If you have lived on the West Coast of the United States in the past few years, you might have experienced or lived through the effects of a wildfire.  Just watching the news and seeing the fires in residential areas is heartbreaking.  If you live in an area where this can happen, there are ways you can create a fire-safe landscape for your home.

Creating a fire-safe landscape does not need to cost a lot of money and the good news is that it can help increase your property value and also saves water.  The main reason to do this is to help reduce flammable vegetation around your property which can give firefighters the opportunity to defend your home.  If you strategically locate these plants on your property you can stop the spread of the fire to your home.  The design needs to have the plants placed around your home to protect it.

Another key element in creating a fire-safe landscape is selecting native plants from your region.  These plants take longer to burn than other plants.  These plants will also recover faster and give your garden a unique look. 

Just a reminder that fire-resistant plants do not mean they are fire-proof.  Even fire-resistant plants will burn if you do not take care of them and maintain them.  Be sure to keep all of your plants healthy with appropriate watering and proper pruning.

Plants are considered fire-resistant if they have these characteristics:

  • Leaves on the plant are moist and supple.
  • Plants have little dead wood and tend not to accumulate dry, dead material within the plant.
  • Sap is water-like and does not have a strong odor.
  • Sap or resin materials are low.

Here is a sampling of fire-resistant groundcovers, perennials, shrubs, and trees:

 

Groundcover

  • Bugleweed – Bugleweed is a fast-growing groundcover also known as Ajupa reptans.  It is a perennial and a plant that many gardeners have mixed feelings about.  It has pretty flowers but it is part of the mint family and it spreads easily.
  • Delosperma - Delosperma is more commonly known as Ice Plant. The first cold-hardy variety of this perennial was introduced in the early 1990s and the last few years have seen an explosion of new colors which are making this succulent more and more popular.
  • Hens & Chicks (Sempervivums) - Hens and Chicks are an increasingly popular plant that can tolerate a wide array of growing conditions including hot, dry, and rocky soil conditions. The main plant, known as the hen, has fleshy leaves with pointed tips and can be topped by a stalk of star-shaped flowers. Once the flowering finishes the hen dies but new plants are produced around the base of the hen and these are known as the chicks.

Perennials

  • Camassia – This flower is native to the Pacific Northwest. There are several varieties of this plant and it comes in a variety of colors including blue, ivory, purple, and white with many varieties having pretty yellow anthers.  Bloom time is in the May-June timeframe.
  • Sea Thrift – Sea Thrift is also known as Sea Pink and is a low-growing tough, hardy perennial. The low growing plant produces lots of bright pink flowers that bloom all summer long.  Sea Thrift is a compact plant for edging, border fronts, rock gardens, or wall pockets. 
  • Achillea - Achillea is often referred to as Yarrow and is an easy to grow perennial that can tolerate a wide array of growing conditions. It tolerates wind, heat, and drought and while the most well-known color is yellow the last decade has seen the introduction of a variety of colors including red, pink, and purple.

Shrubs

  • Lilac Syringa – This Lilac is an old fashioned favorite.  This Lilac has small, spring-blooming flowers, all of which are fragrant. A broad selection of flower colors exists, from white to pink to purple.
  • Russian Sage – This plant is an easy to care for perennial.  It has tall, airy, spike-like clusters that create a lavender-blue cloud of color above the finely textured, aromatic foliage. 
  • Yucca – There are 40-50 species of Yucca and they are known for their rosettes of stiff sword-shaped leaves with large stalks of white or off-white flowers.  They look beautiful in a landscape and are tough plants.

Trees                                                                                                                                                          

  • Hawthorn – A pretty tree that has white flowers in early June.  The reddish-purple leaves turn dark green, then orange, scarlet, or purple.  The tree has small, red fruits that stay on the tree into the winter.  It grows 25 to 30 feet tall and can spread up to 25 feet.
  • Manzanita – This tree is native to Western North America and has brownish, orange almost red bark.  The leaves are thick and smooth-edged.  The tree produces hanging clusters of pink or white flowers that bloom in the winter to early spring and carry berries in spring and summer. The berries are edible.
  • Oak – There are many varieties of Oak Trees and they come in various sizes and shapes.  In the US, they are divided into red oak and white oak varieties.  Oak trees are one of the oldest trees on the planet.  A mature oak tree can grow 148 feet. 

With all of the plants and trees, make sure you determine they will work in your climate before purchasing them.

Several states and the federal government have produced a comprehensive list of plants.  Download it here.

Other steps you can take to fire-proof your landscape include:

  • Prune trees to remove deadwood and branches that hang too low.  Keep branches away from your roof and chimney.
  • Remove plants that are highly flammable, like pine trees and other coniferous shrubs.
  • Remove pine needles and dead leaves from the area.
  • Keep firewood away from your home.
  • Mow dry grass and weeds.

If you have done other things or have tips to make your landscape fire-resistant, please share them with us!

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