There are, on average, more than 100,000 wildfires each year in the US. Western states, like California, Texas and Colorado, are more prone to wildfires.
Traveling at up to 14 miles an hour, wildfires are scary and can do an incredible amount of damage. In recent years, wildfires have burned an estimated 9 million acres in the U.S. alone.
Do your best to protect your home by creating a defensible space and planting fire resistant plants, trees and shrubs.
How to Create a Fire-Resistant Landscape with Trees and Shrubs
Before wildfire season, you want to create a defensible space, which is essentially a radius around your home to protect it from wildfires.
"The main reason for defensible space is to reduce the amount of flammable vegetation and give the fire departments the opportunity to 'defend' your home from fire," explained Tim Morin, forester and project developer for Davey Resource Group in California. "Having your home protected with defensible space not only protects you but your neighbors as well."
Start with these steps to fire-proof your current landscape.
- Prune trees to remove deadwood and lower hanging branches. Trees between 30 and 70 feet from your home should have the lower branches pruned to a height of eight feet from the ground. And those branches should be no less than eight feet from the roof or 10 feet from the chimney.
- Remove plants, trees or shrubs that are highly flammable, like coniferous trees and shrubs, within 30’ of your home.
- Remove pine needles and other ground litter, including dead leaves.
- Stack firewood at least 30’ from your home.
- Mow dry grass and weeds to a low height.
Then add fire-resistant plants, trees and shrubs – some native to California.
Fire-resistant plants? Yes, they’re real! Despite their name, though, they’re not invincible to flames and can still be injured or killed by fires. Instead, these plants generally contain lots of moisture, which reduces their risk of contributing to the fire.
Before planting, space your plants and trees correctly to reduce wildfires from spreading. Plant trees at least 10’ away from each other (or more if you’re on a slope) and at least 30’ from your home.
Fire Resistant Plant List (California Natives Included)
All plants with an asterisk are native to California.
- Coneflower* (zones 3-9): An easy, drought-tolerant perennial that pollinators love
- The California cornflower is native to California.
- Cooking sage (zones 4-10): A perennial herb you’ll love to cook with and smell in the garden
- Coralbells* (zones 3-9): A low-maintenance perennial with bright blooms that attract birds
- Daylily (zones 3-10): A drought-tolerant perennial with fragrant, showy flowers
- Fescue* (zones 4-8): A silver-blue ornamental grass that’s drought-tolerant
- California fescue is native to California.
- Hens and chicks (zones 4-8): An easy, drought-tolerant groundcover that thrives in xeriscapes
- Poppy* (zones ~2-8): Techno-colored blooms that love hot, dry areas
- The California poppy is native to California.
- Wooly thyme (zones 4-7): A drought-tolerant groundcover that’s also an herb
- Stonecrop* (zones 4-11): A tough perennial with dusty-hued blooms
- Yarrow* (zones 3-10): A drought-tolerant plant with bright flowers that attract pollinators
- The California yarrow is, as its name implies, native to California!
Fire Resistant Shrubs (Including Those Native to California)
All shrubs with an asterisk are native to California.
- Golden currant (zones 4-8): A shrub that can grow 12’ tall with yellow, pollinator-attracting flowers
- Heather (zones 6-10): A perennial shrub that grows up to 8’ tall and blooms in early spring
- Honeysuckle* (zones 4-9): A sweet-smelling flowering vine that hummingbirds love
- Lilac (zones 2-9): A flowering shrub that can grow up to 20’ tall and has an amazing fragrance
- Oceanspray* (zones 5-10): A shrub that can grow up to 20’ tall with flowers in early summer that look like the mist from crashing waves
- Raspberry* (zones 4-9): A shrub that can grow up to 8’ tall and reward you with delicious fruits
- The Western raspberry is native to California.
- Roses* (3-10): Many rose varieties, like shrub and hedging roses, are fire-resistant and gorgeous.
- Russian sage (zones 4-9): A sun-loving perennial that has purple blooms for weeks on end
- Waxflower (zones 10-11): An easy-to-care, flowering shrub that loves hot, dry weather
- Yucca* (zones 4-11): An architectural shrub that can grow up to 3’ tall and is drought tolerant
Fire Resistant Trees (With California Natives)
All trees with an asterisk are native to California.
- Black oak (zones 3-9): A large, drought-tolerant tree that birds love
- Cherry* (~zones 3-9): Many varieties of cherry trees are resistant to fire.
- The hollyleaf cherry is native to California.
- Crabapple* (~zones 2-8): A small ornamental tree with stunning flowers that pollinators love
- The Pacific crabapple tree is native to California.
- Hawthorn* (~zones 4-8): A tree that grows to be about 30’ tall with snowy-white blooms
- Honeylocust* (zones 3-9): A strong, fast-growing shade tree that can be up to 70’ tall
- Maple* (~zones 3-9): One of the most popular trees, you can find the right variety for you!
- Poplar (zones 3-9): A fast-growing shade tree that loves the sun but is prone to broken limbs
- Quaking aspen* (zones 1-7): A fast-growing tree with golden fall foliage
- River birch (zones 4-9): A birch with glossy green leaves that is the most resistant to birch borers