Coastal landscaping with indigenous beach-dwelling flora

by | Jun 8, 2017 | Featured Slider, Latest, News

Much like gardening, salt water can provide a cure for almost anything, or at least at Life Landscapes we think so. However, these two therapeutic past-times don’t mix well. The ocean has been an endless source of stories, adventure and turmoil for mankind and endless problems for landscapers planting a garden with an ocean view.

Earth is home to five great oceans and a 113 seas. They represent 72% of the earth’s surface; in South African we have 2,500km of coastline, with a large portion of South Africans living in cities like Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Durban.  Most property owners or beach resorts want a property directly on the beach; this is what is known to landscapers as Zone 1 and Zone 2.

Coastal conditions of a beachfront garden

Landscaping a stone throw away from the seashore mean a property manager will have to deal with the following challenges in Zone 1 (Summer Rainfall Area) to Zone 2 (Winter Rainfall Area).

  • An ocean breeze
  • Brackish waters from estuaries and salt marches
  • Dew, mist, humidity and fog that cause fungi
  • High wind velocity from the ocean breeze
  • Migrating sand dunes.
  • Reflective sunlight from the water that burns plants.
  • Saline soils and poor soil quality
  • Salt build up on leaves
  • Steep garden gradients and slopes

coastal landscaping

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Landscaping on the coast

Gardens on the seashore are influenced the by the sea and tides, they also play important ecological roles for coastal fauna which it is why it is important to preserve coastal habitat in beach front garden, especially indigenous mangroves.

If you wish to improve the soil quality of a coastal garden then using soil from a compost heap, worm farm and Bokashi system would improve soil quality allowing more to grow.

A retaining wall or salt-resistant shrubs make for the first-line of defence against the ocean protecting other plants from the salt and wind.

The correct positioning and plant selection is vital in keeping costs and casualties low. Understanding the garden’s typography and unique conditions is vital to a successful coastal garden.

The importance of Halophytes (salt-tolerant plants) on the coast

A halophyte is a plant that can withstand saline conditions and salt residue on its leaves.

Typically a salt-tolerant plant is not particularly large and will have thick, almost succulent-like leaves. They can also grow incredible fast.

Life Landscapes has put together a list of plants that means you won’t to boil the ocean with plants that die. After all a coastal garden can be more than a hammock in a coconut palm.

pink palette garden south africa

© Agua y verde

Dune-surfing plants for a gardens in the tidal zone

About 70% of South Africa’s 2 500 km long coastline is made up of sandy beaches. The wise man did not build his house or his garden, for that matter, on the sand one cannot control dunes but there are few plants that can ride the wave of the ever shifting sand dunes.

beach grasses south africa

Here is a list of dune plants that are happier than a child with a spade and a vision of a sandcastle in the beach sand:

  • Beach bean (Canavalia rosea)
  • Beach pumpkin (Arctotheca populifolia)
  • Cyperus crassipes
  • Dune spinach (Tetragonia decumbens)
  • Natal sour fig (Carpobrotus dimidiatus)
  • Phylohydrax carnosa
  • Pig’s ears (Cotyledon orbiculata)
  • Trailing gazania (Gazania rigens)

Trees and shrubs for a landscape with an ocean view

Trees and shrubs will help control the humidity and the heat on the property as well as acting as wind breakers. Typically large trees don’t do too well on the beach, because of the wind, but if staked correctly they can grow. Besides staking the hosing down of tree is important to remove excess salt.

The continuous ocean breezes are a drop in the ocean for these coastal shrubs:

Coastal landscapes in Zone 1 (Durban)

(For a full list of Durban’s trees read the Durban garden)

  • Natal Laburnum (Calpurnia aurea)
  • Lagoon hibiscus (Hibiscus tiliaceus)
  • Snot apple (Thespesia garckeana)



Beach gardens in Zone 1 (Eastern Cape)

  • Bushman’s poison (Acokanthera oppositifolia)
  • Cape honey suckle (Tecoma capensis)
  • Coastal coral tree (Erythrina caffra)
  • Cross-berry (Grewiaoccidentalis)
  • Keurboom (Virgilia divaricate)
  • Spekboom (Portulacaria afra)
  • Wild dagga (Leonotis leonurus)
  • Wild pomegranate (Burchellia bubaline)

pink planting list

Zone 2 trees and shrubs (Cape Town)

  • Coast silver oak (Brachylaena discolour)
  • Conebush (Leucadendron levisanus)
  • Confetti bush (Coleonema calycinum)
  • Dronkbessie (Passerina ericoides)
  • Ericas species
  • Pincushions (Leucospermum spp.)
  • Protea species

Written by Georgina Lockwood of Life Green Group. For more visit


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