Firescaping: Top Fire-Resistant Plants to Use in Your Garden

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    Creating Fire-Safe Landscaping with the Right Plants

    fighting fire in southern california
    Firefighter battling flames in California. David McNew/Getty New Images

    If you live in an area that has been affected by wildfires--or could be--you can reduce the risk by making your landscape less prone to fire. The goal is to decrease potential fuel, interrupt the paths that fires typically take, and create a fire-resistant landscape

    Is Your Home at Risk?

    With its Mediterranean climate and hilly, mountainous terrain, California has always been affected by wildfire. Add a history of drought that is getting worse, lots of dry, native chaparral, and the extreme...MORE winds--known as the Santa Anas--and it's an inferno waiting to happen.

    Other Western states and regions of the world with even one of those traits can be prone to wildfire. While gardens in the Eastern United States aren't as susceptible to fires, employing defensive practices and design principles can lessen the possibility of a fire destroying a property.

    Take Action Now

    Get proactive by creating defensible space around your home and property. Defensible space refers to those areas between your home and other structures (like accessory buildings or neighboring houses) where potential sources of fuel (vegetation or materials) have been redesigned, modified or eliminated. This can be achieved by clearing out dry or overgrown vegetation and replacing existing landscaping with fire-safe plants that might slow the spread of wildfire toward your home or create a barrier. A well-designed defensible space also allows space for firefighters to safely get to the flames and do their jobs.

    Take these steps to help create a more defensible outdoor space:

    • Use fire-proof or -resistant building materials
    • Prune trees and shrubs regularly
    • Clear away dry and dead brush and vegetation
    • Use inorganic mulches like pea gravel and rocks
    • Create more hardscaping in your yard
    • Remove flammable plants
    • Install drip irrigation
    • Minimize the use of evergreen shrubs and trees within 30 feet of a structure, especially junipers and conifers, which contain oils and resins that help fuel a fire
    • Tree branches should be at least 15 feet from structures, chimneys, and power lines.
    • Create fuel breaks and reduce fuel loads with driveways, paths, patios, hardscaping, fences, or walls made of rock, cement, or brick
    • Water features can be used as fuel breaks. These include swimming pools, spas, ponds, or even fountains
    • Thin vegetation and use inorganic mulch on bare ground to prevent erosion

    Characteristics of Fire-Resistant Plants

    There is no such thing as a completely “fire-proof” plant. Most specimens will ignite if exposed to flames. Select high-moisture plants that grow close to the ground and have a low sap or resin content. An added bonus for those in dry areas: some fire-resistant plants are also drought-tolerant.

    Do your research and you'll find that there are actually hundreds of fire-resistant plants from which to choose. The ones in this slideshow are attractive, suitable for a variety of zones, and are diverse in size, shape, color, texture, and flowers.

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  • 02 of 22

    Firescaping: Top Fire Resistant Plants: African Daisies

    orange african daisies
    Orange African daisies (Oseospermum). Flickr member Chris Cody

    Botanical Name: Osteospermum 

    Also Known as: Cape daisy, blue-eyed daisy

    Size: Up to about 1-1/2 feet high; up to a 2-foot spread

    Watering Needs: Regular water until established; then needs only intermittent watering

    Bloom Time: All year; depends on climate

    Characteristics: Trailing habit makes it an effective ground cover. Hybrids include various shapes and colors, including orange, red, yellow, purple, lilac, pink, white, etc.

    USDA Hardiness Zones: 2-11

    More about African daisy care

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  • 03 of 22

    Coral Bells

    heucera
    Border of colorful coral bells or heucera plants. Flickr member Amanda Slater

    Botanical Name: Heuchera

    Also Known as: Alum root

    Size: Up to 2-feet high and wide

    Watering Needs: Moderate to regular

    Bloom Time: June–September; all year in mild-winter climates

    Characteristics: Known mostly for its evergreen foliage, Heuchera is known for its gorgeous foliage, which has scalloped edges with leaves that can be dark green, red, maroon, gold, orange, or other fall or warm colors. Prefers light shade.

    USDA Hardiness Zones: 3–8

    More about growing coral bells

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  • 04 of 22

    Creeping Thyme

    creeping thyme
    Creeping thyme is a fire-resistant ground cover. Flickr member Gerald Klingaman

    Botanical Name: Thymus species

    Also Known as: Mother of thyme

    Size: A ground cover, this species grows to about 4 inches high and 3 feet wide

    Watering Needs: Little to moderate

    Characteristics: This Mediterranean native and member of the mint family is a low-growing ground cover with fragrant leaves, especially if stepped on or crushed. Grow it between pavers, on rock walls, and in mass plantings.

    Bloom Time: May to August

    USDA Hardiness Zones: 4–10

    More about growing thyme

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  • 05 of 22

    Dead Nettle

    dead nettle
    Dead nettle plant with pink roses. Neil Holmes/Getty Images

    Botanical Name: Lamium species

    Also Known as: Yellow archangel, spotted nettle, 

    Size: 8 to 12 inches high; 12 to 36 inches wide

    Watering Needs: Regular

    Characteristics: European and western Asian native that is a vigorous grower with heart-shaped leaves that are often marked with silver or white. Produces pink, white, yellow, or purple flowers. Makes a good ground cover in shady locations; also attractive in hanging containers.

    Bloom Time: May–June

    USDA Hardiness Zones: 3–8

     

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  • 06 of 22

    Fortnight Lily

    fortnight lily
    A fortnight lily plant and flower closeup. Flickr member kei51

    Botanical Name: Dietes vegeta

    Also Known as: African iris

    Size: To about 3 feet tall and wide

    Watering Needs: After it's been established, needs little water; can survive with just occasional rain, making it a good drought-tolerant choice

    Bloom Time: Spring through fall

    Characteristics: Flowers resemble white or pale yellow irises with purple centers  on stiff stalks over neat clumps. Useful in rock gardens, near swimming pools, and grown as a low hedge or partition. Fortnight lily also is easy...MORE to care for in large containers on patios or decks.

    USDA Hardiness Zones: 8–10

    More about Dietes

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  • 07 of 22

    Lamb's Ear

    lamb's ear
    Lamb's ear plant in drought tolerant garden. Flickr member Katrina J Houdek

    Botanical Name: Stachys byzantina

    Size: About 12 to 24 inches tall; 18-inch spread

    Watering Needs: Moderate; likes good drainage

    Bloom Time: Late spring through early fall

    Characteristics: Native to Iran, Mexico, Caucasus, Turkey and the western U.S., this member of the mint family is admired for its silvery-white foliage. Leaves are soft and almost furry or velvety, like a lamb. 

    USDA Hardiness Zones: 4–8 

    More about growing lamb's ear

     

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  • 08 of 22

    Lavender

    french lavender
    Brachts of French lavender. Ron Evans/Getty Images

    Botanical Name: Lavendula

    Size: Depending on species, ranges from 1 to 4 feet high and wide

    Watering Needs: Moderate

    Characteristics: Mediterranean natives with aromatic gray, green, and yellow foliage with blue or purple spikes of flowers. Lavender has been used for centuries for perfume, oils, soaps, medicines, and candles.

    Bloom TIme: Spring to fall

    Species to Try: Lavendula angustifolia (L. officinalis, L. vera) English lavender; L. dentata, French lavender; L. stoechas, Spanish lavender

    USDA...MORE Hardiness Zones: 5–9

    More about growing lavender

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  • 09 of 22

    Lily-of-the-Nile

    agapanthus flowers
    Agapanthus growing in a Mediterranean garden. Clive Nichols/Getty Images

    Botanical Name: Agapanthus

    Size: With flowers, about 1-1/2 to 4 feet tall

    Watering Needs: Little to regular

    Characteristics: South African natives that are identifiable by their fountainlike leaves. Round clusters of blue or white flowers on long stalks are striking in mass plantings. Sold as plants or bulbs.

    Bloom Times: Late spring through summer

    Species to Try: Agapanthus africanus, A campanulatus, A orientalis

    USDA Hardiness Zones: 9–11

    More about growing

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  • 10 of 22

    Plantain Lily

    hosta
    Hosta lily growing in garden. Moelyn Photos/Getty Images

    Botanical Name: Hosta

    Size: About 15 inches to 3 feet tall; up to 4 feet wide

    Watering Needs: Regular

    Bloom Time: Flowers bloom in spring

    Characteristics: Primarily shade dwellers, hostas are known for their stunning, broad leaves, which are variations of green, and often variegated. Foliage colors include light to dark green, chartreuse (lime), gray, and blue-green. Some have purple, lavender, or white flowers that are bell-shaped and fragrant. Some varieties or hybrids have waxy leaves.

    Species to...MORE Try: Hybrids like 'Blue Angel', 'Gold Standard', 'Great Expectations', 

    USDA Hardiness Zones:3–8

    Growing sun-loving Hostas

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    Mock Orange

    mock orange shrub
    Mock orange shrub with white flowers. Flickr members Forest and Kim Starr

    Botanical Name: Pittosporum tobira

    Also Known as: Japanese cheesewood, Japanese pittosporum,  and tobira

    Size: About 6 to 15 feet tall wide; fast grower

    Bloom Time: Late spring to early summer

    Watering Needs: Regular

    Characteristics: Flowers on this native to Southeast Asia can be single or double, are white to pale yellow, and have a sweet citrus scent. Foliage is bright green and glossy.

    USDA Hardiness Zones: 4–8

    More about growing mock orange

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  • 12 of 22

    Firethorn

    pyracantha bush
    Red-orange pyracantha bush blooming in October. P. Bonduel/Getty Images

    Botanical Name: Pyracantha 

    Size: Ranges from 2 to 15 feet tall or long; up to 10 feet wide

    Bloom Time: Depending on location, berries produce from late summer to late autumn into winter

    Watering Needs: Moderate

    Characteristics: A shrub that is popular for is evergreen foliage and bright orange-red berries. Some types are ground covers, while others are shrubs or tree-like shrubs. Small white flowers bloom in early spring. Most species have thorns.

    USDA Hardiness Zones: 5-9

    More about growing Pyracanth...MOREa

     

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  • 13 of 22

    Sage

    mexican bush sage
    Pots with Mexican bush sage growing on patio. Photos Lamontagne/Getty Images

    Botanical Name: Salvia

    Size: 18 inches to 5 feet high; 24 inches to 5 feet wide

    Bloom Time: June–September

    Watering Needs: Regular

    Characteristics: A member of the mint family, this genus includes more than 900 species that are native to Europe, Africa, Asia, the Americas–basically throughout the world. A shrub-like perennial that has grayish green or multicolored foliage and flowers that are purple, blue, white, pink, salmon, red, or rose.

    USDA Hardiness Zones: 4–9

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    Society Garlic

    society garlic
    Society garlic growing in pots in side yard. Inga Munsinger Cotton/Getty Images

    Botanical Name: Tulbaghia

    Size: To about 2 feet tall and wide

    Bloom Time: Spring and summer

    Watering Needs: Regular

    Characteristics: These South African natives look like ornamental grasses with straight, slim, evergreen leaves and stems that are topped with clusters of trumpet-shaped flowers in lavender. Scent of onion or garlic is especially noticeable when there is a slight breeze.

    USDA Hardiness Zones: 7-11

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    Spirea

    spirea shrub
    A spirea shrub with white flowers. Flickr member Rachel Kramer

    Botanical Name: Spiraea

    Size: About 2 to 4 feet high and wide

    Bloom Time: Flowers bloom in summer

    Watering Needs: Regular to moderate

    Characteristics: Hardy, easy-to-grow shrubs that benefit from pruning in winter or early spring. White, purple, or pink flowers are bowl-shaped. There are two basic types of spireas: a bridal-wreath type and a more shrub-like type.

    USDA Hardiness Zones: 3–8

     

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    Star Jasmine

    star jasmine
    A white star jasmine shrub. Flickr member Herry Lawford

    Botanical NameTrachelospermum jasminoides

    Also Known as: Confederate jasmine, maile haole

    Size: If grown as a vine, it can reach 12 feet in length and 4 feet in width

    Watering Needs: Regular; likes well-drained soil

    Bloom Time: Late spring through summer

    Characteristics: A native to Japan and China, this versatile plant that can be used as a ground cover, climber, or trailer in the garden. Small flowers are highly fragrant. Grows well on arbors, trellises, and pergolas. It's a good idea to...MORE plant near an entryway or on a patio to enjoy the scent.

    USDA Hardiness Zones: 8-11

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    Succulents

    succs.jpg
    Succulents grouped together. Lisa Hallett Taylor

    Most succulents are fire resistant because they store water (liquid) in their leaves. After wildfires in California, succulents are often the only recognizable plants remaining. Suggested species include agaves, aloes, crassulas, cactus, jade, and some ice plants.

    The Best Succulents to Grow Outdoors

    11 Secrets for Growing Healthy Succulents

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    Torch Lily

    red hot poker
    Torch lily or red hot poker. Daniel Hernanz Ramos/Getty Images

    Botanical Name: Kniphofia

    Also Known as: Red-hot poker

    Size: Up to 6 feet tall

    Bloom Times: Summer to fall

    Watering Needs: Moderate to regular

    Characteristics: Exotic-looking grasslike plants with toothed foliage. Produces stems of red and yellow flowers that resemble torches or glowing pokers.

    USDA Zones: 4-9

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    Trumpet Vine

    trumpet vine
    Trumpet vine with red-orange flowers. itsabreeze photography/Getty Images

    Botanical Name: Campsis radicans

    Size: Spreads to 20 feet or more

    Water Needs: Very low; drought tolerant

    Characteristics: A lovely vine with green foliage and trumpet-shaped red-orange flowers that spreads quickly, lasts for years in some regions, and covers fences, arbors, and pergolas.

    Blooms: July to September

    USDA hardiness zones: 4–9

     

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    Viburnum

    viburnum
    Viburnum shrub with white flowers. Flickr member megankhines

    Botanical Name: Viburnum 

    Also Known as: Giant snowball, Chinese snowball, Japanese snowball, wayfaring tree​, cranberry bush

    Size: Grows 4 to 6 feet high; 4 to 6 feet wide

    Water Needs: Low to moderate

    Characteristics: A diverse group of shrubs with green foliage and maple-shaped leaves that turn red-orange in autumn. Produces pretty flowers that become small red fruits in fall. Some species' flowers are large, round clusters of small flowers in white, pink, cream, and yellow that are sweetly...MORE scented.

    USDA Hardiness Zones: 2–7

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    Wild Lilac

    ceanothus
    Ceanothus climbing a brick wall. Neil Holmes/Getty Images

    Botanical Name: Ceanothus species

    Also Known as: California lilac

    Size: Depending on species, ranges from a low-growing ground cover to treelike shrubs that reach 15 feet tall and wide

    Watering Needs: Little to no water

    Characteristics: Mostly natives to California, some species grow in the Rocky Mountains, Northwest, Mexico, and Eastern United States. Flower colors range from white to pale blue to a deep purplish/blue.

    Bloom Times: Spring and summer

    USDA Hardiness Zones: 4–8

     

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    Yarrow

    white yarrow
    White achillea (yarrow). Neil Holmes/Getty Images

    Botanical Name: Achillea species

    Also Known as: Woolly yarrow

    Size: 6 to 36 inches high; 12 to 24 inches wide

    Watering Needs: Little to moderate

    Characteristics: Foliage is green to grayish green and fernlike, with flowers in flat-topped clusters that are white, yellow, orange, pink, red, or any variation.

    Bloom Times: Spring to mid-fall

    USDA Hardiness Zones: 4–8