Five Hot Ways to Firescape Your Landscape


With wildfires and record-high temperatures the cause of so much damage, we went to the experts for tips on how to beat the heat in the garden and help prevent wildfires. This trend is also known as “firescaping.”  The fire-safe garden can be a rich and colorful landscape, offering year-round interest and beauty while doubling as an important tool in the fight against wildfires.


This lovely Colorado garden is filled with fire-safe plants and still boasts plenty of color.

1. Remove Fire Hazards

While it may seem like a no-brainer, it’s important to continually check for and remove easily-flammable and ignitable materials on and around your house – especially anything within 30 feet. This means removing any dead or drought-stressed vegetation from your landscape, gutters and roof as well as plants, shrubs and trees that produce combustible materials like dead branches, needles, pinecones and leaves. Any trees within 100 feet of the home should have limbs removed up to 10 feet off the ground.

In high fire hazard areas if you’re mulching within 30 feet of your home, it’s preferable to use inorganic materials such as crushed stones or gravel rather than more combustible options like shredded rubber, pine straw or red cedar.  Composted wood chips show the slowest fire spread rate of organic mulches.

Stone mulch

Inorganic mulch is a better alternative than organic mulch in high fire-hazard areas. Here in the Auckland Botanical Gardens a heavy layer of small stones and gravel serve as an ideal mulch.

firesafe landscape

Cactus and stone – the ultimate combination for a fire-safe landscape.

2. Choose the Right Plants

When temperatures hit the high 90s and even three digits it’s wise to have some drought- and heat-resistant plants in your garden. Sedum, stonecrop, verbena, coneflowers, lantana, ornamental grasses, phormiums salvia, yucca and Festival® cordyline are all drought and/or  heat resistant. Easy-care, drought-tolerant shrubs include potentilla, barberry, buddleia, cotoneaster, and witch hazel. Easy-to-grow annuals that survive in drought conditions include geraniums, ageratum, calendula, snapdragons and Dusty Miller.

Flower Carpet® roses are also drought tolerant once established. “Even though we had temperatures of 113 degrees for several days and no rain, all I did was water them very well once a week, and they performed beautifully,” reported Carrie G. of Howe, Oklahoma, a Tesselaar Plants home garden tester.

Monrovia lists over 840 firescaping or “firewise” varieties on its website – from  agapanthus like the sturdy Storm™ series to cannas like the colorful Tropicanna®.


Festival cordyline is considered a firewise plant and works well with succulents

3. Open it Up

Another sure-fire firescaping strategy involves designing more open space into the landscape. Adding vegetation-free strips as fuel breaks can help to slow or stop a blaze. These can be decorative rock gardens, faux riverbeds, water features or even decomposed granite walkways. A bonus to opening up your landscape is that you’ll find you’ve simplified things. The breaks in vegetation can add interesting elements to the landscape and overall, it can become more peaceful and relaxing to look at and maintain.


It IS possible to have a firesafe yet colorful garden. Here a vegetation-free strip can serve as a fire-break.

4. Get in the “zone”

Consider creating fire-safe landscapes by dividing the area around your home into concentric zones. These self-designed zones provide a strategy for planning your landscape.

The closer the zones are to the structure, the stricter the fire suppression guidelines should be.  For instance, Zone 1 would be the 30 foot area closest to the house and is the area where you need to be vigilant about vegetation, planting only the most fire resistant plants.  Zone 2 is the next 30 – 90 feet and where you can plant agapanthus and low-growing succulents like jade plants, sedum and miniature ice plants to prevent or retard the ground fires from racing to Zone 1.  Zone 3 should be a 40-50 deep area with drought-resistant reduced-fuel shrubs like rock rose and well-watered flowers like yarrow and California poppies.  And finally in Zone 4 at 170 – 200 feet from the house, it’s important to remove fire-prone plants and stay vigilant in terms of brush clean up.

5. Keep it watered

As temperatures rise, keeping up with watering is the ultimate firescaping strategy. While we want to conserve this valuable resource, it can be helpful to use drip irrigation systems that are inexpensive to set up and that can get water where it matters most – right at the base of plant. This curbs fungal disease by keeping water off foliage. Also, since you’re only watering the roots, you aren’t encouraging weeds.

drought resistant plants

Our Ignacio, CO home garden tester uses drip irrigation system to water her Flower Carpet Scarlet roses. Flower Carpet roses are drought-resistant once established.


So remember – keep your landscape watered, lean, clean and green but don’t be afraid to experiment with color and texture and choose plants that offer you season-long interest.

Companion plants

“Firewise” Tropicanna canna planted with sedum Autumn Joy.


For a few great tips on conserving water read our Free Water for the Garden post.


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