In order to capture the benefits of coastal riparian corridors, lessen the impacts from storm events while still allowing for view sheds and water access, we offer the following tool as a resource for those living on or near the waters and tributaries of Long Island Sound. Instead of having lawn and turfgrass exclusively between the home and water, we suggest plantings that can withstand this harsh environment and show how plantings can be placed to still provide view sheds and water access, while incorporating the ecological benefits of riparian plantings. This tool includes a series of fact sheets describing the functions and values of coastal riparian corridors, how to prepare an area for planting, and how to plant. We provide a listing of native plants and indicate their ability to withstand salt spray and inundation. Additionally, we provide a series of landscaping diagrams to get you started including both plan views and cross sections.
PLANTS: We have developed a list of plants native to Connecticut and New York that grow well in the coastal areas of Long Island Sound. This is not an exhaustive list of plants, but rather is focused on native plants that are likely to be available at nurseries in this area.
Proper plant selection is always important for all landscaping activities, but it is especially critical for coastal riparian plantings. Plants grown in close proximity to Long Island Sound will have to contend with direct exposure to the Sound. This means they will have to tolerate at least some of the following conditions: high wind; salt spray; direct sun exposure; infertile sandy soils; droughty soils; potential saltwater overwash; saline soils, poorly-drained soils. Since these conditions are generally difficult for most plants to tolerate, the list of suitable plants for coastal riparian plantings is somewhat limited.
The plant table contains some of the plants that can live in riparian areas within the coastal reaches of Long Island Sound. It is safe to say that the list is not inclusive of all the plants that might be successfully used in a Connecticut or New York coastal riparian area. In compiling this list, care was taken to be sure to only list plants where there was consensus among sources as to the suitability for coastal planting. Whenever possible, use Connecticut native plants as the first choice for planting riparian areas.
Key to the Plant List
Botanical name and common name
When attempting to purchase plants it is always best to use the botanical name in discussions with plant suppliers, since there is only one correct botanical name for each plant. Common names are less precise and their use could result in a supply of incorrect plants. For at least some of the plant species listed, a nursery supplier may only carry named cultivars of a species. Cultivars are generally superior ornamental selections and are acceptable to use if the straight species is not available. For example, you may request Ilex verticillata and a supplier may only have Ilex verticillata ‘Red Sprite’. In this case, the cultivar ‘Red Sprite’ has larger red fruits than the species and has a significantly more compact growth habit. The only possible drawback with cultivar use is that they are vegetatively propagated (cuttings, division, grafting, tissue-cultured), so they are all genetically identical to each other.
Zones (pertaining to salt tolerance)
All of the plants listed have at least some tolerance to salt spray, but some are more tolerant than others. Some plants may also have tolerance to saline soils.
Zone 1 plants are those that are the toughest and exhibit the most salt tolerance. They generally can tolerate direct salt spray and possibly saltwater overwash. Low-lying areas, dunes and the areas immediately adjacent to Long Island Soundshould only be planted with species receiving a zone 1 rating.
Zone 2 plants would be those used behind Zone 1 plants. They can tolerate moderate levels of salt spray without significant permanent damage. Generally zone 2 plants should receive some protection from direct, heavy salt spray either from other more tolerant plants, structures or distance from the water.
Zone 3 plants are those with the least salt tolerance. The can be used behind Zone 2 plants and in areas that provide substantial protection from the direct impacts of salt spray and wind.
Refers to whether a plant is evergreen (retains foliage year round) or deciduous (drops all of its leaves each fall).
Refers to the amount of sunlight the plant should receive. For plants that can be sited in part shade to sun, plant performance will vary depending on the amount of sun received. Many plants will survive and grow in partially shaded areas, but will not flower as heavily, or maintain as dense a habit as they would in full sunlight.
Sun indicates a plant that should be sited so it receives at least 8 hours of direct sun each day.
Part Shade indicates that the site receives direct sunlight for only half of the day.
Shade indicates a site that is in shade all day.
Dry, sandy soil tolerance – These are plants that are capable of performing well on sandy or gravely soils that are often found in coastal areas. These soils are infertile, dry and have little capacity to retain precipitation. In addition, because vegetation cover on these soils can be incomplete, soil temperatures can also be elevated.
Wet, poorly-drained soil tolerance – These are plants that are capable of performing well on soils that continuously wet or moist and may occasionally experience brief periods of standing water.
Moist well-drained soil preference – Many plants prefer moist well-drained soils. This category is put in to differentiate those plants that cannot tolerate poorly drained soils or dry sandy soils.
Wildlife Value – Many of the listed plants have some wildlife value whether for birds, insects or mammals. To find out more about specific wildlife use, Audubon has excellent information as does the Lady Bird Johnson Native Plants Database.
For those interested in learning more about plants and trying to identify them, The New England Wildflower Society has a website that allows users to key out plants.
Availability from nurseries
Widely available indicates that the plant is common in commerce and should be readily available from a number of suppliers in significant quantities and various sizes.
Somewhat available indicates that the plant will be harder to find and will be available from a reduced number of growers. In addition, the number of available plants and the range of plant sizes will be more limiting. These plants are less popular in the landscape trade, but still generally available with a bit of searching.
Limitedly available indicates that very few growers produce the plant. In most cases, these plants are relatively unknown in the landscape trade. Little choice will be available in plant size. These plants will likely only be available from specialty growers who produce native plants or plants specifically for riparian use or habitat restoration.
The field is left blank in cases where availability at nurseries is unknown for the species.
Landscape Views – we have attempted to capture the most common homeowner landscapes along Long Island Sound in developing these views. These views are meant to be a guide, not a definitive landscaping plan. Each homeowner is the most experienced with the circumstances of their individual property, and can adapt the views to best suit their needs.
Plan Views: These are bird’s eye views of hypothetical coastal properties to give homeowners an idea of how to incorporate a riparian area and associated benefits while retaining water access and views.
Cross section Views: These are views based on a hypothetical homeowner having approximately 75 ft between their home and the water. Distance between home and water will vary and homeowners are encouraged to plant as much of their property as possible. Even a small planted corridor is better than none at all. We have developed diagrams with the following variations:
Salt spray – occurs often (property is adjacent to Long Island Sound)
Salt spray – occurs rarely (only during major storm events)
Shoreline – sea wall present (this property would rarely have wet soils above the sea wall)
Shoreline – rocky/sandy shoreline with no sea wall (this property may or may not have poorly drained soils depending on elevation, slope and distance to the water)
Slope – slopes of properties range from: almost flat (5%), slight incline (20%), moderately steep (35%), and steep (50%)
Before planting in any wetland or tidal area, check with your local and state governing agencies.
In Connecticut, homeowners should check with their town Inland Wetland Commission and with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) Office of Long Island Sound Programs:
Office of Long Island Sound Programs
Bureau of Water Protection and Land Reuse
Department of Energy and Environmental Protection
79 Elm Street
Hartford, CT 06106-5127
In New York, homeowners should check with their local government as well as the New York State Coastal Management Program.
We appreciate and value your feedback, and welcome your comments and thoughts on this website.
Juliana Barrett, Associate Extension Educator, Connecticut Sea Grant College Program, UConn firstname.lastname@example.org
Mark Brand, Professor, Horticulture UConn, Dept of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture email@example.com
With Special Thanks to Julissa Mendez, graduate student in Dept of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture at UConn for the development of the landscape plan views and cross sections.