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Fire-resistant, California-friendly plants

Posted: June 5, 2009 5:39 p.m.
Updated: June 6, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Wild strawberry is a low growing plant you can plant next to your home to provide attractive fire-resistant ground cover. Wild strawberry has the rare distinction of being approved by LA County fire for any zone in your yard.

The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California has posted a list of plants on the Web site that are fire resistant and well-suited to Southern California conditions.

California redbud: An interesting plant all year long, with magenta flowers on leafless stems in summer, followed by crimson seedpods and heart-shaped blue-green leaves. Deciduous, with yellow or red fall foliage falling away in winter to reveal smooth reddish brown trunks. Long lived, very drought tolerant, and flowers more profusely as it matures.

Monkey flower (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.

Ceanothus ‘concha’: This California lilac is a large shrub with a dense mass of dark green, one-inch leaves, with dark blue clusters of flowers appearing in spring. Requires good drainage; can tolerate summer water. Grows to six feet.

Sage (Salvia): Nothing evokes California quite like a sage-scented hillside. Beloved by hummingbirds and firefighters alike, the autumn sage pictured here is endorsed for use by the Orange County Fire Authority, while the entire sage species is endorsed by the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

Common yarrow (Achillea millefolium): It appears on fire-resistant lists for California Native Plant Society, Western MWD (zone 3), San Diego County, and Orange County fire. However 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.

Coast live oak: Handsome shade tree. Round-headed with dense foliage, grows 20-70 feet tall. Smooth, dark grey bark, with leathery dark green leaves. Native to coastal central and Southern California.

California sycamore: Sycamores have delighted generations of Californians, and this particular variety is endorsed for use by the Los Angeles and Orange County fire departments, plus 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 fuchsia (Epilobium canum/californica): 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 L.A., Orange and San Diego counties.

Wild strawberry (Fragaria chiloensis): 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.


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