Fire Safe Landscaping

Last Fall, California experienced some of the most intense fires in recent history. Don’t wait until it’s too late! Make sure your landscaping is fire-safe. Click here for great tips from CAL FIRE.

Graphic courtesy of CALFIRE

Graphic courtesy of CALFIRE

Do you know what “defensible space” and “ember intrusion” principles are? These underlying ideas are critical to reducing fire risk when planning landscape plantings and installations or conversions. There are several “zones” around a home with different likelihoods of catching fire. Understanding proper spacing, placement, species selection and best maintenance practices will help you reduce fire risk on your property.

Many native and drought tolerant plants are good candidates for a fire-resistant palette and provide habitat and food sources for local critters. Lucky for you, adapting your landscape to be fire-safe is simple and affordable! Fire-safe landscapes can even increase your property value and conserve water while beautifying your home.

Choose Fire-Resistant Plants and Materials

  • Create fire-safe zones with rock mulch borders, stone walls, patios, non-wood decks and roadways.

  • Use rock, mulch, flower beds and gardens as ground cover for bare spaces and weed suppression.

  • There are no “fire-proof” plants. Select plants that retain moisture such as succulents, and ones that grow close to the ground and have a low sap or resin content.

  • Choose fire-retardant plant species that resist ignition such as rockrose, ice plant and aloe.

  • Install a Rain Garden near your home to help sink rainfall into the soil and retain moisture.

  • Plant medium-water need plants near the building to create a moisture barrier.

  • Select fire-resistant shrubs such as hedging roses, bush honeysuckles, currant, cotoneaster, sumac and shrub apples.

  • Plant hardwood, maple, poplar and cherry trees that are less flammable than pine, fir and other conifers.

Check your local nursery, landscape contractor or county’s UC Cooperative Extension service for advice on fire-resistant plants that are suited for your area. Or, take a class through the California Native Plant Society to help you prepare!

By Amber Schat, Environmental Services Specialist, City of San Jose