The beginning of September marks the one year anniversary of Austin and Hill Country area wildfires. How can you help to protect your home by choosing the right place for the right plant? If you have a sizable property landscaping with fire safety in mind is extremely relevant and applicable.
The first goal of firewise landscaping is to create a defensible space around your home. Tall, flammable plants should not be placed directly next to your home if it can be avoided. Fire can easily spread through vegetation. By creating a defensible space around your home, comprised of flame resistant plants and elements like a granite path, you will help lessen the likelihood of your home catching fire.
Trees that provide shade are a great asset in Texas, and of course you will probably not be cutting all your trees down to make a 100% defensible space. However, you can regularly trim down trees and dead branches to help protect your home. Ideally closest to your home, you should plant low-growing, moist, green, healthy plants.
Plants that are frequently watered are less likely to catch on fire. Decks, mulch and other wood elements are also not the safest choices. If you are able to landscape with rocks and stone, do so for a more firewise landscape. Creating space between your plant grouping such as island landscaping will also help to slow a fire.
Characteristics of a fire resistant plant include: low-growing, high-moisture content, watery stems that lack resins, oils and volatiles, small leaves, sparse foliage, airy branching, no needles, slow growing, no loose or papery bark, drought tolerant, and does not retain dead leaves for more than a short time.
So what can you plant? Plants with low flammability include: American beautyberry, many wildflowers, chaste tree, coral honeysuckle, desert willow, Monterrey and lacey oaks, Texas ash, mesquite, cedar elm, viburnums, Mexican plum, Mexican buckeye, roughleaf dogwood and eastern redbud.
Highly flammable plants include: rosemary, live oak, ashe juniper, Arizona ash, Texas mountain laurel, yaupon, grapevines and tall native grasses.
The Texas Forest Service has written a great resource on “Firewise landscaping in Texas". Check it out!