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How to Fire-Proof Your Yards

rose bushes are one of many fire-resistant plants for your yard

Unless you replace your entire yard with concrete, or rocks, it will never be fire-proof. Thankfully, however, there are steps you can take to make your yard far more fire-resistant than it probably is right now. And you can do that without sacrificing even one degree of beauty or functionality.

What makes landscaping fire-resistant?

It’s not just a matter of keeping your yard tidy, says CalFire. “This type of landscape uses fire-resistant plants that are strategically planted to resist the spread of fire to your home.” Sounds like a smart plan, something we can all get behind.

Key strategies include:

  • Keeping trees far enough from your house that branches do not overhang and fire cannot easily leap from the tree to your roof.
  • Planting groundcover, because plants grow low to the ground and that can help impede fire. Artificial grass is also an excellent choice, because it will not flame up. It’s made from advanced plastic polymers that can melt under high-heat conditions, but that won’t fuel or spread fire. Installing an artificial grass lawn provides numerous other benefits as well, from water conservation to time and money savings.
  • Getting rid of junipers. Once a suburban landscaping staple, junipers have lost favor with fire-conscious homeowners because their high resin content makes them a significant fuel source.

Even better, the types of plants that are naturally drought-tolerant tend to also be fire-resistant. That means you have a tremendous panoply of gorgeous options to choose from – trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals, and groundcovers. Leafy and lovely, and uniquely arranged to add aesthetic appeal to your home as well as valuable fire protection. Some of CalFire’s recommendations include:

  • French Lavender
  • Red Monkey Flower
  • California Fuchsia
  • Sage (there are dozens of salvias, from tough-as-the-desert sage shrubs to culinary sage to annuals)
  • California Lilac (ceanothus)
  • Society Garlic
  • Ornamental Strawberry
  • Yellow Ice Plant
  • Coreopsis
  • California Red Bud

Which plants are naturally less flammable?

A few varieties are considered fire-retardant because it is difficult to ignite them. Examples include rockrose, ale, and ice plant. Many more plants are considered fire-resistant, which means they are less likely to burn or add heat to a fire because they have high moisture content and very little resin or sap. Bush honeysuckle, roses, sumac, cotoneaster, and currants are good shrub examples.

Deciduous trees with spreading, open branches offer far less fuel for a fire than conifers with densely arranged branches that capture and hold dead needles and leaves. Plus, the branches and leaves of deciduous trees are elevated, whereas conifers have branches that start at ground level. If you have conifers in your yard, experts recommend removing branches to at least 15 feet.

Hardscaping offers fire protection, too

Hardscapes can be both decorative and practical. Plan walkways, patios, and stone walls so they create fire-resistant zones near your house and around your yard. That makes it harder for fire to spread. And choose materials such as permeable pavers that allow moisture to drain into the soil rather than puddling up on the patio or running off down the street.

As you plan your hardscaping, we’re pretty sure you’ll want to include a fire pit. With our wonderful California weather, fire pits have become a backyard necessity for relaxing and entertaining. But you don’t want your fire pit to accidentally spark a bigger fire, so you’ll want to take special safety precautions when designing and using it.

As you plan your fire-resistant landscaping, keep in mind that any plant can be damaged or even killed by fire, if the intensity is great enough. Even drought-tolerant plants need watering when conditions are especially dry. Otherwise, they can become weakened and more vulnerable to pests and disease as well as fire. But your landscaping will offer greatest fire protection for your home if you choose the right varieties and keep them watered and trimmed.

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