Outdoor potted plants for a beach cottage

Potted plants add color and interest to a beach cottage landscape design project. Those of us living inland can use the same plants in pots for our beach-themed house. Place potted plants by the entry, line a walkway, or group the plants on a deck or patio to create privacy. Shrubs, ornamental grass and perennial flowers selected for a beach cottage must withstand salty air. Clemson University advises the use of salt-tolerant plants at homes as much as one-quarter mile from the shoreline. Fortunately, nature has provided an array of plants, including flowers, to offer beauty to your beach cottage landscape design.

Perennial flowers for full sun

Indian blanket (Gaillardia pulchella) loves the heat and has a high salt tolerance. Growing 1 to 2 feet tall, the daisy-like blooms with yellow tipped petals and deep orange center of the Indian blanket flower appear in summer. Rain lilies (Habranthus spp.) offer blooms in pink, yellow, red or white. Tickseed (Coreopsis tinctoria) has a daisy appearance with yellow petals and may have a brownish-orange center. Each grows to 2 to 3 feet tall and has a moderate salt tolerance.

Shrubs for full sun

Scarlet plume (Euphorbia fulgens) that grows up to 5 feet tall, and elephant bush (Portulacaria afra) or rosemary (Rosemarinus officinalis) that grow up to 3 feet tall are all shrubs that are highly tolerant of salt.

Ornamental grass

Lilyturf, blooming in late summer
Pink muhly grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris) that grows 24 to 36 inches tall in full sun to partial shade and mondo grass (Ophiopogon japonicus) that grows 6 to 24 inches tall in partial shade to full shade are each highly tolerant to salt. Lilyturf (Liriope muscari), which has a moderate adaption to salt, grows 12 to 24 inches tall in partial to full shade


Select plant containers with drain holes (or drill holes in the bottom of the container). Plastic or synthetic containers are lighter than pottery-type containers, making them easier to move when filled with soil and plants. The color and design of the flower pots should go together as well as fit into the color theme of selected location. Round flower pots in a terracotta color fit well into traditional and craftsman style houses while shiny ceramic flower pots in unique shapes (like square, oval or towering) are suitable for contemporary or modern style houses.


Plant shrubs in a container at least twice as wide as the root ball. Place tall plants in the center of pots when the flower pot is viewable from all sides. Place tall plants in the back of flower pots against a wall or railing. Use short plants or ground cover to fill empty areas of the planter. Use moisture-retaining potting soil. Water often, sometimes daily, to keep the plants hydrated. When mixing annual flowers in with the salt-tolerant flowers, shower the flowers with the garden hose after a windy storm to rinse away salt residue.


Bring nature to your flower pots by placing colorful marbles or shiny stones on the soil surface. Place up-lights behind containers to add subtle streams of light. Uplighting with planters helps to illuminate walkways and steps.

© Barbara Raskauskas.

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