
Geraniums including G. maderense
AGM (m), G. sanguineum, G. 'Mavis Simpson' AGM
Helichrysum
Hyssopus officinalis
Kniphofia
Leucanthemum
Libertia
Limonium platyphyllum (sea lavender)
Lychnis coronaria AGM
Melianthus major AGM
Phlomis russeliana AGM
Rudbeckia
Sedum telephium
Stachys byzantina (lambs ears)
Tulbaghia violacea AGM
Verbascum bombyciferum
Verbena bonariensis
AGM, V. rigida AGM

Annuals and half hardy perennials

Amicia zygomeris
Anizoganthos (Kangaroo paw) (m)
Antirrhinum
Calendula
Cerinthe major
'Purpurascens'
Cosmos atrosanguineus
Eschscholzia californica
(California poppy)
Papaver somniferum

Ornamental grasses and Restios

Cortaderia selloana
Elymus hispidus
AGM, E. magellanicus
Festuca amysthina, F. glauca
Helictochriton sempervirens
AGM
Miscanthus nepalensis, M. sinensis cultivars
Pennisetum alopecuroides cultivars, P. orientale AGM, P. setaceum AGM
Restio paniuculatus, R. tetraphyllus (m)

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