Shoreline Plants

Shoreline plants to decrease erosion

Planting native plants along the shoreline on your property will decrease erosion from wave action, slow down runoff and deter geese. Increasing the number of shrubs will fill in any gaps not protected by existing tree roots and increase wildlife value on your property by providing cover and food sources (nectar, berries, seed heads, leaves).

Many of the following trees, shrubs and wildflowers can be found at nurseries and garden centres in the Lakefield/Peterborough area, including Burley’s, Griffins, Horlings, and Johnston’s. Jack Lake Landscape in Apsley carries some native shrubs and grasses. Greenup in Peterborough occasionally holds sales of native plants. A little further afield, Grow Wild Native Plant Nursery and Green Side Up near Omemee both specialize in native plants. The latter also provides natural landscaping services.


White Cedar (Thuga occidentalis): Grows well on rocky edges and helps stabilize uncut banks.

Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis): Moist, well-drained soils, sun to part shade. This long-lived tree can get up to 30 meters in height and is a cornerstone of Ontario’s forests. It grows best with some protection from wind and weather.

White Pine (Pinus Strobus): Moist to well-drained soils, full sun or part shade. This adaptable tree is iconic of the rocky islands of Ontario’s cottage county. Prefers some shelter after transplanting.

White Spruce (Picea glauca): White spruce is a tough, resilient tree that requires well-drained soil and full sun. Very drought-tolerant once established. A good windbreak, and excellent shelter for wildlife.

Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum): Damp to dry soils, full sun. Often found along lakeshores and riverbanks, it is fast growing with fibrous root systems ideal for stabilizing shorelines. It can tolerate a range of conditions.

Tamarack (Larix laricina): Damp soils, full sun. This deciduous conifer has needles that turn a brilliant gold in the fall before it loses them all. In the winter, it often appears dead but come spring it sprouts a new crop of soft green needles. A beautiful tree! It grows best in damp places.


Red Osier Dogwood (Cornus stolonifera): Damp soils, 5-10 ft in height, full sun. Shrub has attractive red branches that are beautiful year-round.

Produces clusters of white flowers in the early summer and white berries later in the summer. A very common species of shrub found along shorelines and ditches.

Alternate Leaf Dogwood (Cornus alternifolia): Moist soils, part shade, shrub or tree form, up to 32 ft in height. This shrub is common in shady locations along shoreline and stream banks. Depending on conditions, it can grow in both shrub and tree form (for shorelines, shrub form is best as it encourages more stems). It has white flowers in June and dark blue berries in late summer.

Grey Dogwood (Cornus racemosa): Damp soils, sun or part shade, 5-12 ft in height. Very

versatile shrub, white blossoms in June and blue berries in the fall.

Meadowsweet (Spirea alba): Damp soils, full sun or part shade, 3-4 ft in height. This shrub is an attractive, hardy, and compact shrub for shorelines. It produces spikes of white flowers in mid-summer. It is ideal for holding the soil of shorelines in place and because of its short size, can be used in areas where maintaining a view of the lake is desired.

Nannyberry (Viburnum lentago): Damp or dry soils, sun to part shade, 10-15ft in height.

Flowers in summer with white flowers, followed in the fall by dark edible berries in hanging clusters. Berries have a large seed inside so are less suitable for jams and jellies but still delicious! The leaves turn a beautiful red/orange in the fall.

Flowering Raspberry (Rubus odoratus): Damp or dry soils, part shade, 3-6 ft in height. Small shrub, which produces purple flowers in early summer, fruit is small and dry.

Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana): Damp to dry soils, sun to shade, up to 10 ft in height. One of the first to bloom in the spring, followed by sour red cherries, which are loved by birds. Suited to a wide range of locations.

Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis): Damp or dry soils, prefers full sun, 5-8 ft in height.

Flowers in June with white flowers, small purple berries later in the summer. Berries are edible for humans and loved by birds. Best to plant two of these to increase berry production.

High-bush Cranberry (Viburnum trilobum): Prefers damps soils and full sun, 5-8 ft in height. High-bush cranberry flowers in June and produces bright red berries in the fall that are quickly eaten by birds. There are both American and European varieties of this shrub, which are hard to tell apart – make sure you are getting the American species. The berries of the European variety are sourer and will often be passed over by birds (and people!) and will remain on the shrub well into the winter. While this is attractive, it does not provide an ideal food source for birds.

Black Chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa): Damp or dry soils, full sun, 3-12 ft in height. This is a very hardy shrub, adaptable to many conditions, and often found growing along rivers and lakes. In the spring it has white flowers, followed by purple berries in the fall.

Speckled Alder (Alnus incana): Damp to wet soils, full sun, 10-15 ft in height. This is a

common shoreline shrub because of its tolerance of wet soils and harsh exposure to wind and weather. Its root system is very effective at holding soils in place.

Sweet Gale (Myrica gale): Low shrub, 0.5-1.5 m tall, spreads by suckers; branches slender,

ascending, brown. Leaves are firm and fragrant. It grows well on lakeshores.

Sandbar Willow (Salix exigua): Shrub or small tree, 0.5-4 m tall, forms thickets by sending up shoots from roots; branches grayish, leaves are long and narrow. Grows in sandy or gravelly banks.


Lobelia cardinalis – Cardinal Flower

Asclepias incarnata – Swamp Milkweed (host to Monarch Butterfly)

Aster umbellatus – Flat-topped Aster

Chelone glabra – White Turtlehead

Gentiana andrewsii – Bottle Gentian

Helenium autumnale – Helen’s Flower

Iris versicolor – Blue Flag Iris

Liatris spicata – Dense Blazing Star

Lobelia siphilitica – Great Blue Lobelia

Verbena hastata – Common Vervain

Veronicastrum virginicum – Culver’s Root

Caltha palustris – Marsh marigold


Plant list courtesy of Andrea Hicks, M.Sc., our shoreline consultant for many years.

List of native plant sources provided by our shoreline team. This list is provided for information only, and is not intended as an endorsement of these providers, or to exclude other sources unknown to us.

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