Plants for Beachfront and Seaside Gardens in Southern California
Question from Zachary:
What plants will grow in gardens close to the coast and right on the beach front in Southern California?
Answer from Pat:
Trees that will survive on the oceanfront in Southern California include the following: Monterey cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa), Leyland cypress (x Cupressocyparis leylandii), flooded gum tree (Eucalyptus rudis), bushy yate (E. conferruminata usually sold as E. lehmannii), compact sugar gum (E. cladocalilyx ‘Nana’), flame eucalyptus (E. ficifolia), rustyleaf fig (Ficus rubiginosa), cajeput tree (Melaleuca quinquenervia), New Zealand Christmas tree (Metrosideros excelsa), M collina ‘Spring Fire’ or ‘Figi'; palm trees including Brahea edulis, Butia capitata, Chamerops, cocos, Phoenix canariensis, P. dactylifer, P.reclinata, Sabal blackburniana, S. palmetto, Washingtonia robusta; Aleppo pine (Pinus halepensis), shore pine (P. contorta), Bosnian pine (P. heldreichii), Bishop pine (P. muricata),) Italian stone pine (P. pinea), holly oak (Quercus ilex), and California laurel (Umbellaria californica).
Shrubs that will survive on the oceanfront in Southern California include:strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo), natal plum (Carissa macrocarpa), rockrose (Cistus), wire netting plant (Corokia cotoneaster), Australian fuchsia (Correa), hop bush (Dodonaea viscosa), lemon leaf (Eleagnus), pink flowered shrub (Escallonia), evergreen euonumus (Euonymus japonicus), Grisiliana, needle bush (Hakea), Hebe, Juniperus (several), Kalanchoe, Lantana, lavender (Lavandula), tea tree (Leptospermum), Melaleuca, oleander (Nerium oleander), Jerusalem sage (Phlomis), Pittosporum crassifolium, P. tobira, Protea compacta, Italian buckthorn (Rhamnus alaternus), Rhaphiolepis, lemonade berry (Rhus integrifolia), Ramana rose (Rosa rugosa), rosemary (Rosmarinus officianalis), evergreen viburnum (Viburnum), coast rosemary (Westringea fruticosa)
Perennials that will survive on the oceanfront in Southern California include: yarrow (Achillea), agapanthus, Tree aloe (Aloe arborescens) and others, sea pink (Armeria maritima), Artemisia, Carex, Jupiters beard (Centranthus ruber), Cape rush (Chondropetalum elephantinum), marguerite (Chrysanthemum frutescens), ground morning glory (Convolvulus sabatius), Dianthus, Pride of Madeira (Echium candicans), seaside daisy (Erigeron), buckwheat (Eriogonum), Euphorbia (several types), Euryops, blue marguerite (Felicia amelloides), Gazania, Iceplants (many kinds), sea lavender (Limonium pereziii), Pink muhlie grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris), Mexican feather grass (Nassella tenuissima), garden geraniums of all kinds (Pelargonium), New Zealand flax (Phormium), lavender cotton (Santolina), Succulents of many varieties—(virtually all of them. I have seen whole gardens of succulents on the cliffs overlooking the sea), and Yucca. Among flowering bulbs try Naked ladies (Amaryllus belladonna). Years ago great drifts of these bulbs made a huge show with aloes, thriving and blooming their heads off on bare cliffs overlooking the sea.
For annuals try nasturtiums planted in fall and coastal wildflowers also planted in fall. Water them to get them started. In dry areas with no summer water, try the California native plants sea dahlia (Coreopsis maritima) and giant sea dahlia (Coreopsis gigantea). Neither of these can take any summer water unless provided by Mother Nature herself.
Good choices for potted plants that will survive on the oceanfront in Southern California include many kinds of geraniums and succulents. Use rocks, pebbles, stepping stones, shells, bottles, driftwood, bleached rope, and flotsam and jetsam to create interest in your seaside garden. You can even fill an old rowboat with garden soil and use it as a raised bed. All of the plants mentioned here are good anywhere close to the coast. In back of the house in a sunny spot out of the wind and in a raised bed or a rowboat you could even grow vegetables and herbs. Surround the rowboat with scented geraniums for a great look.