Planning a hurricane-tolerant coastal landscape

Updated Jul 28, 2021
Photo: CanvaPhoto: Canva

With Hurricane season in 2021 expected to last from June 1 until November 30, you might be wondering what are some of the best ways to help your clients achieve a hurricane-tolerant landscape?

No doubt about it, proper coastal landscaping can prevent a lot of damage to you or your client’s home and landscape during hurricane season. So, let’s take a look at some of the best ways to plan for a hurricane-tolerant landscape.

There are three key factors to keep in mind when planning for a hurricane-tolerant landscape:guest-post-attribution-box

  1. Grading and drainage
  2. Plant salt tolerance
  3. Tree wind resistance

By minding these three factors, you can create a landscape that will resist damage from flooding and hurricane-force winds.

Grading and drainage

It’s no secret that proper grading and drainage will help prevent flooding damage to your client’s property. Or at the very least help shed floodwater as quickly as possible.

If you have the fortune of planning a client’s landscape from scratch, one of the best things you can do to increase the landscape’s hurricane-resistance is to raise the garden beds and grade the land away from the home. If their budget permits, consider adding a dry creek bed or a different drainage system.

Also, be sure not to forget under the home. Yes, grading the water away from the home is important, but keeping water from under the home is important as well. If you raise the ground around the home, be sure not to create a situation where the water will simply accumulate underneath the home instead.

Salt-tolerant plants

If you’re in a coastal area, it’s unlikely that you won’t be familiar with salt-tolerant plants already, but when it comes to creating a hurricane-tolerant landscape, it is a point that must be made.

Even if your client is a few miles inland or live off of a bay, hurricane-force winds can drag saltwater spray and storm surge many miles inland. Having salt-tolerant plants will help to prevent unnecessary losses due to saltwater exposure.

Wind-resistant trees

Trees can tie a landscape together. However, during a hurricane, the wrong tree in the wrong place can tear it apart. Aside from proper pruning and trimming, choosing the right trees from the start is an essential part of preparing a hurricane-tolerant landscape.

Be mindful to not install trees too close to the home’s foundation, or over top of utilities such as water or septic lines. Should a tree fall, its roots and everything wrapped in them are going with it.

Trimming and pruning trees regularly is as important as selecting the right ones to begin with. Be sure to be mindful of your client’s trees and their growth, and if possible, prune trees annually before hurricane season. If you are unable to offer tree service to your clients, be sure to get in touch with a good arborist who can handle the job.

Mulch selection

Pea gravel may make an excellent aesthetic design choice until high winds come. Unfortunately, pea gravel is not a wise choice when it comes to designing a hurricane-tolerant landscape.

Small pebbles like pea gravel can quickly become projectiles when winds pick up, damaging siding, glass, cars and whatever else may get in the way. Soft mulches such as wood or pine straw make great options for coastal landscapes.

Best grasses for coastal lawns

No landscape is complete without selecting the right grass for the lawn. According to NC State University, there are a few salt-tolerant grasses which include zoysia, common bermuda and seashore paspalum, which is the most salt-tolerant. St. Augustine has a moderate salt tolerance, so it may not be a great option for lawns which may regularly be exposed to ocean spray or storm surge.

Benefits of hurricane-minded landscaping

By being mindful of hurricanes and creating landscapes that will resist damage, you not only help your clients preserve their investments, but you can also generate more work per client.

Nobody wants to risk unnecessary damage from a storm, and being vigilant of potential dangers in your client’s landscape is a sure-fire way to keep your clients satisfied while kicking up some extra work.

Hurricane-tolerant plants

Below are some of the best salt-tolerant plants and hurricane-tolerant trees you can consider when designing a coastal landscape for your clients. Of course, there are many more options, but these should give you a good start.

Trees:

  • Magnolia grandiflora (Southern Magnolia)
  • Quercus virginiana (Live Oak)
  • Quercus phellos (Willow Oak)
  • Most varieties of palms (with the exception of Queen Palm)

Shrubs:

  • Nerium oleander (Oleander)
  • Rosa rugosa 
  • Rosmarinus officinalis (Rosemary)
  • Yucca varieties
  • Many holly varieties

Vines:

  • Ficus pumila (Climbing Fig)
  • Hedera helix (English Ivy)
  • Trachelospermum jasminoides (Confederate Jasmine)

Ornamental Grasses:                                                   

  • Cortaderia selloeana (Pampas Grass)
  • Miscanthus sinensis (Maiden Grass)
  • Spartina bakeri (Sand Cordgrass)

Ground Covers:

  • Hedera canariensis (Algerian Ivy)
  • Hedera helix (English Ivy)
  • Junipurus horizontalis (Creeping Juniper)
  • Trachelospermum asiaticum (Start Jasmine)

Perennials:

  • Opuntia compressa (Prickly pear cactus)
  • Solidago segmpervirens (Seaside goldenrod)
  • Day lilies
  • Cana lilies
  • Agapanthus africanus (Agapanthus)

EDITOR’S NOTE:  This article was written by Douglas Dedrick. Douglas is a landscaper with over a decade of landscaping experience, and currently operates his lawn care business Natural Landscape Designs in Elizabeth City, North Carolina.

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