Whether you live close to the beach, are dealing with saltwater intrusion in your well, or have elevated levels of salt in your reclaimed water, knowing which plants can tolerate these harsh conditions can help you have a thriving, low-maintenance coastal landscape. Coastal plant communities are characterized by salty, dry, sandy, shelly conditions, so it makes sense to look at the plants that naturally grow in these areas for plant palette inspiration for your coastal garden.
The three main dry coastal plant communities include beach dune, coastal strand and maritime forest.
- Beach dunes are formed by wind and wave action which creates the foredune and upper beach. Dunes are populated with pioneer plant species such as dune sunflower, beach morning glory, sea oats and railroad vine.
- Coastal strands are the bands between the dunes and the maritime forest and are characterized by an evergreen shrub community. This recognizable canopy is often smooth due to pruning by salt spray. The windward side is populated by sea oats, grasses, sedges and low scrubby plants; while the lee side has scrubby trees and shrubs such as sand live oak, saw palmetto, yaupon holly, cabbage palm and necklace pod.
- Maritime forests are hardwood forests that start at the inland side of the coastal strand. They still receive salt spray, but not as much as the dunes and strand, making the plants slightly less salt tolerant than those closer to the water. Examples of plants include coralbean, American holly, southern red cedar, Southern magnolia, beautyberry, coontie, and wild coffee.
If your house was built in one of these natural communities, you could benefit from learning which plants would naturally grow there and replicating them in your landscape. When acquiring native plants, it is important to purchase from a reputable nursery rather than dig them up from natural areas as we need to preserve, not take away from, our precious natural areas. For more information on coastal gardening visit: http://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/design/landscaping-for-specific-sites/coastal-landscape.html.