May 5, 2020

Lejeune Gardens – Photo Onslow County Tourism
Spring has arrived on Topsail Island and on the mainland. Sunshine and spring showers alternate each day and, with warmer temperatures finally here, we are ready to get outside and tend to the garden. Flowering plants and native foliage also enjoy the spring weather. Yes, even in the sand and salt of the coast, there are many beautiful and hardy plants that not only survive but thrive in our area.

The Treasure of Spring Flowers – By Pat Fontana

Butchart Gardens – Photo by Topsail Adviser
When planning your garden and landscaping on the North Carolina coast, plan for flowers, bushes, and trees that do well in:
  • Salt and salt spray
  • Sand that is quick to drain
  • Wind, including hurricane-force winds
  • High temperatures
Since sand drains quickly, standing water is usually not an issue for coastal plants. For those plants that need a little more moisture, consider incorporating two to four inches of organic mulches, such as pine straw or shredded bark mulches, which will help plant growth by reducing soil temperature and conserving moisture.
Some plants that like the coastal area as much as we do include:
  • Azaleas
Our neighbor to the south, Wilmington, is home to the Azalea Festival for a reason! Azaleas are not only beautiful but are also considered to be moderately salt tolerant, which makes them perfect for our area.
Azaleas – Photo by RCI Images

Wax Myrtle

An evergreen bush that is highly tolerant to sea salt, the wax myrtle is also tolerant of the high winds that we often have on the beach. It is an ideal plant for seaside areas, producing a bluish-white waxy fruit that is highly aromatic and that lasts through the winter months.
Wax Myrtle – Photo by Audubon

Sea Lavender

Well-adapted to coastal gardens, sea lavender is adorned with a circle of evergreen leaves and dainty, light-purple, and magenta flowers that appear collectively as a haze of violet. A good source of nectar for many insects, the small flowers retain their color when dried and are often included as part of dried bouquets.
Sea Lavendar – Photo by San Diego Zoo


Decorated with inch-long, glossy leaves and brilliant red fruits, yaupon is among our most ornamental native shrubs and is often used to landscape a home as a border plant or a low hedge. Young leaves contain caffeine and are actually brewed into tea by some coastal residents.
Yaupon – Photo by Grand Strand Magazine


Highly salt-tolerant and wind-tolerant palms that thrive in our area include the dwarf palmetto, saw palmetto, and cabbage palm. The dwarf palmetto is, in fact, the hardiest native palm along the east coast. Clusters of small, white flowers appear on the dwarf in the summer and are followed by blue to black fleshy fruits. We are the northernmost point for the cabbage palm, which sports a crown of enormous fan-like leaves. The saw palmetto is a bit smaller but truly loves sandy coastal areas.
Palms in Wilmington – Photo by Star News Online
Of course, there are many other eye-pleasing and seaworthy plants that can make your island or mainland home attractive and aromatic throughout the year. Even though we are in a salty, sandy area, which is one reason we love it here so much, that shouldn’t keep you from also enjoying a nice garden or enhanced landscaping for your home!
We are full of treasures here! Enjoy your spring!
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