Firewise Landscaping: Basic Principles and Plant Choices
Firewise landscaping is primarily about surrounding your home with the least flammable plant choices possible, not over planting, and keeping up with yard maintenance to prevent the build-up of flammable debris. Every plant is flammable, but some are more resistant than others. Here are a few tips to get you started.
Basic Principles of Firewise Landscape Design:
- Remove any dried plant material on your property to minimize fuel load
- Do not over plant or plant dense shrubbery in large groupings
- Incorporate “firebreaks” of non-flammable hardscaping, such as driveways, patios, inorganic mulches or water features in your landscape design
- Break your property into concentric rings or “zones” of planting, with the most firewise plants closest to your home, then gradually giving way to drought tolerant naturalized species
- Use drip irrigation to make sure your plants remain hydrated during the fire season
What Is A Firewise Plant?
Primarily herbaceous, low-growing plants with relatively high moisture content.
What Is Not A Firewise Plant?
Junipers, other conifers and broadleaf evergreens contain oils, resins and waxes that make them more flammable. They can still be incorporated into your firewise design, just be sure to situate them away from the home and plant them where they can reach their full size at maturity without being overcrowded.
Breaking Your Property Into Zones
A 30-foot diameter around your home should be landscaped with only plants that are low growing, herbaceous, and consistently irrigated. When planning, be sure to allow each plant enough room to reach its full size at maturity. Avoid planting evergreens in this area. Set up your irrigation system in advance, and mulch all plants thoroughly to keep them well hydrated. (Note: Wood mulch can be a fuel source and should not be used within five feet of the home.)
The area extending up to 100 feet from your home is an ideal location for grasses, lawn, rock and low-growing shrubs. Plant in small groupings with hardscape between to act as fuel breaks. If you choose to plant evergreen shrubs or trees, situate them between 30-100 feet from your home.
If your property merges with the natural chaparral woodland area, be sure to thin any existing shrubbery on the fringes of your property. If you choose to landscape this area, select native species which can easily adapt to our climate.
Tip: Check with your local Fire Safe Council for area-specific rules and recommendations.
- Maples (Acer spp.)
- Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida)
- Ash (Fraxinus spp.)
- Honeylocust (Gleditsia triacanthos)
- Cherry (Prunus spp.)
- Oak (Quercus spp.)
*Trees should be trimmed to a minimum of 10 feet away from a chimney.
- Butterfly Bush (Buddleja spp.)
- Oregon Grape (Mahonia spp.)
- Buckthorn (Rhamnus spp.)
- Azaleas and Rhododendrons
- Yarrow (Achillea spp.)
- Pigsqueak (Bergenia crassifolia)
- Wallflower (Erysimum spp.)
- California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica)
- Daylily (Hemerocallis spp.)
- Coral Bells (Heuchera spp.)
- Mexican Evening Primrose (Oenothera speciosa)
- Red Hot Poker (Kniphofia uvaria)
- Lambs Ear (Stachys byzantina)
- Flowering Bulbs
Groundcovers and Shrubs
- Ice Plant (Delosperma spp.)
- Hens & Chicks (Sempervivum spp.)
- Stonecrop (Sedum spp.)
- Bugleweed (Ajuga reptans)
- Manzanita (Arctostaphylos spp.)
- Snow-In-Summer (Cerastium tomentosum)
- Wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei)
- Thyme (Thymus spp.)
- Catmint (Nepeta spp.)
Please see stores for current availability on these and other firewise plants.