Helpline Hot Topic for July
Helpline Hot Topic for July
Wildfire Safety with Plants
By Cynthia Zimmerman
“Let’s Blaze The Way, To Keep The Blaze Away.” – National Fire Safety Slogan
Wildfires are a natural and regular occurrence throughout California often providing for new life but, in recent years due to drought, record setting high temperatures, and thousands of dead trees, the fires have proven disastrous. This year there have already been a number of fire outbreaks throughout the state. Those of us living in developed areas rarely think of the possibility of fire spreading through our neighborhood while homeowners in the outlying areas of Fresno and Madera Counties are the ones most vulnerable to the possibility of sudden grass and chaparral wildfires as well as in the forested mountains.
A major effort is underway throughout the state to educate property owners on the best ways to prevent or ameliorate the great property damage and loss of life that comes with wildfires. One of the steps that can be taken is to strategically plant fire-tolerant and/or fire-resistant plants in the landscaping to resist the spread of fire to the home. Plants that are fire-tolerant are able to withstand some burning and continue to grow despite fire damage. These are “re- sprouters” which store extra energy in their roots that facilitate recovery and regrowth. Fire- resistant plants, on the other hand, are slower to ignite than typical plants. Both are often drought tolerant, too.
When choosing fire-resistant plants, there are several points for the gardener to remember. There are no fire-proof plants, only fire-resistant and fire-retardant plants that resist ignition. Qualities to consider are ability to store water, close to the ground growth pattern, low sap or resin content, extensive root systems, limited production of dead material, and high levels of salt. Properly spaced and maintained fire-resistant hedge plants for screening, may help catch blown embers. When planting trees, hardwoods are preferable to pines, firs and conifers.
Some plants for your consideration when choosing fire-resistant plants:
Aeonium - Low-growing succulent with round rosettes; stores water; drought tolerant Agave - Large water storing succulent, fleshy leaves.
Blue Fescue - Mounding ornamental grass; semi-evergreen; full sun and well-drained soil. California Lilac - West Coast native shrub; small blue or pink flowers
California Fuschia – deer resistant; bright orange funnel-shaped flowers; needs little water California Redbud – shrub, drought tolerant, small pink and purple flowers when in bloom Coreopsis – good tolerance to wide variety of soil types
Fireweed - Creeping rhizome; purple-flowering perennial; relative of primrose
Fortnight Lily - Full sun perennial forms clumps of burgundy leaves; fast growing
French Lavender - Perennial herb with purple blooms; slow to ignite if kept moist
Lamb’s ear - Wooly appearance, low-maintenance groundcover, grows quickly and densely Manzanita - One of the best fire-resistant plants
Ornamental strawberry - Great ground cover
Red Monkey Flower - Beautiful bright red blossoms; evergreen shrub; California native species Sage - Perennial herb with blue, purple or rose blooms; easy care, fairly drought tolerant Society Garlic – grows in drought prone regions
Yellow Ice Plant – low growing groundcover; succulent green foliage; requires little water Yucca - Succulent with sword-like leaves
For further information about fire safety, check the following web-sites:
Fire-resistant Plants for Home Landscapes with downloadable guide
Top 9 Fire-Resistant Native Plants
Prepare for Wildfire (Cal Fire)
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