While many of us enjoy a sea view, cultivating a healthy garden on the coast can be difficult. The sea air, while bracing and restorative, can be difficult for a number of plants. High in salt, sea air is naturally corrosive. This poses further problems for gardeners as does the high salt content of the soil. These difficulties mean that many plants, particularly ornamental flowers, can struggle to grow and flower when planted close to the sea.
While this may seem frustrating, luckily there are a number of plants that are ideally suited to planting in coastal conditions. As well as adding color, interest and fragrance many coastal flowers can also help to slow down soil erosion, which is a common problem in coastal areas.
Our list of coastal flowers aims to highlight the range of plants suitable for this sometimes tricky environment. Incorporating plants of all shapes, sizes and growth habits, here are 20 of the most attractive and versatile coastal flowers.
A popular member of the herb garden, Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is also one of the best coastal flowers. Easy to grow, this woody herb is hardier than softer herbs such as chives or parsley making it an ideal inclusion on our list of coastal flowers.
Originating in the Mediterranean, Rosemary is hardy enough to withstand prolonged exposure to sea air. The plants even thrive in this position, if also planted in full sun. While the plants do require regular watering, planting in well draining soil so that root rot can’t develop is more important. Rosemary is hardy in USDA Zone 9 and warmer.
Suited to difficult conditions, the herb Rosemary is one of the best coastal flowers.
2 Sea Kale
Another one of the edible entries on our list of coastal flowers, Sea Kale (Crambe Maritima) is commonly seen growing in the wild along the coast of the Black Sea. Often included in lists of cruciferous vegetables alongside Kale, Broccoli and Cabbage, Sea Kale or Sea Cabbage as it is also known, is an edible member of the Brassicaceae family.
Hardy in USDA Zones 4 to 8, Sea Kale plants typically die back in the winter before returning again the following spring. Best planted in full sun and rich, fertile soil, Sea Kale is said to taste like a cross between celery and asparagus.
Edible and unusual, Sea Kale is a fascinating addition to the garden.
3 Sea Thrift
A compact, evergreen perennial Sea Thrift (Armeria maritima) is popular for its pink or lavender floral clusters. Some cultivars can also produce white blooms. Sea Thrift’s floral clusters sit on slender stalks above green grass-like tufts of foliage. Flowering during the spring, in certain conditions Sea Thrift may repeat flower during the summer months.
The national flower of the Isles of Scilly, Sea Thrift grows naturally as coastal flowers on the edge of cliffs and islands. Happiest in full sun, once established Sea Thrift requires little regular water. Sea Thrift is hardy in USDA Zones 4 to 8.
Clusters of Sea Thrift blooms sit on elegant salk’s above tufty foliage.
4 Virginia Creeper
A reliable climbing or spreading plant, some people avoid planting Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) because its vigorous growth habit can, if allowed to, become invasive. Additionally, once established, Virginia Creeper can be difficult to eradicate. This is because it is able to propagate via its root system. Despite this it is still an ornamentally attractive specimen. Planting in a container or planter can help to control the spread of the root system.
A member of the grape family, thanks to its climbing habit you can train Virginia Creeper to grow up trellising for a pleasing visual effect. Hardy in USDA Zones 3 to 10, Virginia Creeper likes well draining soil. The plants grow equally well in sunny and shady positions.
Virginia Creeper has an intense vining growth habit.
Blackthorn is a reliable full sun perennial. Technically a flowering tree Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) is popular for its snow-white blooms which emerge in early spring. These give way to inky-purple fruits, known as sloes. Blackthorn sloes can be used in a range of culinary dishes or to make sloe gin. The branches of the Blackthorn tree are surprisingly smokeless, meaning that they can be cut and used for firewood.
Typically cultivated as a thorny shrub, Blackthorn is ideal for hedging and introducing privacy to a garden. Best planted in full sun and watered regularly, Blackthorn is hardy in USDA Zones 4 to 8.
When in bloom, Blackthorn is covered in delicate white blossom.
6 Ornamental Grass
Ornamental Grasses can add elegance to any space, particularly when they start to sway gently in the breeze. A tactile choice for a collection of coastal flowers, the long seek blades add texture as well as movement and height to a space.
Many Ornamental Grasses, such as pampas grass are also pleasingly easy to grow and tolerant of a wide range of growing conditions. While some Ornamental Grasses love full sun positions others prefer partial shade. This means that you will have to do some research before purchasing. How much water and the hardiness also varies depending on the ornamental grass that you decide to grow. However, with such a wide range of Ornamental Grasses currently available you are sure to find at least one suitable type.
Ornamental grasses are a popular choice in coastal gardens.
7 English Ivy
English Ivy (Hedera Helix) is a resilient, low growing plant. Like many other types of ivy, this plant has a vigorous growth habit. Ivy can also be trained to climb up trellising or structures such as fences. The plant’s energetic growth habit means that some people consider it invasive. However, with a little regular maintenance English Ivy is a worthy addition to our list of coastal flowers.
Planting in hanging baskets enables English Ivy to spread down towards the ground without becoming overly invasive. Hardy in USDA Zones 4 to 8, English Ivy does best in partial shade and moist soil. For something a little different, you can also grow ivy plants in water.
An attractive plant, Ivy can spread significantly if allowed to.
8 Sea Buckthorn
An increasingly popular entry on our list of coastal flowers, Sea Buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides) can be used as a wild ingredient where it’s sharp flavor enriches a range of dishes. Sea Buckthorn plants are rich in minerals and vitamins. This means that the plants are also commonly used in a number of herbal remedies.
Happiest when growing in difficult conditions, including as coastal flowers, you can also grow Sea Buckthorn at home. As you would expect from coastal flowers, Sea Buckthorn is tolerant of salt in both the soil and air. Best planted in full sun, the soil should be kept evenly moist. Sea Buckthorn is hardy in USDA Zones 3 to 8.
The bright orange berries of Sea Buckthorn.
One of the most versatile herbs, Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) is a robust plant that thrives in exposed areas. Despite its delicate appearance, this is a surprisingly resilient plant. Thyme requires just a little regular care to flourish in even the most difficult of conditions. This resilience makes it one of the more reliable coastal flowers.
Like other woody herbs Thyme is a fragrant plant that is often used to edge paths and borders. Here when you brush past it, the plants release a pleasant aroma that surrounds you as you walk. Happiest in hot, sunny conditions Thyme likes to be planted in well draining soil. Healthy specimens tolerate drought well. Thyme is hardy in USDA Zones 4 to 9.
A popular herb, when in bloom Thyme is an attractive plant.
10 Bee Balm
Bee Balm (Monarda didyma) is a popular herbaceous perennial, flowering in shades of pink, purple and red. Easy to grow Bee Balm is part of the mint family. Its aromatic leaves can be used like mint or to treat skin conditions and bee stings.
Popular with pollinators, the fragrant blooms are a reliable way to fill coastal positions with color. Hardy in USDA Zones 2 to 10, Bee Balm is best planted in partial or full sun. Aim to keep the soil around Bee Balm evenly moist, the plants don’t tolerate drought conditions well.
Bee Balm is a distinctive plant.
11 Flowering Jasmine
Like other types of Jasmine, Flowering Jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) is popular for its attractive blooms and strong fragrance. One of the most fragrant coastal flowers, Flowering Jasmine is also popular with pollinators such as bees. Best planted in full sun, you can also plant Flowering Jasmine in partial sun but flowering may not be as intense. Capable of tolerating drought well, Flowering Jasmine is hardy in USDA Zones 9 and 10.
Fragrant and elegant, Jasmine is one of the most reliable coastal flowers.
A popular bedding plant, Geraniums are surprisingly resilient. Many varieties are also ideal coastal flowers. One of the most versatile plants on our list, Geraniums can be grown in flower beds pots, hanging baskets or cultivated as houseplants.
Easy to care for, simply water your Geraniums regularly and make sure they get lots of sun. Ideally Geraniums should receive between 4 and 6 hours of light every day. Hardy in USDA Zones 10 and 11, in cooler climates Geraniums can either be grown as annuals or dug up and overwintered before planting out again the following spring.
Resilient Geraniums are one of the most popular bedding plants.
13 California Poppy
A cheerful, sun loving plant, the California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica) is available in a range of colors, however the bright orange blooms are particularly attractive. Happy to grow in poor soil, California Poppies thrive in rocky or sandy conditions making them reliable coastal flowers. Once established they require little water.
Hardy in USDA Zones 5 to 10 the colorful blooms of the California Poppy close at night before opening again the next morning. The California Poppy is also thought to have sedative properties, making it a good choice for a bedroom plant to help you get a good night’s sleep.
California Poppies thrive in poor conditions.
14 Beach Aster
As its name suggests, the Beach Aster (Erigeron Glaucus) is suited to coastal conditions. Also known as Sea Breeze, these are hardy, resilient specimens that also tolerate low temperatures.
A low growing perennial with a moderate spreading habit, Beach Aster is popular for its semi-double daisy-like blooms. Best planted in full sun, Beach Aster requires regular watering, particularly for the first year after planting to encourage and support the plant’s profuse flowering habit. Beach Asters are hardy in USDA Zones 5 to 8.
Beach Aster is popular for its moderate spreading habit and attractive coastal flowers.
Escallonia is an attractive flowering evergreen shrub. Flowering from early summer well into the fall, cultivars such as Apple Blossom are ideal for planting as coastal flowers.
Capable of tolerating extreme conditions, Apple Blossom is popular for its delicate pink blooms. Most noticeable after a little rain, Escallonia blooms are also pleasantly fragrant.
Plant Escallonia in full sun and water deeply. Once established the plants are drought tolerant and hardy in USDA Zones 7 to 9. In cooler areas Escallonia plants require some protection from cold, winter temperatures. A Remiaway Shrub Cover provides a safe and reliable way to protect sensitive shrubs during the winter months.
Suitable for a range of growing situations, including growing in pots, Lavender (Lavandula) is a versatile herb with numerous benefits. A popular ingredient in therapeutic oils and creams, the distinctly fragrant Lavender flowers are also popular with pollinators.
Lavender’s purple blooms look particularly attractive when planted as coastal flowers but with the right care, Lavender plants can be encouraged to flower almost anywhere. For the best flowering results, plant Lavender in a sheltered sunny spot and water regularly. Lavender is hardy in USDA Zones 5 to 9.
Lavender is a versatile herb that thrives in coastal areas.
One of the most attractive ornamental coastal flowers, the yellow flowers of Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) provide a reliable source of food for many pollinators. The blooms can also be used as a medicinal herb.
Easy to grow and incredibly hardy Yarrow is suitable for a range of planting situations. Best planted in full sun, be careful not to overwater Yarrow. The plants struggle in wet soil. Native to Eurasia, Yarrow is common across North America where it is hardy in USDA Zones 3 to 9.
Be careful if planting Yarrow, it is toxic to animals including dogs and cats.
The bright yellow blooms of Yarrow add color and height to many planting schemes.
While you may think Hawthorn (Crataegus) is a large tree, you can also find small tree and even shrub cultivars. As well as being versatile, Hawthorn is also one of the more reliable options on our coastal flowers list.
Hawthorn specimens are deciduous ornamentals. During the late spring and summer months the plants are covered in glossy foliage and white flowers, providing shelter for birds and small mammals. As flowers fade the fruit, known as haws form. The edible fruit is a popular ingredient in both wine and jam.
Best planted in full sun and watered regularly, particularly during the first year, Hawthorn is hardy in USDA Zones 4 to 11. To learn more about these versatile specimens, check out our growing guide.
As the reliable coastal flowers of the Hawthorn fade, berries continue to provide color and interest.
Planting Periwinkle in your garden is a great way to add reliable, green ground cover. Not the largest plant in the garden, Periwinkle (Vinca Minor) is popular for its broad green leaves and delicate blue flowers.
Best planted in partial shade, Periwinkle can cope with sunnier spots but may require more regular watering. In sunny or open gardens where shade is difficult to find, a Sunblock Shade provides a reliable way to shade sensitive specimens, protecting the foliage from burning. If planted in the shade, once established, Periwinkle is a drought tolerant specimen.
Hardy in USDA Zones 4 to 8, Periwinkle is known for its prolific growth habit. This means that in some areas, such as the coastal parts of California it is considered invasive.
In sunny spots, Periwinkle requires regular watering.
20 Butterfly Bush
Our final entry on our list of coastal flowers, the Butterfly Bush is also one of the best plants for encouraging pollinators. Also known as the Buddleja, the Butterfly BUsh is easily identified by its elongated, colorful floral panicles. Flowering from late spring until the end of summer, Butterfly Bush flowers are rich in nectar, meaning that they are not only sweetly fragrant but are also popular with bees, butterflies and even hummingbirds.
Native to parts of Asia, the Butterfly Bush is hardy in USDA Zones 5 to 9. Water regularly and plant in full sun to encourage lots of flowers to form. If you want to learn more about these attractive plants, check out our growing guide here.
The elegant floral panicles of the Butterfly Bush are popular with pollinators.
Attractive and versatile, the coastal flowers listed above are a great way to add color and interest to an exposed garden.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.