What Are The Best Annuals For The Beach?


When it comes to setting up a garden at your beach house or a coastal garden, selecting the right varieties of plants is a critical step. 

The sandy and salt-rich soil and strong winds of coastal areas are not suitable for most plants. 

Annuals Gallardia flower blooming near oceanAnnuals Gallardia flower blooming near ocean

The soils are not only devoid of nutrients, but also have poor ability to retain water. 

This makes them more susceptible to salt damage. 

The excess of salt in the soil found in and around coastal areas also prevents the absorption of water by plants, leading to their dehydration.

All these factors make coastal areas unfavorable for a vast majority of plants.

But, fortunately, there are many salt-tolerant plant species, which can adapt to the growing conditions of beach areas. 

Since not many people know about them, here we are listing some annual plant species which will fulfill your dream of creating a show-stopping display of colors in your beach home.

Ageratum (Ageratum Houstonianum) 

Prized for its colorful (blue to purple) flowers, long blooming period, and lush green foliage, Ageratum Houstonianum (floss flower) is a small herbaceous plant from the family Asteraceae. 

The plant is native to Guatemala and Belize in Central America, Mexico, and the Caribbean. 

Still, it has also been naturalized in the southern United States, many areas of the tropics.

Commonly known as blue mink, blueweed, Mexican paintbrush, pussyfoot, and floss flower, due to its flower color and threadlike structure, the plant requires consistent moisture to grow properly. 

It cannot tolerate dry soil but is one of the few annuals which can tolerate light shade.

Ageratum makes an excellent groundcover and is also perfectly suited for mass plantings, beds and borders, rock gardens, edgings, and even containers.

Blanket flower (Gaillardia Pulchella)

A member of the sunflower family from North America, Gaillardia Pulchella, is a small plant with hairy stems and beautiful blooms. 

Gaillardia Flower aka Blanket FlowerGaillardia Flower aka Blanket Flower

Borne on tall, upright stems, which are mostly leafless at the top, the flower heads are small but very colorful and attractive. 

The daisy-like flowers feature bi-color rays – red at the base and yellow at the tips – around a dark red to purplish center disk. 

Due to this unique color combination of the flowers, the plant is commonly referred to as Firewheel. 

The other common name blanket flower comes from the plant’s quick and spreading growth habit. 

It forms colonies, which blanket the ground.

Blanket flower is an easy to grow and low-maintenance plant and is primarily cultivated for ornamental purposes.

Moss Rose (Portulaca Grandiflora) 

Moss rose is a succulent flowering species from the genus Portulaca – the only genus in the family Portulacaceae – known for its hardiness and colorful blooms. 

Highly tolerant of heat and drought, the plant is an ideal choice for hot climates, water-wise gardens, and xeriscape landscapes. 

But, its real value comes from its beautiful flowers.

They are not only colorful but also display a unique blooming habit. 

The flowers of moss rose open on sunny days, but remain closed when it’s cloudy. 

They also close at night. 

Borne on reddish stems, the flowers of moss rose are pink, red, yellow, orange, salmon, or white. 

Different colored flowers often grow on the same plant, which further enhances the plant’s appeal.

Verbena (Verbena x Hybrida)

Flowers of the Trailing Verbena variety - Verbena canadensisFlowers of the Trailing Verbena variety - Verbena canadensis

Featuring a cascade of lush green, hairy foliage, and brightly-colored flower clusters, Verbena x hybrida plants are ideal for covering the dry and sunny spots in your beach house garden. 

They display a sprawling growth habit and readily form dense groundcovers. 

Hence, they are commonly called trailing verbena.

From summer to autumn, the foliage remains covered with tiny colorful and fragrant flowers, further enhancing the plant’s appeal. 

The flowers come in a variety of colors, ranging from purple and mauve to pink, burgundy, apricot, scarlet, and white.

Mexican heather (Cuphea Hyssopifolia) 

A member of the Lythraceae family, Mexican heather, is an evergreen flowering shrub native to Mexico, Honduras, and Guatemala. 

Dainty Blooming Mexican Heather plantDainty Blooming Mexican Heather plant

It has also been naturalized in Hawaii and also grown in USDA hardiness zones 8b to 11. 

Easily grown in a variety of soil types under full sun or partial shade, the plant features fine glossy green foliage and small lavender, purple, or white, trumpet-shaped blooms. 

The flowers start emerging in summer and continue to bloom till fall, stopping with the beginning of the frost season. 

They are also highly attractive to butterflies and hummingbirds.

Although it is called Mexican heather due to its resemblance with heather plants, Cuphea Hyssopifolia is not true heather. 

Therefore, it is also sometimes referred to as false heather. 

Other common names of the plant include Hawaiian heather and elfin heather.

Dusty-miller (Senecio Cineraria) 

silver leaves of the Dusty miller plant Senecio Cinerariasilver leaves of the Dusty miller plant Senecio Cineraria

Senecio Cineraria (Dusty Miller), also regarded as Jacobaea Maritima by some modern taxonomists, is an ornamental plant prized for its silver-grey foliage. 

Growing up to a maximum height of 6’ to 6.5’ feet, the plant sometimes produces yellow flowers. 

But, they are generally removed by the gardeners to make sure the leaves remain the center of attraction.

The silver-grey leaves, which are covered with fine hair, giving them a wooly appearance, form a striking background for other colorful flowering garden plants.

The plant is native to the Mediterranean region, southern Europe, northwest Africa, and far western regions of Asia and is also known as silver ragwort. 

Lantanas (Lantana spp.)

Lantana plants full of orange heads of flowersLantana plants full of orange heads of flowers

Lantana is a genus of the Verbenaceae family containing about 150 species of flowering plants. 

The plants are characterized by their colorful, showy, and fragrant flower clusters, composed of small florets in shades of red, orange, blue, yellow, and white. 

The florets also change color as they mature due to which multi-colored inflorescences are often seen on Lantanas.

Sweet Alyssum (Lobularia Maritima) 

beautiful sweet alyssum blooms in purplebeautiful sweet alyssum blooms in purple

Sweet alyssum, also known as sweet Alison, is a slow-growing flowering plant from the family of crucifers. 

It features small, highly-branched stems and sessile, hairy leaves, and dense clusters of small sweet-smelling flowers. 

The blooms are mostly white but sometimes pink, lilac, violet, or rose-red. 

The flowers continue to bloom throughout the growing season or even year-round in areas which remain frost-free. 

Native to southern Europe, the plant is easy to grow, and as its scientific name ‘maritima’ suggests, it prefers coastal habitat.

Ivy geranium (Pelargonium Peltatum)

Also known as trailing geranium, this South African native plant grows best under full-sun in moist and well-drained soil. 

Its glossy green fleshy leaves feature pointed lobes, making them look similar to the leaves of the ivy plant. 

Hence, the common name.

While the foliage of ivy geranium is attractive, its main appeal comes from the colorful flowers which continue to bloom from spring to fall. 

The flowers come in shades of pink, red, lavender, or white and appear in round clusters.

Due to its trailing growth habit, ivy geranium makes a great display in hanging baskets, window boxes, and raised garden beds.

Calendula (Calendula Officinalis) 

This long-blooming Mediterranean native plant only grows up to 1’ to 2’ feet and produces showy yellow to orange round flowers, which look like daisies and chrysanthemums. 

Blooms up close of an orange Calendula flowerBlooms up close of an orange Calendula flower

While the plant typically blooms in summer, it can continue to produce flowers throughout the year in cooler climates.

Commonly known as marigold, calendula plant easily grows in any average and moderately-fertile soil as long as it is well-drained. 

It can tolerate full sun but appreciates some afternoon shade during hot summer days. 

The flowers attract birds and butterflies, but the plant is rabbit and black-walnut resistant.

Gazania (Gazania Rigens)

Colorful Gazania flowerColorful Gazania flower

Widely grown as an ornamental plant due to its blue-grey foliage and large bright yellow to orange daisy-like flowers, Gazania is a low-growing herbaceous plant with a spreading growth habit. 

It prefers consistently moist and well-drained soil, full sun, and cool summer climates. 

Too much heat and humidity can reduce flowering. 

This member of the Asteraceae family is native to southern Africa but has been naturalized in many other parts of the world. 

Purslane (Portulaca Cultivars)

Portulaca is the only genus in the Portulacaceae family containing flowering species known for their beautiful summertime blooms, attractive foliage, hardiness, drought-tolerance, and non-demanding nature. 

Assorted colors of Portulaca flowersAssorted colors of Portulaca flowers

While the genus contains many species, most of the cultivated plants are hybrids of P. oleracea and P. Grandiflora – the two most popular purslane species.

Some of the most widely grown portulaca cultivars include Sundance, Sundial, Duet, Calypso, Bodhigyel, and Yubi Summer Joy Orange. 

All these cultivars are hardy and produce brightly-colored, showy flowers, making them highly sought-after by gardeners.

Wax begonias (Begonia X Semperflorens Cultorum)

wax begonias in assorted colors - pink, white, redwax begonias in assorted colors - pink, white, red

Featuring waxy and succulent green, bronze, or red-colored foliage and small colorful flowers, wax begonias are small, compact and hardy garden plants widely grown for ornamental purposes. 

They are pink, red, white, or even bi-colored and often continue to bloom from summer to fall/winter; till the beginning of the frost season. 

But, the real appeal of the plants comes from their colorful foliage.

The upright mounding growth habit of wax begonias make them ideal for mass plantings, groundcovers, entrance ways, and edgings. 

However, they also make great displays in pots, window boxes, and hanging baskets. 

These Begoniaceae species are not only low-maintenance but tolerates dry soils. 

They are also rabbit resistant.

Ornamental cabbage (Brassica oleracea var. acephala)

Also known as flowering kale or ornamental kale, Brassica oleracea var. acephala is a European native plant from the Cruciferae family. 

Brassica oleracea known as flowering kale or ornamental kale in Gainesville FLorida Dec 2019Brassica oleracea known as flowering kale or ornamental kale in Gainesville FLorida Dec 2019

While it is a flowering plant, the blooms are inconspicuous, and the plant is primarily known for its colorful foliage. 

The thick ruffled leaves of flowering kale are arranged in a rosette pattern on 6” to 8” inches long, thick stems. 

The leaves are dark green, but the color of the inner leaves of the rosettes can change to other shades of green, purple, pink, lavender, or cream.

Unlike most ornamental plants, Brassica oleracea var. acephala doesn’t lose its foliage color in winters, making it an excellent choice for cold climates.

Drummond phlox (Phlox Drummondii)

Pink white flowers of Phlox DrummondiiPink white flowers of Phlox Drummondii

Drummond phlox or annual phlox is an ornamental plant from the Polemoniaceae family known for its attractive and colorful flowers. 

Borne on highly-branched stems, the flowers are small and round and can range from white and cream to pink, rose, lilac, purple and red. 

The flowers usually have white or pale centers and appear in tight terminal clusters. 

Due to their vibrant colors, the flowers are attractive to hummingbirds and butterflies.

For best results, grow this phlox plant in loose, acidic, and humus soil with good drainage. 

Water moderately but regularly. 

While the plant easily grows in full sun, it appreciates some afternoon shade on hot summer days.

Annual phlox is not only one of the most beautiful wildflower species of Texas (its native region), but has also been prized and grown in Europe for about 150 years. 

Fancy geranium (Pelargonium x domesticum)

Regal or Martha Washington geranium with purple bloomsRegal or Martha Washington geranium with purple blooms
Purple flowering Martha Washington geranium

Also known as regal geranium or Martha Washington geranium, Pelargonium x domesticum is a small group of plants, which are hybrids of P. cucullatum and P. grandiflorum. 

The plants are typically small, only growing up to 3’ feet in height, and feature heart to kidney-shaped toothed leaves on somewhat woody stems. 

The plants do not always bloom, but when they do, they produce small but showy flowers in shades of red, pink, lavender, or purple. 

The flowers are borne in clusters, which make them look even more attractive.

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