Sample Landscape Plan for a Coastal Bank

Find landscaping options for controlling coastal erosion and preventing storm damage—provided by the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM) StormSmart Coasts Program.

Planting a buffer of native plants between your house and the shore can stabilize soils, protect water quality by filtering sediments and pollutants, and provide habitat and food for wildlife. When these plants replace lawn, you can also save water, reduce fertilizer and pesticide use, and cut down on maintenance time and effort.

Unless otherwise noted, all plants in the landscape plan, landscape profile, and plant list below are native to Massachusetts (see the definitions for native and non-native species at the bottom of this page). For more detailed descriptions of each plant, see Grasses/Perennials, Shrubs/Groundcovers, and Trees.  For other coastal landscape plans, see Coastal Bank with an Existing Seawall and Coastal Dune.

Landscape Plan for Coastal Bank

coastal bank landscape plan

This design provides a wide buffer strip of native shrubs and grasses. It also includes a pervious-paver driveway and an irregular flagstone walkway that allow rain water to infiltrate into the ground, unlike pavement and other impervious surfaces. Reducing impervious surfaces can prevent runoff that may otherwise cause erosion of the bank (for details, see StormSmart Properties Fact Sheet 2: Controlling Overland Runoff to Reduce Coastal Erosion). Because coastal homeowners often want to maintain some lawn area, a lawn is included in the design. However, lawn grasses provide very little storm-damage protection and wildlife benefit. In addition, maintaining a lawn may actually worsen erosion problems when excess water from irrigation systems drains toward the bank or causes groundwater seepages to undermine bank stability. Lawn areas should therefore be kept as small as possible and permanent irrigation systems should not be used.

Landscape Profile for Coastal Bank

coastal bank landscape profile

The plants in this design are well adapted to sunny areas and are resistant to dry conditions, wind, and salt spray. Some of the shrubs chosen, such as beach plum, will remain fairly small due the severity of the environment, yet if grown in high-nutrient soils, these shrubs can grow much taller (as much as 10-12 feet). Because most homeowners want to preserve coastal views, the smaller size of the shrubs is advantageous.

Plant Key

For a printer-friendly version of this plant key, see Coastal Bank Plan Plant Key (PDF, 749 KB).

coastal bank plant key

Definitions of Native and Non-Native Plant Species

native plant species is a plant that is considered indigenous and naturally occurring to the region since pre-Colonial times (before 1500) or arriving more recently without human intervention. For purposes of this website, a native plant is one that occurs naturally in eastern Massachusetts.

non-native plant species is a plant that is non-indigenous and not naturally occurring to the region. (For purposes of this website, the region is eastern Massachusetts with an emphasis on the coastal environments.) When non-native species enter into an ecosystem, they have the potential to disrupt the natural balance, reduce biodiversity, degrade habitats, alter native genetic diversity, and transmit exotic diseases to native species. However, not all non-native plants are invasive. Non-native plants that are not considered invasive are those that generally do not rapidly disperse, become established, or create self-sustaining or dominant populations that would be disruptive to the natural ecosystem. CZM recommends the use of natives wherever possible but has included certain non-native species in this website that have specific coastal landscaping advantages and no known environmental impacts. Be sure to check the Coastal Landscaping - Links to Additional Resources page for the most recent sources of invasive species information.