Foliage Can Be Fuel or Fight Flames
Smart landscaping choices deliver benefits that extend far beyond drought tolerance. Can you believe the same plant choices that conserve water, save money and time, and earn grants can also fight fires? It’s true!
While invasive, non-native plant species weaken our hillsides, making them more and more vulnerable to LA’s famous fire-flood-slide cycles, many native plants actually protect homes and hillsides. Here are a few of our favorites:
California Redbud (Cercis)
Redbud squeezes into tight spaces and delightfully transforms through California’s subtle seasons. As an alternative to Prunus, an all-to-common parkway tree, Cercis offers visual delight as well as fire resistance.
California Lilac (Ceanothus)
Ceanothus anchors the California native garden at the La Canada Valley Beautiful gardens of the world. Its delicate white, lavender or periwinkle blue flowers attract birds, butterflies and hummingbirds with their intoxicating scent.
Monkey Flower (Mimulus)
If you’ve attended a FormLA Landscaping hike and learn, you are familiar with Monkey Flower! In the spring, Mimulus cascades down many a Los Angeles hillside. There are several varieties. We recommend Seep Monkey Flower as an alternative to Nymphaea in riparian environments. Each variety is recommended as a fire resistant plant by planners and firefighters in Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties.
Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia)
According to BeWaterWise.com, Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego and the Inland Empire fire departments all highly rate this FormLA® Landscaping favorite. From a design perspective, exchanging the splash of red and bushy border provided by Cotoneaster with Toyon is a smart move.
- Please Note: Salvias were removed from this list at the request of the Los Angeles County Fire Department, but some of our sources have yet to make this update. The department recommends salvias be planted 50 feet from any structure.
- Scott, Judy. “Fight Fire with Plants? You Bet.” University of Oregon Extension Services. July 2012.
- “Fire Resistant California Friendly Plants.” Be Water Wise.
- “Fire Resistant Native Plants with Wildlife Value.” Theodore Payne Foundation.
- List of California Natives Resistant to Fire. Be Water Wise.