The Best Landscaping For Beachfront Property

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Living on the coast offers a number of different challenges for landscaping a beachfront house. Salt spray from waves and wind is the biggest deterrent for many plants. Salt can prevent plants from absorbing water and cause leaf burn or complete defoliation. And, that is not limited to the shoreline. Salt spray carried by the wind can harm plants as far inland as one half mile.

The other issue is climate zones along the coastline. Choose trees, shrubs, and flowers that are compatible with the climate zone of the property. Depending on the latitude of your beach property, the plant choices and temperatures can vary dramatically. Coastal Main is in zone 3, while the Washington coast is zone 8, Sothern California and the Florida Keys are both in zone 11. So, begin with an understanding of which plants will be happy with the seasonal temperature changes of the coastal area.

Salt-Tolerant Trees

Norway maples–zones 3 to 7, and Amur maples–zones 2 to 8, are good choices and offer dramatic fall color when planted in full sun. And red cedars, both the Eastern red cedar–zones 2 to 9 and the Southern red cedar, are happy along the Eastern coastline.

Evergreen trees to consider include the American holly–zones 5 to 9, Japanese red pine–zones 3 to 7, Black cherry, downy serviceberry, grey birch, pitch pine, white oak, and the Southern magnolia–zones 6 to 10. Plumeria makes another good choice with dramatic flowers and fragrance popular in Hawaii and South American countries.

Salt-Tolerant Shrubs

Evergreen shrubs such as the creeping juniper, which reaches about 6-inches in height, makes a useful groundcover and is hardy in zones 6 to 9. Southern wax myrtle grows to 15-feet tall and is a rapid growing shrub in zones 5 to 8.

Deciduous shrubs, which drop their leaves in winter, include the big-leaf hydrangea–hardy in zones 6 to 9, grows to about 4-feet tall, and the rose of Sharon–zones 5-8 can be expected to reach 10 feet tall. Both offer the added benefit of continuous blooms suitable for cutting and indoor bouquets. Other choices for shrubs include the beach rose or rosa rugosa, sumac and stag-horn sumac, winterberry holly, oleander, hibiscus, bird of paradise, and bayberry which grows best in zones 2-8. In milder climates–zones 7 to 11, consider growing pomegranates with the bonus of great tasting fruit.

beachfront property landscaping ideas  beachfront property landscaping ideas

Salt-Tolerant Vines, Grasses & Groundcovers

English ivy, lily turf, Virginia creeper vine are several vines for coastal consideration. Bar Harbor juniper, Confederate jasmine, flowering jasmine and bougainvillea are all good choices and provide spectacular flowers for beachfront homes.

Ornamental grasses are a quick way to fill in dunes and large expanses of sand. They are happy during the heat of the summer, salt resistant and keep coming back each year. Several varieties to consider are pampas grass–zones 7 to 10 which grows to 10 feet tall, maiden grass–zones 5 to 9 is slightly shorter at 8 feet, or fountain grass–zones 5-9 the shortest of the three at about 4 feet tall. Other varieties to consider are briza media, calamagrostis, and festuca for cooler climate zones.

Salt-Tolerant Flowers

Many annuals thrive at coastal temperatures. Coleus cornflower, geranium, marigold, petunia, vinca, and sweet alyssum are all good candidates for the beachfront. Planted as annuals they do well in most climate zones. When grown in containers they can be moved into a protected area during coastal storms.

Perennials also make a good choice for beachfront landscaping. Daylily–zones 3 to 10 can reach 3 feet tall, common yarrow is available in several colors and reaches about 3 feet tall, candy turf–zones 3 to 9 grows about 6 inches tall and is useful for borders or gaps between plants. Other varieties include lavender, achillea in gold, strawberry, and pink, alstroemeria, aquilegia blue and cardinal, daylilies, digitalis, and iris. Butterfly weed is a salt-tolerant flower that is great for attracting hummingbirds and butterflies to the coastal garden. It needs full sun and grows to 3 feet tall. Pinching off dead flowers will encourage further growth.

Many other varieties of annuals and perennials can make good candidates for beachfront gardens if salt is washed off following high winds or a storm. Organic matter added to sandy garden soil will help too. Mulch added regularly to the garden soil will also help.

Last Updated: May 27, 2012
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About Bill Washburn William "Bill" Washburn has a BA in advertising from the Art Center College of Design and has taught at the University of Southern California and Northrup University. Writing from a well-connected studio in the rural foothills of the west coast, he is a frequent speaker at local art associations and has published numerous articles discussing periods of art history and the fundamentals of drawing and painting. William is a master gardener who grows his own culinary herbs, organic heirloom vegetables and a variety of fruits. He writes frequently about his gardening experiences on his website Pioneer Dad. He is an accomplished advertising writer, fine art painter, and art director with more than 20 years' experience. 

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