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 14 miles an hour or faster, 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 & 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 8 feet from the ground. And those branches should be no less than 8 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 100 feet of your home.
  • Remove pine needles and other ground litter, including dead leaves, within 50 feet of your home.
  • Stack firewood at least 30 feet from your home.
  • Maintain a hardscape with no flammable material in the immediate 5 feet around your home.
  • Mow dry grass and weeds to a low height within 50 feet around your home.
  • Trim trees at least 10 feet from your chimney.

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. But remember that any plant can and will burn under dry enough conditions and if exposed to enough heat.

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

All plants with an asterisk contains natives to California.

  • Coneflower* (zones 3-9): An easy, drought-tolerant perennial that pollinators love
  • 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
    • Multiple California natives – H. elegans, maxima, micrantha, etc.
  • 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 (Festuca californica)
  • 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
    • California poppy (Eschscholzia californica)
  • 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
    • Yellow stonecrop (Sedum spathulifolium)
  • Yarrow* (zones 3-10): A drought-tolerant plant with bright flowers that attract pollinators
    • Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
    • Golden yarrow (Eriophyllum confertiflorum)

Fire Resistant Shrubs

All shrubs with an asterisk contain natives 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
    • haparral honeysuckle (Lonicera subspicata)
    • Pink honeysuckle (Lonicera hispidula)
    • Twinberry (Lonicera involucrate)
  • 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
    • Ocean spray, also called cream bush (Holodiscus discolor)
  • Raspberry* (zones 4-9): A shrub that can grow up to 8’ tall and reward you with delicious fruits
    • California blackberry (Rubus ursinus)
  • Roses* (3-10): Many rose varieties, like shrub and hedging roses, are fire-resistant and gorgeous
    • Wild rose (Rosa californica)
  • 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 is drought tolerant
    • Shua tree (Yucca brevifolia)
    • Mojave yucca (Yucca schidigera)

Fire Resistant Trees

All trees with an asterisk contain natives 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.
    • Holly leafed cherry (Prunus ilicfolia)
  • Crabapple* (~zones 2-8): A small ornamental tree with stunning flowers that pollinators love
    • Pacific crabapple (Malus fusca)
  • Hawthorn* (~zones 4-8): A tree that grows to be about 30’ tall with snowy-white blooms
    • Black hawthorn (Crataegus douglasii)
  • Honeylocust* (zones 3-9): A strong, fast-growing shade tree that can be up to 70’ tall
    • Honey locust – (Gledistia triacanthos)
  • Maple* (~zones 3-9): One of the most popular trees, you can find the right variety for you!
    • Big leaf maple (Acer macrophyllum)
  • 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
    • Quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides)
  • River birch (zones 4-9): A birch with glossy green leaves that is the most resistant to birch borers

Ready to plant? Learn the best time to plant your new tree here!

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