So, you have the home of your dreams in beautiful Hawaii and now you want to create a Hawaiian oceanfront garden. But how? Oceanfront gardening in Hawaii can be extremely successful if you heed a few helpful tips. First off, you will want to select native Hawaiian plants that will be naturally adapted to the environment. Remember a beach garden in Hawaii will be warm and sandy, so Hawaiian beach plants need to be drought tolerant and sun loving.
Rules for Oceanfront Gardening in Hawaii
The most important rule for a Hawaiian oceanfront garden is mentioned above: use native Hawaiian beach plants.
This is extremely important since the weather is warm year round and the soil is going to be more sand than anything else, meaning it doesn’t hold water well. This also means that Hawaiian plants for the beach garden should be drought and salt tolerant as well as able to withstand warm temperatures.
You will also want to consider the role of wind. Salty winds blowing in from the ocean can damage plants. When you plant your native Hawaiian beach plants, do so in such a way that they create a windbreak that will direct the wind over the garden instead of directly at it.
Hawaiian Plants for the Beach
When creating a landscape, start with trees. Trees form the framework for the rest of the garden. The most common tree in the Hawaiian Islands is ??hi?a lehua (Metrosideros polymorpha). It is tolerant of an array of conditions, and in fact is usually the first plant to germinate after a lava flow.
Manele (Sapindus Saponaria) or Hawaiian soapberry has gorgeous long, shiny emerald leaves. It thrives in a variety of conditions. As its name suggests, the tree produces a fruit whose seed covering was once used in the making of soap.
Another plant to consider is Naio (Myoporum sandwicense) or false sandalwood. A small tree to shrub, Naio can reach 15 feet (4.5 m.) in height with beautiful glossy green leaves set off by small white/pink blooms. Naio makes an excellent hedge.
Another good Hawaiian plant for the beach garden is called ‘A’ali’ (Dodonaea viscosa). This shrub grows to around 10 feet (3 m.) in height. The foliage is a glossy green tinged with red. The blooms of the tree are small, curled, and run the gamut from green, yellow, and red in color. The resulting seed capsules are often used in lei and flower arrangements for their bold hues of red, pink, green, yellow, and tan.
Additional Hawaiian Beach Plants
Pohinahina, kolokolo kahakai, or beach vitex (Vitex rotundifolia) is a low growing shrub to ground cover with silvery, oval leaves and pretty lavender flowers. A rapid grower once established; beach vitex will grow from 6 to 12 inches (15-30 cm.) tall.
Another groundcover, Naupaka kahakai or beach naupaka (Scaevola sericea) has big, paddle-shaped foliage and aromatic white flowers, good for use in hedges.
These are just a few native plants suitable for oceanfront gardening in Hawaii. For additional information contact the extension office at the University of Hawaii at Manoa or the Maui Nui Botanical Gardens.