14 Of The Best Plants For A Seaside Garden

Salt spray and ocean winds often limit us in selecting plants for gardens at the seashore. Then too, sandy soils which are easily displaced in severe storms make it necessary to use ground covers to prevent erosion and conserve soil moisture.

But even if gardening near the sea is a challenging experience, it is a pleasant one.

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Mistakes Are Part of the Gardening, Landscaping Process…

Usually, after making a few mistakes, most gardeners learn to know and use those “toughies” that can endure wind and weather.

Often plants assume distinctive forms, not unlike the windblown “hair-do” that becomes some children regardless of the fashion of the hour. 

Mugho Pines (Pinus mugo)

Spreading junipers and the dark green yews, as well as the broad-leaved evergreens, are frequently seen in well-designed, seaside gardens,

But it is actually a ground-cover plant that helps them to retain their vigor despite the elements.

Common Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva ursi)

For sandy soils in full sun or partial shade the bearberry. Arctostaphylos uva ursi has its merits.

Its trailing, evergreen foliage and showy red fruits in Autumn suggest its use as a carpet plant among taller shrubs or on slopes.

Common Heather (Calluna vulgaris)

Few plants of evergreen character can surpass heather (Calluna vulgaris) and its varieties in sunny locations.

When the plants come from nurseries they are usually trim and compact in form because of frequent shearing.

This practice should be followed to keep the plants healthy and vigorous.

Varieties with silvery and bronzy foliage can be effectively combined with the familiar kinds which bear reddish-purple, pink or white flowers in late July and early August.

Some are more compact in form than others but the familiar forms seldom exceed two feet.

Cotoneaster (Genus)

Only the low-growing forms of cotoneaster, like Cotoneaster horizontalis, Cotoneaster microphyllus, and Cotoneaster praecox, are wanted for use on banks and slopes or for general ground-cover effects.

Attractive in flower, fruit, and foliage, they have the added appeal of intricate twig form which shows to good advantage against rocks.

It takes a skilled gardener to move established plants; hence nurserymen offer potted plants which adapt themselves rapidly.

Spring Heath (Erica carnea)

Related to the heather is the Spring heath (Erica carnea) also known as Winter Heath or Wintersun, a miniature shrub with rose-red flowers and needle-like leaves.

It flowers in early Spring and often braves spells of cold wind and a frosty atmosphere.

In exposed areas, a cover of evergreen boughs will shield it from the damaging Spring heath and severe temperature changes.

Winter Creeper (Enonymus fortunei)

The versatile euonymus, or Winter-creeper, fits itself to many uses.

For clothing bare ground, covering walls, or softening architectural features in the garden; yes, and for slopes and level areas, it is a plant with few peers.

Euonymus fortunei and its purple-leaved form have lustrous foliage and showy fruits to boot. The small-leaved form makes delicate tracery against a wall, a large rock, or at the base of a bird bath or sundial.

Furthermore, the foliage, fruit, and flowers are most adaptable in arrangements.

Box Huckleberry (Gaylussacia brachyeera)

A plant of ancient heritage, Gaylussacia brachyeera, the box huckleberry, is seldom seen in gardens.

This is a native evergreen for plant collectors who enjoy growing rare items.

Averaging a foot in height, this relative of the blueberry bears white to pinkish flowers in late Spring which is followed by bluish fruits.

Climbing Hydrangea

For protruding fireplace chimneys and walls, the climbing hydrangea, Hydrangea petiolaris, is most adaptable.

It can also be planted to scramble over a rocky ledge to soften rough surfaces.

Although slow in becoming established, this sturdy native of Japan ought to be more widely grown. It clings fast to almost any fairly rough surface and produces showy clusters of flat, white flowers against rich foliage in early Summer.

Juniperus horizontalis


The spreading junipers with their pleasing foliage texture, color, and habit of growth are ideally suited to use in hot, dry situations.

Juniperus horizontalis, the creeping juniper, has a bluish-green cast.

Its Waukegan form is usually described as steel blue, while a purplish coloring in the cold months distinguishes the Andorra variety.

Other types include the uncommon, but very desirable, Sargent form of Juniperus chinensis with upright tufted branches and creeping sterns, and the richly-colored Hetz blue juniper.

Sandmyrtle (Leiophyllum buxifolium prostratum)


From the Southern Appalachians Mountains, Harlan P. Kelsey introduced a diminutive evergreen shrub, Leiophyllum buxifolium prostratum, also known as Allegheny sandmyrtle.

With dainty, box-like, foliage, and heads of star-like flowers in May. Its mound-like form and dwarfness make it effective for colonizing among rocks.

Canby’s Mountain Lover (Paxistima canbyi)


Another choice and seldom-seen native from Virginia is Paxistima canbyi. It also has box-like foliage and is sometimes used as a low, edging plant or for carpeting in partial shade or full sun.

Once established, it spreads by small runners which can be used to increase your supply.

Pachysandra (Genus)


Pachysandra has been so widely used as a ground cover that it needs little in the way of comment.

The ease with which it can be propagated from cuttings that should be rooted in a mixture of sand and peat early in the Summer makes it comparatively inexpensive for the home garden.

It adapts itself readily in shady areas, especially under deep-rooted trees.

Memorial Rose (Rosa wichuraiana)


Roses are not often seen as ground covers because few gardeners are acquainted with such species as Rosa wichuraiana and the showy hybrid rugosa Mas Graf. Rosa wichuraiana.

This has glossy foliage and attractive, single, white blossoms borne on training stems. For banks and areas where no traffic is desired, here is a practical ground cover.

Max Graf was a favorite rose of the late J. Horace McFarland, who had praised it for its durable, disease-resistant foliage and its large, bright-pink blooms accented by golden centers. It requires no coddling and will endure it fair amount of shade.

Breckland Thyme (Thymus serpyllum)


For its pungent fragrance alone, thyme is a splendid ground cover.

Many species and varieties are found in herb gardens, in rock and wall plantings, and among stepping stones.

The most familiar kinds, forms of Thymus serpyllum, are valued for their variegated or gray foliage and their varied flower colors — white, pink, lavender, purple, and red.

A low-growing cousin of the blueberry with the rather difficult name of Vaccinium vitis-idaea minus, more familiarly called mountain cowberry, grows as a natural ground cover from Alaska to Massachusetts.

Like some of the miniature shrubs of Lappland, it forms dense evergreen mats producing deep pink flowers followed by dark red fruits in Autumn.

As with pachysandra, the familiar periwinkle, Vinca minor, with its glossy, oval leaves and light blue flowers in Spring, is one of our most common ground covers.

Bowles variety is an improved form with larger foliage and blooms which are more intense in color.

41426 by JR Smedley