Wildfire-resistant landscape plants can protect your home

Protecting your home from wildfire can be as simple as basic landscape planning and the addition of a few well-watered plants.

Pine trees on houseSpring is known for being a time of increased incidence of forest and wild fires because the trees, grasses and other plants are dry or dead from the previous winter. Michigan can experience as many as 8,000 to 10,000 wildfires, destroying thousands of acres and hundreds of buildings each year. Protecting your home from this threat can be enhanced through landscaping and plant selection.

Having the right kind of plants growing near your home can mean the difference between saving and losing your home to a wildfire. For example, a conifer tree that has a lot of dead lower branches or built up needles on the ground can “torch” during a wildfire. If that tree were growing next to your home it could ignite your house from both proximity and fire brands drifting from the burning plant.  

It is important to understand that any plant can burn given the right conditions of dryness and heat. The ability of a plant to survive a fire depends upon several characteristics such as moisture content, winter hardiness, debris created and decomposition speed. Plants such as a maple tree or dogwood contain a watery sap that is hard to ignite, as compared to a conifer tree that has a resin that can ignite even when green. When looking for fire resistant plants, consider the amount of moisture retained in the foliage and stems. Hosta is a more water filled plant than a similar plant that may retain its dead leaves through the summer. 

Good housekeeping in your gardens can help here, but starting with the right plant and having an eye for its fire resistance can help to protect your home in the event that a wildfire occurs near where you live. An eye toward Firewise Landscaping can also contribute greatly to protecting your home in the event of a forest or wildfire.

Michigan State University Extension Bulletin (E2948) available at the Michigan Firewise website lists many wildfire resistant landscape plants for Michigan.

Photo by Beth Clawson.

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