Also serving the communities of De Luz, Rainbow, Camp Pendleton, Pala and Pauma

Fire season is year-round in Southern California - Plant selections for optimal fire protection

The plants surrounding a house have enormous influence in determining a home’s survival during a wildfire. Remember to think lean, clean and green.

Vegetation will either lead a fire to a structure or stop it. Lawns, succulents (plants with high water content), hardscape and creative boulder and rockscaping are a few elements that can be incorporated into a firescape design.

Picking plants for a firescape garden is difficult. At one point or another every plant will burst into flames under the right conditions, so there are many decisions to make.

Three gauges are used to determine a plant’s degree of flammability: ignitability, sustainability and combustibility.

Whether a plant will catch on fire, keep a fire going and/or propel a fire is determined by its physical characteristics, its health and the environment in which it is growing.

The following information may help you to determine which plants are right for your firescape.

Deciduous plants generally are less flammable than evergreens.

Broadleaf plants are less flammable than those with needles and those that catch and collect dead leaves within the interior or canopy of a tree, like Italian Cypress.

Moist and easily bent leaves are less flammable than stiff, leathery leaves. Thick leaves are less flammable than fine or thin leaves like pine needles.

Plants that produce a small amount of litter are less flammable than those that produce a lot of litter.

Plants with sap that looks more like water are less flammable than plants with thick, gummy or resinous sap, like eucalyptus, junipers and pines.

Plants without fragrance are less flammable than plants with aromatic qualities.

Plants with silver or gray leaves, which have a high mineral and ash content, are less flammable than those without. However, some plants, such as the highly ignitable native fragrant sages, do not follow this rule.

Plant leaves without hair (cilia) are less flammable than those with hair. This also applies to the underside of leaves.

A few types of plants to start off with when considering a firescape garden are:

• Ground covers: Aizoaceae (ice plant), Ajuga, Campanula, Chamomile, Erodium, Gazania, Ivy, Geranium, Potentilla, Pratia, Scaevola, Tropaeolum, Vinca, Australian Viola

• Perennials: Acanthus, Agapanthus, Bergenia, Canna, Digitalis, Heuchera, Impatiens, Liriope, Hemocallis, Pelargonium, Penstemon, Phormium, Senecio, Strelitizia reginae, Zantedeschia

• Shrubs: Brunfelsia, Camellia, Escallonia, Gardenia, Hibiscus, Pittosporum tobira “Wheelers Dwarf,” Rhaphiolepis, Rosa, Thevetia, Philodendrons

• Trees: Acer, Cercis, Dracaena draco, Feijoa, Ficus, Lagerstroemia, Magnolia, Maytenus, Michelia, Pittosporum rhombifolium, Schefflera, Strelitzia nicolai

The public is invited to a free ‘Be Firewise’ workshop at Southwest Boulder on November 21. Attendees will learn valuable information to take home and apply in their own landscape. As always, remember to “plan before you plant.”


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