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Sonoma County Gazette
California Lilac

Plants that FUEL or RESIST Fire ~ 
Choose Wisely for Fire-Resistent Landscapes

Jun 29, 2018


Back when we were ONLY considering drought-tolerant landscaping to use less water in our gardens, we found many plants with high oil content that set in deep tap roots so required less watering. Some of those plants also tend to burst into flames because of the high oil content. What’s a gardener to do?

We still want drought-tolerant plants because rain is never something we can assume will come in quantity. All plants will catch fire under extreme conditions, but some can withstand the ravages of heat and fire. Fire resistent plants that support wildlife provides landscaping that is beautiful, creates habitat and looks good as well. Let’s stick with California Natives since they are already adapted to our climate and serve us for native habitat as well.

California RedbudCalifornia Redbud (Cercis) is a lovely small tree that puts out brilliant blue-red blossoms, usually in early fall. Once established, they require little to no water. Just like in the wild, they will burst into bloom, covering the tree branches with blossoms. BONUS - they are fire-resistant!

California Fuchsia is one of the loveliest flowering plants that attracts hummingbirds. The foliage is a light blue-green which contrasts red, dangling flowers.

Penstemon - another bee and hummingbird plant that loves dry soil, and thrives on neglect so you get a bonus of beautiful blossoms all summer with little concern for time-consuming gardening. Mix and match colors: purple, magenta to brilliant red.

Sticky Monkey FlowerMonkey Flower (Mimulus) shows up along roadsides with their light yellow blossoms. This is a good time of year to see them since they tend to bloom early summer. The yellow is a lovely contrast to native reds and purples.You can find them in local native plant nurseries in a number of varieties that are suited for your microclimate. And yes, the are also fire resistent.

California Lilac (Ceanothus) (see photo above) is one of our local favorites because you can see it among our forests with deep green, shiny leaves with a crinkly surface, then in spring the blossoms send puffs of light to dark purple throughout a forest.

Fragaria ChiloensisLavender- of which we have published several articles recently, is on of those plants that thrives easily, provide color in blossoms but also in foliage (a soft, blue-green, provides food for bees and smells great dried!

Sage is another one of those multi-use plants. The violet flowers are very attractive to bees and hummingbirds and the leaves are scented and even useful in cooking.

TREES - You can SEE which trees made it through the October fires and the most dominant survivor is theCoast Live Oak. You have to like their prickly leaves, so take that into consideration but this is a beautiful tree that is evergreen and can withstand drought as well as fire.

Ground cover- well, you can’t beat wild strawberry, aka Beach Strawberry (Fragaria chiloensis). It spreads easily,sun or shade for a green carpet.

LEARN MORE @ - California Native Plant Society


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