South Australia’s coastal plants for the garden

Coastal gardening can be a challenge due to the exposure to strong often, salt laden winds, poor soils many being sandy or alternatively they can be shallow, alkaline and limestone based. This is where some of South Australia’s unique coastal flora comes into its own.  

Our coastal plants are hardened to the difficult growing conditions and many of them are gems with attractive flowers, fruit and or foliage. Some species that I would recommend include Leucopogon parviflorus, the coast beard-heath.  It is a dense shrub which under favourable conditions will reach 2 metres in height with light green foliage which is attractive in itself.  It has white flowers in clusters at the end of the branches in spring followed by pale drupes or berries which are edible. This would be one of my first choices to plant as a screen or windbreak as it will buffer the coastal winds and allow the gardener to establish some more delicate plants on the leeward side. Additionally it is a great habitat plant for our native fauna. Birds and even lizards will snack on the white fruits and because of its dense habit it provides shelter and protection.  

Every frontline coastal garden should include a group of Leucopogon parviflorus. Common everlasting, Chrysocephalum apiculatum is a low clumping plant with often grey to silver foliage. It occurs naturally right throughout South Australia and in coastal regions. The bright yellow flowers are produced in clusters in winter and spring and put on a fine display. It strikes quite readily from cuttings and it is one that the home gardener could have a try at propagating. It is categorised as a perennial herb so it not long lived but as suggested it can be multiplied by cuttings.  

Scaevola crassifolia is commonly referred to as the coastal fan flower and is a frontline coastal dweller often growing in sandy and rocky soils. It can vary in height depending on the extent of the coastal exposure but is often about 1 metre tall and 1.5 metres wide and forms a dense dome shape shrub. The fleshy foliage is light green and the fan flowers can be in shades of light blue through to white mostly occurring in spring.   

Finally Goodenia varia the sticky goodenia is a tough one that also grows into a dome shape. Often is a groundcover but also under favourable conditions may reach three quarters of a metre high. It is easy to grow, tolerating poor soils and as the common name suggests has sticky bright green foliage. The yellow flowers are attractive and can appear throughout they year.

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