University of California
Fire in California

Fire Resistant Plants

Any plant will burn under the right conditions. Simply choosing plants from a "fire-safe" plant list is NOT enough. Rather, use "Right Plant, Right Place" to build a robust, fire-adapted landscape.

Plant orientation is critical to minimizing fire risk in your landscape. In addition to defensible space guidelines, intermix your combustible plants with non-combustible materials to restrict the spread of fire.

Pruning shrubs to a single main stem can also help reduce your fire risk by reducing the volume of fuel and probability of ignition.

Take advantage of plant features that offer resistance to fire. When choosing which plants to use in your landscaping, look for these qualities.

Use:

  • Hardy, slow growing plants that don't produce a lot of thatch or litter. These plants accumulate fuel at a slower pace, reducing your maintenance requirements.
  • Drought tolerant native plants that can maintain a high internal water content without needing a lot of water - succulents like native Dudleya species or aloes are examples. 
  • Native trees that have adaptations to fire such as thick bark. These trees have a higher tolerance for fire and help restrict the growth of more volatile invasive and shrub species.

Avoid:

  • Plants like juniper, Italian cypress, feather and fountain grasses, or ice plants can have dead thatch inside or under a green surface layer. 
  • Plants like eucalyptus, palms, or some manzanitas shed dry bark or drop leaves or fronds. 
  • Invasive plants can escape yards and form continuous fuel beds in un-managed areas, while damaging native habitat for wildlife.
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Plant Guides

If you do seek out a plant list to get started, make sure it's local to your area. A plant list from Australia may great there, but contain plants that are invasive in California.

Additional information about regionally appropriate plants can be found at the Sustainable and Fire Resistant Landscapes and California Invasive Plant Council.

Webmaster Email: rpsatomi@ucanr.edu