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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Gardening: New publication helps homeowners landscape for fire resisitance

This landscape is an example of a fire resistant design that can reduce the chances of a wildfire doing damage to the house.  (Courtesy WSU Extension)
By Pat Munts For The Spokesman-Review

Don’t get too complacent with all the rain and green foliage. Fire season is coming, and it only takes one spark to put you and your property in danger. Remember, every foot of tall grass and weeds will generate 2 feet of flames. So be ready for it.

I was introduced to a new publication last week that homeowners can use to create fire resistant landscapes around their homes. “Fire-Resistant Plants for Eastern Washington” was put out by the Washington Department of Resources, the US Bureau of Land Management, the Cascadia Conservation District and the WSU Master Gardener Program. The publication is free for download at

Note there are underscores in the seemingly blank spaces. Also note there is no such thing as a fireproof landscape.

The first sections of the publication have information on definitions of fire-resistant materials followed by some excellent descriptions and diagrams that define the protection zones around a home. Zone 1 is the first ten feet around the house where nothing flammable should be planted. Zone 2 is ten to 30 feet from the house and should not contain conifers or highly flammable plants and be mowed regularly. Zone 3 is 30 to 100 feet from the house and should be an area cleared of brush and have dense stands of trees thinned out and trimmed up. The area should be mowed two or three times through the season.

The publication then lists over 250 plants broken out as groundcovers, herbaceous perennials, vines, deciduous shrubs, broadleaf evergreen shrubs, non-turf grasses and trees that can be used for landscaping. Most of them are available through any good garden center or nursery.

Each plant description has a photo of the plants and then a description of the plant’s hardiness range, its height and width, and where appropriate, whether it is a succulent or not (succulents are full of water). The description then lists the appropriate fire protection zone the plant can be used in followed by some growing characteristics. The description also contains information on the plant’s preference for sun or shade and how much water it requires. Most of the plants recommended for Zones 1 and 2 will require moderate watering through irrigation.

Here are a few of the suggested plants. Dead nettle and sweet woodruff are groundcover suggestions for Zones 1 to 3. Dead nettle likes sun to part shade while sweet woodruff prefers part shade and moist soil. In herbaceous perennials, yarrow is good for Zones 2 to 3 and is drought tolerant. In shrubs, Lilac and dwarf burning bush do well in Zones 2 and 3 with moderate irrigation. In the tree category, there are several varieties of maples suggested for Zones 2 to 3.

Tip of the week: The soil is moist enough in all but the sandy areas that most landscapes will need only a weekly watering. Once we have had a week of 80-degree days, it will be time to increase watering cycles to two to three times a week.