Coastal gardens in picturesque places such as around the Mediterranean are frequently bold and flamboyant as they are filled with colourful plants that flower almost year round. Think bougainvillea, geranium and hibiscus. Luckily, all these plants grow as happily in containers as they do in the ground, and still manage to provide that dazzling display - even in your coastal garden here in Sydney. Choose compact or dwarf forms – such as Bambino bougainvillea, ivy geranium and low-growing hibiscus. As well as growing these as freestanding potted plants, bougainvillea can be allowed to climb. Ivy geraniums are also a good choice to spill from a wall-mounted pot, or over the edge of a sunny balcony.
In summer, add even more seasonal colour with annuals such as petunia, calibrachoa or portulaca to pots in your sunniest spot.
Too much colour? Go green with leafy succulents such as aloes, Agave attenuata, cordylines or crassula (Jade plant). These plants are tidy, easygoing and tolerant of coastal conditions.
Add a flash of silver from cushion bush, a tough silver-leafed native plant, or use the naturally-draping growth of Dichondra ‘Silver Falls’ to flow down the side of the pot.
For a more formal look, grow tough, shrubby plants that can be clipped and shaped such as coastal rosemary (Westringia fruticosa), Indian hawthorn (Rhaphiolepis) and coprosma, particularly varieties with sunset- or sunrise-toned foliage such as the Pacific series to contrast with the green tones of other plants.
For a fragrant coastal potted garden, grow frangipani. As well as the usual white forms, there are also frangipani varieties with pink, red or yellow flowers. All can be grown in large containers. For a Mediterranean-inspired fragrant garden, grow French or Spanish lavender varieties.
A coastal container garden can even include edible plants. Olive trees make sculptural evergreen container plants that thrive near the coast. Citrus can also be grown in containers, but select dwarf forms. Fragrant rosemary too is charming in a pot and handy for the barbecue. During summer enjoy pots of patio tomatoes planted with basil as a tasty companion.
Potted plant care for your coastal garden
Here are our top tips for caring for your potted plants, especially in a coastal garden that may be subject to more humid conditions or saltier breezes.
- Select large, heavy sturdy containers particularly on exposed sites. If plants are attached to containers on walls, make sure they are firmly anchored so they can’t be dislodged by a strong sea breeze.
- Most coast-tolerant plants do best with good drainage. Ensure that containers are well drained and filled with a good quality potting mix. Top with a mulch of fine gravel or river stones.
- Provide containerised coastal plants with regular water as they do dry out rapidly, especially in windy locations. Those growing in hanging or wall baskets (such as ivy geraniums) may need daily watering, especially if it is hot or windy.
- A dose of slow-release fertiliser in spring should be all that’s needed to keep plants growing well, although hungry plants such as citrus, vegies and hibiscus benefit from extra feeding during summer.
- Where necessary, clip containerised plants to maintain their size and shape. Deadhead flowering plants to keep them in active growth for repeated flowering.
- If the plants are battered by salt-laden winds, hose over their leaves from time to time to prevent salt damage. Salt-damaged leaves can look burnt. If a plant is continually burnt by salty conditions, move to a more sheltered spot.