Transform Your Lakefront: Create a Stunning and Lake-Friendly Shoreline Buffer

When you think of a stunning lakefront property, what comes to mind? For many, it’s the serene view of water meeting land framed by a beautiful mix of trees, shrubs, and other vegetation. This natural border, known as a vegetated shoreline buffer, is more than just a pretty sight—it plays a crucial role in protecting and enhancing lake health and your property.

What is a Vegetated Shoreline Buffer?

A vegetated shoreline buffer is the last line of defense against polluted water reaching the lake and to protect your property and home from the elements; it is full of beneficial plants that soak up runoff water, protect soil, stabilize the shoreline, and create habitat for lake-loving wildlife. Buffers also protect lakefront homes from strong winds, offer privacy from neighbors, create cool, shady areas on the property, and can deter unwanted visitors from the lake, such as geese.

What Makes a Vegetated Shoreline Buffer Effective?

For a shoreline vegetated buffer to be truly effective and beneficial to lake health, it needs a variety of plants:

  • Woody plants: The roots of sturdy trees and large shrubs help stabilize the shoreline and soak up water, keeping soil and pollutants out of our lakes. Their leaves and canopy also protect the soil beneath them and prevent it from being washed into lakes. Some common examples of woody plants:
    • Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis)
    • High- and Lowbush Blueberry (Vaccinium spp.)
    • Speckled Alder (Alnus incana)
    • Sweet Pepperbush (Clethra alnifolia)
    • Sheep Laurel (Kalmia spp.)
Common lowbush blueberry
Sweet pepper bush
  • Non-woody plants: Herbaceous vegetation such as perennials, flowers, and grasses provide essential habitat and filter and absorb polluted runoff water before it reaches the lake. Our favorite examples of non-woody plants:
    • Hay-Scented Fern (Dennstaedtia punctilobula)
    • Joe Pye Weed (Eutrochium spp., formerly Eupatorium spp.)
    • Blue Flag Iris (Iris versicolor)
Joe Pye Weed

The ideal vegetated shoreline buffer should stretch along your entire shoreline, with the smallest area left open for paths, docks, and permitted beaches. Buffers should also be as wide as possible while still maintaining your use of your property. The wider the buffer, the better it protects our lakes—and your property.


But what if you have a steep shoreline? Consider planting mature, woody plants or live staking. During live staking, you take clippings or twigs from select species and plant them directly into the ground. The twigs will establish roots and grow into a new tree or shrub. This cost-effective method will help build your buffer gradually.


On steep shorelines, plant the buffer before the slope starts to ensure this area is well-stabilized. This added layer of vegetation helps to absorb and slow down runoff water, reducing its erosive power before it even reaches the steep slope. 

Getting Started

Ready to create your vegetated shoreline buffer but need help figuring out where to begin? No worries! There are plenty of resources to help you.


For more information about shoreline buffers and vegetation:


To learn about common native shoreline plants:


For plant recommendations specific to your property’s conditions:


Remember to follow the Shoreland Water Quality Protection Act when pruning and managing your vegetation. 

Let us help you transform your property into a lake-friendly haven. Start your lake-friendly living journey at and receive personalized recommendations today.

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