Next time you’re at the beach, take a moment to appreciate the natural bushland that surrounds it. The trees and shrubs that lie behind the sand are true seaside plants, as they’ve evolved over time to withstand the conditions that come with being beside the ocean. Even walking through the nearby streets in any coastal suburb, keep an eye out for the ornamental plants that are flourishing in this harsh environment, as well as those that are discoloured, tattered or damaged.
Coastal gardens should portray that relaxed, minimalist beachside vibe – a natural environment that hints as though you could be somewhere on holidays. It's this feeling of retreat and escape that we can capture through the right selection of plants, and luckily for you that’s what the list below is all about!
Agonis is a small genus of four species all of which occur naturally only in Western Australia. Agonis flexuosa is by far the most popularly sourced and grown as it is adaptable to various climates and soil types.
Agonis flexuosa is a tree with elegant, sweeping foliage that can reach up to 15 metres with good health, however, in cultivation it is much smaller. You’ll find it has quite fibrous bark, long belt-shaped leaves and 5-petalled flowers which form along its branches in spring and summer.
Propagation is quite easy and it doesn’t require any pre-treatment prior to sowing either!
Coastal rosemary; it’s all in the name, right? A hardy, compact shrub that’s fast-growing, easy to care for and can withstand the wind and sea spray that come with coastal locations. With firm, green foliage and a white and velvety underside, its relaxed open structure and soft colours make it the perfect accompaniment to both seaside and cottage gardens, especially with its small white flowers that begin to bloom come springtime. It can even tolerate light frost in the cooler months!
Make sure to mulch and water regularly until the plant is established, and prune gently while it’s young to stimulate dense growth (typically up until the 3-month mark).
New Zealand Christmas bush
This hardy shrub is a coastal evergreen tree that belongs to the myrtle family, Myrtacae. It produces silver-green leaves along with a stunning display of fluffy red, and sometimes orange, yellow or white flowers that attract birds, butterflies, bees and other welcome visitors in the summertime. As it’s become renowned for its vibrant colour and its ability to survive on tough terrain (think rock cliffs), it has come to be an important symbol in New Zealand culture for its strength and durability. Although this species prefers ample sunlight, it can survive in partial shade if temperatures aren’t too high.
When the temperatures begin to drop in autumn, start reducing the frequency of watering. We advise going off both current rainfall and the moistness of your soil, as both overwatering or under-watering during this time of year will slow down the production of healthy buds and blossoms in the following spring and summer.
Gardeners love the flax lily because it can provide so many different foliage textures and colours, but one of their most favourable characteristics is their ability to withstand coastal conditions, namely sea spray. Some of the most common colours are green with white and yellow edges, while some produce a stunning burgundy-blue colour with red rims. They also produce blooms too! You’ll notice purple or blue blooms on the stems that sit on top of the foliage, with some also known to produce non-edible berries. These berries are deep blue and look amazing when found in little groups hanging above the multi-coloured foliage.
The mat rush is a hardy perennial suited to a wide range of positions, from sandy soil to clay, and sun to partial shade. With this species, you’ll find beautifully scented yellow flowers in winter and spring, proceeded by seeds a couple of months after they’ve flowered. The species is commonly found all along the east coast of Australia from Tasmania to Queensland, and typically grows on sandy soils and in swampland. Mat rushes can tolerate dry periods but you’ll find that regular watering stimulates new growth, in fact, mat rushes can even handle wet spells provide that they’re not for long periods.
How about these for some cool facts; mat rush can double up as an indoor plant, has leaves that are edible, and its foliage can even be reused for arts and crafts.
Coastal banksia (Banksia Integrifolia)
This variable, adaptable and strikingly beautiful banksia will grow slowly to eventually attain tree size, so make sure to leave some place around where you plant it! Its leathery leaves have dark green colouring with silver rims, and it also produces large, nectar-rich yellow flowers from autumn right through to spring.
What’s quirky about this species is that as it ages, its shape can grow quite wild and gnarly... You’ll have to see for yourself!. The coastal banksia naturally occurs on the east coast of Australia, from Victoria up to Queensland, so it has plenty of experience with the seaside!
Popular for their easy-to-grow, low-maintenance nature, the yucca plant comes in many sizes, shapes and varieties. They also make a terrific choice for us over here in Australia, as all types are drought and neglect tolerant. They tick almost every box!
Loud and bold, the humble yucca is a landscaping-lovers paradise. Their beaming, light greenish-grey leaves and tropical vibe make for a stylish addition to your outdoor space. Only some of the 40 varieties of Yucca can flower, producing white, teardrop-shaped blooms on their centre stem. The most common variety, being Yucca Elephantipes, can also grow up to 9m!
Oleander plants are among the most flexible of shrubs, with various uses in coastal settings. They're able to withstand a wide range of conditions, including dry soil, salt spray, high pH levels, rough pruning, reflected heat from concrete and walls, as well as drought. However, they do prefer warmer weather, so in cooler climates feel free to grow your oleander in a container and relocate it indoors when temperatures fall.
It’s important to note that growing oleander plants in gardens where young children and pets can easily access them should be avoided. From their green stems to their pretty pink flowers, all parts of the oleander shrub are poisonous. Ingesting just a small amount of the plant can cause severe reactions. Ensure that you always wear appropriate clothing and gloves when working with them.
Perfect for coastal gardens, agapanthus are thought of as the tropical equivalent of the daylily; a landscape staple in warm-winter regions, producing colourful clusters of blue or white trumpet-shape flowers throughout summer and autumn. With little maintenance or care, agapanthus will bloom abundantly when sitting in a space with lots of sun and only requires extra watering in really hot and dry climates.
While agapanthus grow with little care or maintenance, the plant also responds well to an application fertiliser or composted manure throughout spring. If you experience an agapanthus that hasn’t bloomed, consider relocating the plant to an area with more sunlight and less shade coverage.
Sea lavender, also known as statice, is a strong evergreen perennial that has a clumping, almost shrub like habit, with big oval-shaped leathery leaves. In spring, tall spikes start to grow, eventually blooming clusters of flowers. These clusters are large and dense with a paper like texture, flowering blue to mauve with shades of white.
Ideal for coastal and seaside gardens, sea lavender are very hardy and drought tolerant. They can be planted at any time of the year as long as the sun is out! They only require little maintenance once established too. To care for your plant, regular watering is essential for the first 12 weeks and only requires annual mulching to suppress weeds and retain moisture. Ensure to fertilise in spring while new flowers are developing.