The best plants for…

a coastal dune garden

Coastal plants

Having problems with growing plants in the garden on a seaside property? Maybe your plants are yellowing, burnt or stunted, or you can't even get them established in the first place. You can have a garden that copes with our tough climate by using native species resilient and adapted to a coastal environment.

If your ideal garden is a lush green lawn surrounded by roses, azaleas and camelias you'll always be struggling against the natural conditions and it's unlikely you'll ever achieve a healthy, attractive garden. It’s not sustainable in terms of pesticides and fertilizers and is very expensive. However, there is good news.

Locally native plants have adapted to survive harsh conditions of sand and salt blasting, prolonged sun exposure, nutrient deprived soils and limited water. These are the best plants for your neighbourhood and the environment.

Dunes and invasive marram grass

Miramar has a few coastal dunes around the south coast, Worser Bay and Seatoun, and many more properties along the waterfront with cliffs and outcrops. Dunes are threatened by inappropriate development, which locks up the sand and prevents it from being available for the natural cycle of beach erosion and rebuilding. They also face threats from inappropriate recreational activities, introduced weeds, garden escapes and animal pests. In most sand dunes around the peninsula, and even in a few gardens, the introduced marram grass has taken over, shading species out and competing for water. In contrast to other native dune species marram destabilises dunes, speeding erosion. Marram-rich dunes lose large areas of sand during storms. This leaves a damaged dune even more prone to further wind destruction and dumps more sand in nearby homes.

Marram has also pushed aside the two main species of native sand binders, the golden pingao (Desmoschoenus spiralis) and the silvery spinifex (Spinifex sericeus). Dunes dominated by these two species are stabilised and smooth, have gently sloping sides with wind gently rolling over the dunes and minimal impact from sand blast.

Around Breaker Bay and Seatoun rabbits are common. They are particularly fond of the native golden pingao. Stands of pingao once covered almost every sandy beach from Northland to Stewart Island but now only few remnants are left. Pingao grows well in a free-draining garden situation and does not need sand to thrive.

A good tip: seaweed is the most obvious choice for a mulching material – it’s free and is usually plentiful.

For Miramar Flats, duneland

Trees

Big (b) >15m, Medium (m) 10-15m, Small (s) <10m

  • Akiraho / Olearia paniculata , (s) Pioneer
    An excellent small tree or shrub, akiraho is a costal tree daisy useful for shelter or nursery. Leaves…
  • Cabbage tree / Cordyline australis , (m) Pioneer
    Early European explorers of New Zealand described "jungles of cabbage trees" along the banks of streams and rivers,…
  • Coastal tree dasiy / Olearia solandri , (s) Pioneer
    Perfect for a coastal garden! Named after the Swedish naturalist Daniel Carlsson Solander and an apostle of Carl…
  • Five-finger / Pseudopanax arboreus , (m) Pioneer
    A fast growing small tree well known for its luxuriant growth and purple fruit in large obvious clusters from…
  • Kanuka / Kunzea sp. , (b) Pioneer
    The common kanuka, not yet botanically named is very similar to the more shortlived manuka. Earlier placed together…
  • Karamu / Coprosma robusta , (s) Pioneer
    One of our best known coprosma species and also one of the best species for establising shelter or…
  • Kawakawa / Macropiper excelsum , (s) Pioneer
    Probably one of our most well known plants. Big heart shapes fleshy leaves and fruit favourited by many…
  • Kohekohe / Dysoxylum spectabile , (m)
    Kohekohe is one of the most handsome of our coastal trees that was once very common. Easy to…
  • Koromiko / Hebe stricta , (s) Pioneer
    A common bushy shrub with narrow pointed leaves up to 4 meters tall, but often less. Its white…
  • Lancewood / Pseudopanax crassifolius , (m) Pioneer
    lancewood is one of the oddities in New Zealand’s forest. The explanation to its oddities can be explained…
  • Large leaved milk tree / Streblus banksii , (m)
    Once widespread, today regarded as relicts. This "At Risk" species is a fast growing, with a rounded crown…
  • Mahoe / Melicytus ramiflorus , (s) Pioneer
    Mahoe is an attractive tree growing up to 10 metres high with a wide sometimes intertwined and hollow…
  • Manuka / Leptospermum scoparium , (m)
    Manuka is probably the best known New Zealand tree due to all its different uses. From honey to…
  • Mapou / Myrsine australis , (s) Pioneer
    A handsome small tree with bright red twigs and grey trunk and branches in older individuals, bearing wavy…
  • Ngaio / Myoporum laetum , (s) Pioneer
    A beautiful, fast growing coastal tree, with a rough, furrowed grey trunk, often in old age becoming, gnarled…
  • Taupata / Coprosma repens , (s) Pioneer
    A distinctive, common coastal species easily recognised by the very glossy, dark or lime green, broadly oblong to…
  • Tree hebe / Veronica parviflora , (s) Pioneer
    A large hebe, up to 6 metre, worth growing for its green foliage and open habit with prolific…
  • Tōtara / Podocarpus totara , (b)
    A grand and attractive tree, totara used to be one of the dominant native pine species on Miramar…
  • Wharangi / Melicope ternata , (s) Pioneer
    A stunningly lime green small coastal tree, growing up to 5 metre tall. The two species of Melicope…

Shrubs

  • Akiraho / Olearia paniculata , (s) Pioneer
    An excellent small tree or shrub, akiraho is a costal tree daisy useful for shelter or nursery. Leaves…
  • Coastal tree dasiy / Olearia solandri , (s) Pioneer
    Perfect for a coastal garden! Named after the Swedish naturalist Daniel Carlsson Solander and an apostle of Carl…
  • Cook Strait kowhai / Sophora molloyi , (s) Pioneer
    With its current conservation status, At Risk - Naturally Uncommon, the Cook Strait Kowhai is only found around…
  • Coprosma crassifolia / Coprosma crassifolia , (s) Pioneer
    An excellent coastal plant providing a tough shelter and great for dry, rocky and expsoed locations. Providing good food…
  • Coprosma rhamnoides / Coprosma rhamnoides , (s) Pioneer
    A small attractive dense tightly divaricating shrub with gorgeous ruby red looking fruit. Growing up to 1,5 metre…
  • Karamu / Coprosma robusta , (s) Pioneer
    One of our best known coprosma species and also one of the best species for establising shelter or…
  • Kawakawa / Macropiper excelsum , (s) Pioneer
    Probably one of our most well known plants. Big heart shapes fleshy leaves and fruit favourited by many…
  • Koromiko / Hebe stricta , (s) Pioneer
    A common bushy shrub with narrow pointed leaves up to 4 meters tall, but often less. Its white…
  • Manuka / Leptospermum scoparium , (m)
    Manuka is probably the best known New Zealand tree due to all its different uses. From honey to…
  • Matagouri / Discaria toumatou , (s) Pioneer
    Very uncommon in the North Island, but an excellent drought-tolerant hedge plant. A slowgrowing thorny bush or small tree…
  • Melicytus obovatus / Melicytus obovatus , (s) Pioneer
    The notable Melicytus obovatus is an endemic evergreen plant to Wellington and Cook strait regarded as; At Risk…
  • Mingimingi / Coprosma propinqua , (s) Pioneer
    A great small leaved divaricating bushy shrub for open exposed seaside propertys and coastal forest gardens with dense…
  • NZ daphne / Pimelea prostrata Pioneer
    True coastal low growing plant that can grow in most situations, but prefers a well drained soil. With…
  • Poroporo / Solanum laciniatum, S. aviculare , (s) Pioneer
    Commonly regarded as a weed, and offten confused with the now much less common and "At Risk" species…
  • Salt marsh ribbonwood / Plagianthus divaricatus
  • Sand comprosma / Coprosma acerosa
  • Shrubby tororaro / Muehlenbeckia astonii Pioneer
    With small bright green heart shaped leaves and with tangled zig-zagging branches this rare shrub makes an interesting…
  • Taupata / Coprosma repens , (s) Pioneer
    A distinctive, common coastal species easily recognised by the very glossy, dark or lime green, broadly oblong to…
  • Thick-leaved mahoe / Melicytus crassifolius , (s) Pioneer
    An attractive dark green compact hardy shrub with grey speckled branches. This endemic species has a somewhat restricted…
  • Tree hebe / Veronica parviflora , (s) Pioneer
    A large hebe, up to 6 metre, worth growing for its green foliage and open habit with prolific…
  • White rata / Metrosideros perforata
    The White rata or Akatorotoro as its is also commonly known as is a climber growing up 15 m high…

Climbers & scramblers

  • Forster’s Clematis / Clematis forsteri
    Variable evergreen woody climber; stems to 5 m long, however more often in a compacted clump of vines.…
  • Leafless lawyer / Rubus squarrosus
  • NZ ice plant / Disphyma australe
  • NZ jasmine / Parsonsia heterophylla, P. capsularis
    Climbing plants such as native jasmin can create a forest feeling and add flowers and scent too.
  • NZ spinach / Tetragonia tetragonioides
  • Pohuehue / Muehlenbeckia complexa Pioneer
    One of the best and most attractive coastal groundcover that grows into a tangled mass of brown wiry…
  • Shore convolvulus / Calystegia soldanella Pioneer
    An attractive ground covering plant for a difficult, dry, sunny or exposed spot. With trumpet like pink and…
  • White clematis / Clematis paniculata
    Probably our most attractive and best known native clematis. With its climbing habit, puawananga can grow to up…
  • White rata / Metrosideros perforata
    The White rata or Akatorotoro as its is also commonly known as is a climber growing up 15 m high…

Ferns

  • Hound’s tongue / Microsorum pustulatum Pioneer
    A beautiful ground covering fern with glossy, bright, green fronds that vary in size and sometimes shape that…
  • Maidenhair fern / Adiantum cunninghamii
    A beautiful small native fern commonly throughout in lowland and coastal forest. Often seen on banks, cliff faces…
  • Necklace fern / Asplenium flabellifolium
    A pretty little fern, easily grown in gardens in sheltered areas. A small and attractive with fronds between…
  • Shaking brake fern / Pteris tremula
  • Shield fern / Polystichum spp.
  • Shining spleenwort / Asplenium oblongifolium
  • Swamp kiokio / Blechnum minus Pioneer
    The beautiful Kiokio is hardy species of fern. Much similar to the larger B. novae-zelandiae. They are often…
  • Sweet fern / Pteris macilenta
    A often coastal endemic to NZ vigorous growing fern, often colonises under decks, dry rockeries, cliff faces or…

Grasses, sedges & rushes

  • Astelia / Astelia fragrans, A. solandri
    Astelia is a flax-lookalike. It prefers good drainage and to be kept a bit dry. Often found in forested areas…
  • Bog rush / Schoenus pauciflorus Pioneer
     A Rush-like sedge growing up to a 1 m tall with rather variable coloration and stature, ranging from…
  • Carex secta / Carex secta Pioneer
    A large beautiful tussuck forming sedge. Older individuals located in moist to wet soils, often form thick trunk-like…
  • Giant umbrella sedge / Cyperus ustulatus Pioneer
    This tall attractive wetland species of sedge is tolerant of a wide range of habitats and conditions but …
  • Glen Murray tussock / Carex flagellifera Pioneer
    This attractive and hardy evergreen tussock, forms a clump of narrowly linear, reddish-brown leaves, with light brown flower…
  • Hard tussock / Festuca novae-zelandiae
    A hardy tussock forming grass with a stiff. erect habit growing up to 40 cm tall and wide.…
  • Jointed wire rush / Apodasmia similis Pioneer
    A popular reed with a fine grey-green leaves with a distinctive beautiful orange-brown tinge to the vegetation, forming…
  • Juncus pallidus / Juncus pallidus
    A elegant spiky, robust, tall rush forming dense patches up to 2 metre tall. Dark green and fine…
  • Knobby club rush / Ficinia nodosa
    Beautiful and stylish, Wiwi is a great plant for open situations - often planted in sandy areas, sand dunes,…
  • Lake club rush / Schoenoplectus tabernaemontani Pioneer
    This ornamental sedge is often sold as a plant for water gardens and ponds. Growing in wet conditions…
  • Pingao / Desmoschoenus spiralis
  • Remuremu / Selliera radicans Pioneer
  • Sand sedge / Ficinia spiralis
  • Scleranthus / Scleranthus biflorus Pioneer
  • Silver tussock / Poa cita Pioneer
    Of our native Poa species, the silver tussock is the most commonly planted one - due to its…
  • Silvery sand grass / Spinifex sericeus
  • Speargrass / Aciphylla squarrosa
    A near iconic species of New Zealand growing in coastal conditions. These attractive plants can grow int a…
  • Spinifex / Spinifex sericeus
    The attractive Spinifex sericeus, or often just called spinifex, is the most important native sand-binding grass species in…
  • Swamp sedge / Carex virgata Pioneer
    A vigorous handsome bright green tussock 50-100 cm wide for wet parts of the garden or along a…
  • Three square sedge / Schoenoplectus pungens Pioneer
    A long-lived summergreen sedge growing up to 1.5 m tall, most often seen in coastal wetlands, as it…
  • Toetoe / Austroderia toetoe Pioneer
    Previously known as Cortaderia toe toe, this species has recently changed its genus name. This toetoe is confined…

Other plants

  • Astelia / Astelia fragrans, A. solandri
    Astelia is a flax-lookalike. It prefers good drainage and to be kept a bit dry. Often found in forested areas…
  • Knobby club rush / Ficinia nodosa
    Beautiful and stylish, Wiwi is a great plant for open situations - often planted in sandy areas, sand dunes,…
  • Linum monogynum / Linum monogynum Pioneer
    Low-growing coastal shrub with pretty white flowers. Easy plant to grow, but requires some thought in its placement,…
  • Mountain flax / Phormium cookianum Pioneer
    One of our two iconic flax species. The mountain or costal flax is often found on coastal cliff…
  • Pratia / Lobelia angulata
  • Remuremu / Selliera radicans Pioneer
  • Rengarenga / Arthropodium cirratum
    Rengarenga is a hardy plant with white flowers that will grow in either full sun or dense shade,…
  • Sand bidibid / Acaena pallida
  • Scleranthus / Scleranthus biflorus Pioneer
  • Shore convolvulus / Calystegia soldanella Pioneer
    An attractive ground covering plant for a difficult, dry, sunny or exposed spot. With trumpet like pink and…
  • Shore groundsel / Senecio lautus Pioneer
    A cute compact little endemic annual plant that often found growing on rocks, beaches, and gravel often close…
  • Shore spurge / Euphorbia glauca Pioneer
    Waiu-atua or shore spurge is the sole native representative of a very large genus that is found in…
  • Speargrass / Aciphylla squarrosa
    A near iconic species of New Zealand growing in coastal conditions. These attractive plants can grow int a…
  • Swamp flax / Phormium tenax Pioneer
    A robust and well known plant in gardens with its long sword-shaped leaves up to 2 metre tall…