Firescaping: Top 5 Fire Resistant Plants

Firescaping: Top 5 Fire Resistant Plants

Adrienne Breaux
Jul 16, 2010

A few weeks ago we posted a list of 5 hardy, nearly unkillable plants for those looking for plant options to withstand the summer heat (or any black thumbs). Shortly after, we received an email from a reader with an alternative list of suggested plants to use in your yard for a very important and specific purpose.

Rachel C. Smith is a wildland firefighter and graduate student studying fire ecology and community risk abatement at the University of California, Berkeley. When she told us there were fire safe plants that you can use to landscape your property and create defensible space for firefighters to use, we were floored!

Folks who live in more urban areas don't have to worry about wildfires as much, but more people are moving out of the city into suburban areas where buildings mix with undeveloped vegetation, and hundreds of thousands of homes are lost to fires a year. As the co-founder of, a non-profit dedicated to disseminating free fire safety information, Rachel says that renters and homeowners can dramatically increase the chance of their home surviving a wildfire by implementing simple, cheap projects, one of which is replacing fire-prone plants with fire-resistant species. Rachel shares her top 5 favorite ones and describes them beautifully:

1) Iceplants: All succulents contain extremely high levels of moisture in their leaves and stems, but iceplants are a particularly good choice. They are colorful ground covers, with beautiful flowers, and require minimal watering. Iceplants are great vertical choices for container gardens, and can cascade down very steep slopes.
2) Elephant's Food (Portulacaria afra): It can be grown in gorgeous hedge-like thickets up to five feet tall. This is a visually stunning plant, with a reddish brown trunk and rounded grassy-green leaves.
3) Pork and Beans (Sedum rubrotinctum): Pork and beans is a fun plant that grows in sprawling clumps. It can be grown to cover a wall, or sprawl down a slope, and it is equally at home in a container garden.
4) Century Plant (Agave Americana): Larger shrub. Contrary to its name, usually lives about ten years.
5) Live Oak (Quercus agrifolia): Many tree species are resistent to fire. California live Oak or coastal live oak is a good choice, as are stone fruit and citrus trees.

(Images: Rachel C. Smith)

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