California Friendly® plants aren’t only drought-tolerant. They’re beautiful, too, and many are fire-resistant as well. Dozens of varieties have been endorsed for use by Southern California fire agencies.
Of course, nothing is fireproof, including plants, as the 2003 firestorms showed. But is it possible to have plants that save water and protect against fire at the same time? Absolutely.
But creating a fire-resistant barrier around your home involves far more than picking out the right plants.
Keeping them pruned and maintained is an important fire protection tool. Keep low-growing plants within 30 feet of the home; remove dead and dying vegetation and keep plants properly spaced. The closer the plants are to the house, the more care that needs to be taken.
Some of our favorite California natives are also fire-resistant. Here is a list you might want to consider. We’ve included the Latin botanical names, because that is often how the plants are listed in government guides to fire-resistant varieties.
We strongly encourage you to check the detailed guidelines provided by agencies such as the Los Angeles County Fire Department, the Orange County Fire Authority, and the San Diego County’s land use and environment department. Another great resource is the Firewise WEB site, created by the National Wildlife Coordinating Group; and the State of California’s site.
California Redbud (Cercis occidentalis) This magenta, crimson and green beauty is endorsed by Los Angeles, San Diego and Orange County authorities.
Ceanothus “Louis Edmunds” is endorsed for use by the Orange County Fire Department, and the entire Ceanothus species is endorsed by Los Angeles County Fire Department and the County of San Diego land use and environment department.
Monkeyflower (Mimulus) – This entire species is endorsed for use by San Diego County planners and the Los Angeles and Orange County fire departments. Be sure to check out the drought-tolerant varieties.
Sage (Salvia): Nothing evokes California quite like a sage-scented hillside. Beloved by hummingbirds and firefighters alike, the autumn is endorsed for use by the Orange County Fire Department, while the entire sage species is endorsed by the Los Angeles County Fire department.
Coast Live Oak (Quercus agrifolia) – This Southland favorite is among two species endorsed by San Diego County, while Los Angeles and Orange County fire departments have several varieties on their fire-resistant list.
California Sycamore (Platanus racemosa) – Sycamores have delighted generations of Californians, and this particular variety is endorsed for use by Los Angeles and Orange County fire departments, and San Diego County.
Toyon (Hetereomeles arbutifolia) – A classic California native, it has white flowers in the summer and berries in the winter, it gets good marks from Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego and the Inland Empire.
PERENNIALS AND ANNUALS
California Fuschia (Zauschneria canum/californica[also known as Epilobium]) This sprawling plant is one of the few perennials listed by Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties.
Beard Tongue (Penstemon palmeri) This particular variety is native to the Southland, but the entire species has been embraced by native plant enthusiasts and firefighters alike, and is approved for use in Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties.
Wild Strawberry (Fragaria chilolensis) Looking for a low-growing plant that you can plant next to your home? This species has the rare distinction of being approved by Los Angeles County fire department for any zone in your yard.
Common Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) It appears on fire-resistant lists for California Native Plant Society, Western MWD zone 3, San Diego all zones, and Orange County fire. But it is not on the approved list for Los Angeles County fire. Yarrow also can be used as a groundcover if mowed.
French lavender (Lavandula dentata) Although not a true California native, this attractive drought-tolerant plant is endorsed for Zone B use in Los Angeles County, and also makes fire-resistant lists for the Inland Empire and Orange and San Diego counties.