Sea pink or sea thrift (Armeria maritima) was once more commonly found on “drought-tolerant” plant lists than it is today. Gardeners who were led to plant it no doubt discovered that it just doesn’t thrive without summer water or afternoon shade except right along the coast.
Sea pink is nonetheless perfect for small gardens or small garden areas where a little summer water can be spared. Its densely hummocky cushions of evergreen grassy leaves are six inches tall and spread to about a foot wide. Pink or sometimes white flowers cover the plant from late spring to early summer.
Native to coastal areas of northern Europe and the Mediterranean, sea pink is also found in western North and South America. It prefers good drainage and grows well in sandy or rocky soils as well as in clay. Use it in rock gardens, in fast-draining containers, or between paving stones in close-up areas where you want a colorful accent. It is best in part shade inland, full sun along the coast. The subspecies californica is native to central and north coastal California and is present but uncommon along the south coast.