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Plants for Coastal Gardens

The South Australian Branch have produced this Fact Sheet containing many plants for coastal gardens which gardeners throughout the mediterranean climate regions will find highly useful.

For additional information about coastal planting see Helene Pizzi's article
The Mediterranean Miracle Continues: Planting Coastal Gardens in the Sand, The Mediterranean Garden No. 41, July 2005, where she describes how the dunes close to Rome have been successfully planted.

Depending on how close you are to the sea and how exposed your garden is, there are several problems you will need to deal with; the worst being high salt levels both in the soil and carried by wind and water sprays, physical damage from strong winds and fine sandy soil drying out and becoming non-wettable.

A barrier that prevents or slows down the prevailing wind is therefore paramount in a coastal garden. If you have the space, growing a mixture of hardy salt and wind tolerant trees and shrubs (especially those native to the area) as frontline protection is the best long-term windbreak. Adding organic materials to the soil, using surface mulches and slow release fertilisers as well as drip irrigation, plastic or shade cloth tree guards and wetting agents if necessary will all help plants establish and grow. And many plants once established can withstand quite severe conditions.

The plant lists below are a small selection of attractive and hardy low water use plants suitable for most South Australian coastal conditions. Eventual size and growth rate can vary enormously so check plants growing in your area or seek professional advice

Those marked with an asterisk* are especially useful for front line planting.

Trees and Palms - Many of the large shrubs can also be trained as small trees.

Name Scientific/Common Country/Area of Origin Description Flowering/ Foliage/ Seed Special Requirements and Comments
Allocasuarina verticillata* (syn. Casuarina stricta)
Drooping She-oak
NSW, Vic, Tas, SA Female plants produce attractive cones and male plants are covered with golden pollen in winter/spring. Wind blowing through the pendulous branchlets sounds wonderful. Can be clipped. A. littoralis* is also good.
Araucaria heterophylla*
Norfolk Island Pine
Norfolk Island Beautiful symmetrical crown. Too large for suburban gardens.
Arbutus unedo
Irish Strawberry Tree
Ireland Mediterr. Lovely reddish bark, dense glossy green leaves & white urn-shaped flowers followed by red warty fruits. May be slow growing & require extra water to establish.
Banksia integrifolia*
Coastal Banksia
Qld, NSW, Vic 15cm long pale yellow flower cones during autumn to spring. Silver undersides to the leaves attractively displayed in breezes.
Callitris glaucophylla* (syn.C. columellaris)
Coastal Cypress Pine
Qld, NSW, Vic, Tas, SA Columnar conifers. Can be clipped & pruned. C. rhomboidea*, Pt Jackson Pine, also well worth trying.
Ceratonia siliqua
Mediterr. Dense spreading tree leafy to ground level. Useful as a tall hedge plant Native to stony regions.
Eucalyptus lehmannii* & E. megacornuta*
Bushy Yate & Warty Yate respectively
WA Large ball-like clusters of green/yellow flowers. Finger-like bud caps. Can be multi-branched from ground level. E. forrestiana, Fuchsia Mallee, also a good tree with a dense crown.
Eucalyptus platypus var. heterophylla*
Coastal Moort
WA Smooth pink/brown bark. Buds grouped on flattened stalk open to creamy flowers in spring & summer. Bushy to the ground. Exceptionally tolerant to drought, harsh winds & salt laden soil.
Feijoa sellowiana
Pineapple Guava
Sth America White-petalled flowers with red stamens appear in spring. Green egg-shaped fruit is edible. Requires protection when young.
Lagunaria patersonii*
Norfolk Island Hibiscus
NSW, Qld, Norfolk Is. Pale pink hibiscus-like flowers on a grey-leaved pyramidal tree. Seed pods shed stiff irritant hairs that cause skin irritation.
Leptospermum laevigatum*
Coastal tea-tree
Eastern Australia Open-petalled white flowers in spring/early summer. Can be hedged. Develops a lovely twisted trunk on windy sites.
Meterosideros excelsa*
NZ Christmas Tree
New Zealand Showy display of crimson flowers in early summer. The many cultivars available are not as hardy.
Olea europaea*
Mediterr. Well known grey-leaved tree. Sterile forms should be planted to prevent self-seeding.
Phoenix canariensis
Canary Island Date Palm
Canary Islands Imposing large palm with clusters of orange 'dates' in autumn. Can self-seed prolifically. Dead fronds persist for years.
Quercus ilex
Holm Oak
Mediterr. Slow-growing evergreen spreading large tree. Young foliage holly-like. Water to establish. Tolerant of heat, wind, frost, salt & alkalinity.
Schinus molle var. areira
Peppercorn Tree
Mexico to Argentina Clusters of small pink berries and pendulous ferny bright-green foliage. Can be too vigorous for small gardens.
Tamarix parviflora * & T.tetrandra
Mediterr. Deciduous. Feathery pink flowers abound in spring or summer. T. ramosissima (syn. T. pentrandra) & T. aphylla are declared pest plants.
Ulmus parvifolia
Chinese elm
China, Japan, Korea Can be partly deciduous. Growth habit can be variable -trim if any branches become lanky.

Large / Medium Shrubs - The shrubs underlined can tolerate partial shade.

Acacia sophorae* (syn. A. longifolia var. sophorae)
Coastal Golden Wattle
Eastern Australia Golden rods of flowers in spring. Dense to the ground. Valuable soil-binding windbreak. Acacia cyclops*, Western Coastal Wattle, also an excellent tree/shrub.
Allocasuarina pusilla
Dwarf She-oak
SA, Vic Fine grey/green needles with rusty-brown male flowers. A bushy shrub that makes it a useful screening or hedging plant.
Atriplex nummularia*
Old Man Saltbush
Inland Australia Large round dense silvery-grey foliage. A good hedge plant. A. cinerea* & A. paludosa* useful small saltbushes.
Banksia media* & B. spinulosa (syn. B. collina)
Hairpin Banksia
WA NSW Cylindrical yellow flower cones in autumn & winter. Stiff-textured decorative leaves. Resent phosphate fertilisers. Can be grown in well-drained mulched sandy soils over limestone. B. marginata* & B. praemorsa* also worth a try.
Cistus - many species & cultivars
Rock Rose
Mediterr. Cover themselves with white/ rose pink often blotched crepe-like single flowers in spring & summer. Quick growing with fibrous shallow roots. Trim after flowering to keep compact.
Coprosma species & cultivars*
Mirror Plant
New Zealand Neat round shiny green leaves. Dense & fast-growing shrubs that can self-seed readily. Can be clipped.
Eriocephalus africanus
White Woolly-head
Sth. Africa Covered with cotton-like woolly seed clusters after small white daisies. A dense shrub of fragrant grey rosemary-like foliage.
Euonymous japonica
Evergreen Spindle Tree
Japan Deep green glossy leaves. Requires air moving freely around it. Clips well into a hedge.
Melaleuca nesophila*
Showy Honey Myrtle
WA Terminal mauve flower balls tipped with gold in summer. White paper bark trunk & branches. Smaller form called 'Little Nessy' also available.
Nerium oleander
Mediterr. Uninterrupted show of white, pink, or red flowers spring to early winter. Damaged by cold salt winds but recovers. Decorative in large tubs.
Pittosporum tobira* & P. crassifolium Japan & China Dense green slow-growing foliage plants. Dwarf forms available but not hardy.
Plumbago auriculata
Cape Plumbago
South Africa Clusters of sky-blue or white flowers through spring & summer to autumn. Var. 'Royal Cape' has beautiful deep blue flowers. Lovely exuberant lax shrub that responds well to hard pruning.
Punica granatum
Middle East Glowing red flowers & pendulous fruits complement the shiny green deciduous foliage. There are also dwarf varieties & different coloured flower forms (single & double) available.
Rosa rugosa
Rugosa Rose
Asia Single pink flowers followed by edible red hips. 'Alba' is single white. Will grow in sandy soil and tolerates salty air.
Teucrium fruticans
Mediterr. Woolly white angular stems with grey foliage & pale blue flowers. Responds well to clipping into a ball shape.
Rosmarinus officinalis*
Mediterr. Pale blue /dark blue flowers in spring & autumn depending on variety. Makes a delightfully fragrant hedge cultivar. 'Prostratus' a groundcover.
Westringia fruticosa*
Coastal Rosemary
Eastern Australia White - mauve flowers nearly all year. Rosemary-like foliage but softer. Numerous cultivars available - all are excellent value.

Low Shrubs, Perennials, Climbers and Groundcovers

Achillea millefolium & hybrids
Europe Ferny aromatic foliage & flat heads of clustered flowers in many colours. Useful filler plants. 'Paprika' & 'Terracotta' are 2 lovely new hybrids.
Aptenia cordifolia Sth. Africa Glossy-green leafed succulent with spreading habit, red or white flowers. Excellent large-scale groundcover for hottest locations. Easy to propagate.
Arctotus species & hybrids*
African daisy
South Africa White furry lobed foliage with bursts of long-stemmed daisy flowers. Revel in full sun. A. stoechardifolia can escape & become a pest.
Artemisia 'Powis Castle' Cultivar Silvery, feathery mound of foliage. Aromatic. Requires full sun.
Bougainvillea hybrids
Brazil Intense colourful bracts on climbers/shrubs during warmer months. The old purple form is probably the most hardy.
Centranthus ruber
Valerian, Kiss-me-quick
Mediterr. SW Africa Pale pink to deep red terminal cones of glowing flowers spring to autumn. Rambling perennial. Also white form. Hard pruning controls its spread Prevent self-seeding by removing all spent flowers.
Convolvulus cneorum
Silver Morning Glory
Mediterr. Compact silky oval silver foliage. White open-cupped flowers. A striking accent plant that always looks neat. Prefers full sun.
Convolvulus sabatius
Moroccan Morning Glory
Mediterr. Trailing meandering stems with masses of lavender-blue open-cupped flowers during summer. Can be trained as a climber or to cascade over walls. Roots at nodes Prefers sunny position
Coprosma x kirkii* & C. x kirkii 'Variegata' Cultivar Dense mat of small glossy green or variegated leaves. Long-lived plants for steep banks etc.
Correa alba* & C. reflexa*
Native Fuchsia
NSW, SA, Vic, Tas Dense shrubs with shiny green leaves & white star or tubular bell flowers. Will grow under trees. Coastal forms of C. reflexa are low & spreading.
Dymondia margaretae*
Silver Carpet
Sth. Africa Tiny narrow green foliage silver underneath. Yellow daisies in summer. Ideal between paving stones or as a lawn. Takes light foot traffic.
Enchylena tomentosa*
Ruby Saltbush
Australia Grey foliage. Attractive red/orange berries in summer. Berries are sweet & succulent, leaves high in Vitamin C.
Erigeron karvinskianus
Seaside Daisy or Fleabane
Mexico to Panama Fine-textured groundcover with tiny white to pinkish fine-rayed daisies. Renewed by hard cutting back in spring. Self-seeds in crevices.
Goodenia amplexans var. amplexans* Southern Australia Bright yellow flowers in spring & summer. Clammy serrated leaves. A useful local groundcover.
Grevillea curviloba (syn. G. biternata) WA, SA Light green finely dissected foliage. Masses of fine white flowers. Will grow in shade but does not flower well.
Grevillea nudiflora WA Green mound of linear leaves. Red flowers on trailing leafless stems. Prefers a sunny position.
Hardenbergia violacea
False sarsaparilla
Eastern Australia Scrambling climber or groundcover with dark purple pea flowers. White, pink & pale mauve forms also available. Sun or semi-shade.
Helichrysum petiolare Sth. Africa A silvery downy foliage plant. Can be clipped into small hedges.
Jasminum azoricum
Azores Jasmine
Canary Islands Shiny green leaves & sweetly scented white flowers. Evergreen billowing climber.
Juniperus conferta* J. sabina, J.horizontalis
Shore juniper, Savin, Creeping Juniper resp.
Japan, Euro. & Asia, Nth. America Spreading sculptural groundcover conifers with berry-like fruits. Long-lived plants for sun or shade requiring little maintenance.
Kunzea pomifera*
Southern Australia Trailing prostrate groundcover with dense fluffy white pompoms. Benefits from light trimming after fruiting. Edible berries.
Lavandula species & cultivars*.
L. stoechas
& its cultivars should not be planted - escapes with ease
Europe Soft aromatic shrubs with spikes of white, blue, violet or purple blooms L. angustifolia & L. x allardii perform best on our coast Need full sun. Most do well with a light shearing after flowering to stop legginess. They resent fertilisers & bushes 'fall apart' if over watered.
Leucophyta brownii* (syn. Calocephalus brownii)
Cushion Bush
Southern Australia Striking silver ball of twiggy stems & minute foliage. 'Nana' form is more compact. Hard to keep looking attractive so replace every few years as needed. Needs full sun.
Limonium perezii
Sea Lavender
Canary Islands Showy lavender flower clusters top metre-high stems above basal leaves. Flowers all summer.
Maireana sedifolia & M. brevifolia
Inland Australia Bluish-grey fleshy oval leaves. The whole shrub has a soft hairy look. Useful foliage plants for erosion control & landscape. Prefer full sun.
Myoporum parvifolium*
Creeping Boobialla
Southern Australia Vigorous spreading groundcover with white starry flowers. Roots at nodes. The very fine leafed form is the most attractive.
Nepeta x faassenii
'Six Hills Giant' Catmint
Cultivar Frothy grey foliage & loose spikes of blue-lavender summer flowers. A good edging plant. Cut back to keep compact. Also 'Walker's Blue'.
Pandorea pandorana
Wonga Vine
Eastern Australia Shiny dark-green leaflets. Clusters of cream to pink tubular flowers. A fast growing & dense creeper. Useful to cover unsightly objects.
Polygonum capitatum
Pink Knotweed
Himalayas Chevron-marked leaves turn bronze in autumn. Pink button flowers. A flat quick-growing undemanding groundcover. Roots at nodes.
Rhaphiolepis species
Indian Hawthorn
China, Japan, Korea White to pink flowers in spring to summer. Glossy dark leathery leaves. Water well to establish.
Rhagodiaspinescens var. deltophylla*
South Australia Dense grey foliage. Var. deltophylla does not have spines Full sun. A good low maintenance groundcover for sun or shade.
Scaevola calendulacea* & S. aemula*
Fan Flower
Australia Groundcovers with white/blue fan-shaped flowers in spring/summer. Low shrub forms also available.
Tetragonia tetragonoides*
Warrigal Greens
Australia Bright green fleshy leaves that can be eaten when young. Plant at 1metre centres to ensure dense cover. Sun or shade.
Thymus species & cultivars
Mediterr. Very fragrant herbs with white-pink-purple flowers that attract bees. Love full sun & lime. Use between stepping stones or as a lawn.
Vinca minor
Lesser Periwinkle
Mediterr. Neat mound of foliage with blue or white open flowers. Excellent soil binder on embankments. Grows in shade.

Grasses, Bulbs and other Clumping Plants with Vertical /Spiky foliage

Agapanthus praecox var. orientalis Sth Africa Blue or white flowers in summer above long green strap leaves. Sun or part shade.
Carex buchananii
New Zealand Sedge
New Zealand Beautiful reddish-bronze fine leaves. Well behaved when in part-shade & dryish soil
Cordyline australis
Cabbage Tree
New Zealand Large sprays scented white flowers in summer & tapering green leaves. Accepts drought & wind. Tree-size trunks that can be cut back.
Dianella revoluta* & D. brevicaulis*
Flax lily
Australia, New Zealand Starry blue flowers followed by luminous blue berries. Forms colonies of clumps of flax-like foliage.
Dietes iridoides
Wild Iris
Sth. Africa Large white flowers with blue & yellow markings in summer Flowers from same stems each year.
Ficinianodosa* (syn. Isolepis nodosa)
Knobby Club-rush
Australia, New Zealand Reedy stems arching like a fountain with small rich brown globular flower heads just below the tips. Successfully binds sand. Immense landscape potential.

Liriope muscari
Lily Turf

China, Japan Grass-like evergreen foliage with spikes of purple bells in autumn. A useful edging plant.
Lomandra longifolia
Spiny-Headed Mat Rush
Eastern Australia Arching strap leaves green or greyish. Flowers spikes on flat stems. Variable with many forms. Excellent landscape plant.
Nerine bowdenii
Nerine bulbs
Sth Africa Pink many-flowered globes appear in autumn before foliage. Bulbs need to bake during summer rest. Leave undisturbed to colonize
Orthrosanthus multiflorus
Morning Flag
Vic., SA, WA Many spikes of blue flowers above clump of strap leaves. Flowers only last a day but are produced over a long period
Phormium tenax
New Zealand Flax
New Zealand Giant sword-like leaves and towering flower stalks in late spring. The colourful variegated forms burn badly.
Poa poiformis* & P. sieberiana varieties
Tussock Grass
Southern Australia Small fine blue grass tussocks. Cut back to rejuvenate tussocks.
Strelitzia reginae
Bird of Paradise
Sth. Africa Greyish banana-like foliage. Royal purple & brilliant orange flowers. A striking exotic-looking accent plant. Flowers look like crested bird's head.
Tulbaghia violacea*
Wild Garlic
Sth Africa Narrow foliage & pale lilac flower umbels. Smells of garlic. Sun or shade. Divide bulbs when flowering decreases
Yucca filamentosa*
Adam's Needle
USA Thread-like filaments along leaf edges Spike of white hanging flowers. Very hardy. Dangerously spiky leaves.
Zephyranthes candida
Rain Lily
Argentina Small reedy evergreen foliage & white crocus-like flowers. Multiply freely & bloom best when crowded.


Eschscholtzia californica - Californian Poppy Lobularia maritime - Sweet Alyssum Tropaeolum majus - Nasturtium

Succulent Species
Most succulents are ideal for seaside gardens. They can be used in carefully chosen sites that allow leaves and flowers to stand out complementing other plantings, in large patches of a single species or as potted plants on paved areas. All succulents have the potential to become pest plants in sand dunes.

Aeonium - Canary Is., Nth Africa
Cotyledon - Sth Africa
Haworthia - Sth Africa
Agave (A. attenuata non spiny) - Mexico, Southern USA
Crassula (C. ovata - Jade Plant) - Sth Africa
Kalanchoe* - Africa, Asia, Sth America
Aloe - Mediterr., South Africa
Lampranthus - Ice Plant - Sth Africa
Carpobrotus* - Pig Face - Australia, Chile, Sth Africa
Disphyma clavellatum* - Australia
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