Firewise Landscaping in Texas: 5 Effective Ideas

Mother Nature can be devastating. And that’s especially true when you live in wildfire-prone areas like Texas. With hot, dry weather, Texas is, unfortunately, the second most dangerous state for wildfires. 

You can’t prevent wildfires from erupting, but you can minimize the damage. Here are five landscaping ideas to protect your Texas home from wildfire. 

In this article:

  1. Create a Defensible Space
  2. Apply Fire-Resistant Mulch 
  3. Grow Fire-Resistant Plants
  4. Use Metal
  5. Build Hardscapes

1. Create a Defensible Space

Defensible space is the barrier between your property and the vegetation around it. It slows down or prevents fire from igniting your home. Not just that, but defensible space makes it easy for firefighters to put out the fire without endangering their lives. 

The Texas A&M Forest Service recommends dividing a property’s defensible space into three zones: 

Zone 1 (Immediate Zone)

Zone 1 includes your home (structure) and extends to 5 feet from the furthest exterior point. Since the intermediate zone is the closest to your structure, you should ensure there are no fire hazards. 

Here are some guidelines for this zone. 

  • Remove debris and other plant materials from your roof, gutters, and decks. 
  • If your roof is damaged, repair or replace it to prevent ember penetration. Also, repair damaged windows. 
  • Only grow fire-resistant plants in this zone. Keep the plants trimmed and water them regularly. 
  • The gate and fence within this zone should be of metal or other non-combustible material. 
  • Growing trees in this zone is highly risky. If you already have a tree in this zone, we recommend transplanting it to another place.  
  • Don’t use organic mulch material in this zone, as they can easily catch fire. Instead, you can use bricks, gravel, and pavers. 
  • Don’t store firewood in your deck. Move it to zone 2. 

Zone 2 (Intermediate Zone)

Zone 2 extends from 6 feet up to 30 feet. Here are some guidelines to prepare this zone for fire. 

  • Don’t let the grass grow more than 4 inches. 
  • There should be at least 18 feet between the branches of adjacent trees. 
  • Prune trees so that their branches don’t exceed 1/3 of their height. 
  • If you have a propane tank in this zone, clear vegetation around it. 
  • Remove diseased trees. Diseased trees tend to be drier and more brittle, making them easier to ignite.
  • Construct walkways, patios, and driveways in between as they can block fire spread. 

Zone 3 (Extended Zone)

Zone 3 extends from 31 feet to 200 feet from your home. This zone obstructs the fire’s path and keeps the flames on the ground. 

Here are some tips for this zone. 

  • Remove diseased and dead plants and trees. 
  • Remove debris.
  • Large trees provide shade, but they can cause devastating damage during wildfires. Keep them trimmed.  

2. Apply Fire-Resistant Mulch

image of a yard after mulching

Photo Credit: christina rutz / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Mulch helps plants conserve water and reduce weed growth. But choosing the wrong mulch is like adding fuel to the fire. 

Inorganic mulches like gravel, pebbles, and river rocks have great fire resistance. These mulches also look good and require little maintenance. 

If you prefer organic mulches, we recommend wood chips as they are the least flammable. In fact, a study by the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension indicates that composted wood chips are the least flammable mulches.

Avoid these mulches, as they can quickly catch fire. 

  • Pine bark
  • Pine needles 
  • Shredded rubber
  • Straw
  • Cedar bark

3. Grow Fire-Resistant Plants

Red cedar

Eastern red cedar
Photo Credit: Joshua Mayer / Flickr / CC by SA 2.0.

This term is a bit of a misnomer. No plants are fire-resistant. That is, they all burn and die when exposed to flames. But some plants won’t help spread flames. 

Fire-resistant plants: 

  • Hold moisture and don’t require frequent watering. 
  • Grow slowly and close to the ground. 
  • Contain no, or low, resin or volatile oil. 
  • Have loose branches. 

Here are some of the most fire-resistant plants:

  • Gayfeather (Liatris spicata)
  • Skyflower (Duranta erecta)
  • Bottlebrush (Callistemon)
  • Elaeagnus (Elaeagnus pungen)
  • Kidneywood (Eysenhardtia texana)
  • Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana)

But before you start growing these plants, be sure to plant them correctly. 

  • Ensure there’s enough space between plants to help mitigate the flames. We recommend separating shrubs by at least twice their height. Tree branches should be at least 10 feet from the branches of adjacent trees. 
  • If you want to group plants, do so in small clusters. Avoid grouping in masses. 
  • Maintenance is essential. Remove dead leaves and branches. Also, water the plants regularly. 

Fire travels faster uphill, so if you live on a hill, increase the distance between the plants.

Slope SizeShrub DistanceTree Distance
Flat to mild slope (less than 20%)2 times the shrub’s height10 feet
Mild to moderate slope (20% to 40%)4 times the shrub’s height20 feet
Moderate to steep slope (greater than 40%)6 times the shrub’s height30 feet

4. Use Metal Structures Instead of Wood

Wood fences, pergolas, and gazebos look great, but they quickly catch fire and spread. Metal is a fire-resistant alternative to wood. 

Metal structures don’t look as classy and elegant as wood, but they are cheaper, more durable, and require less maintenance. Just wash metal structures regularly, and they will last for years without you having to worry about decay, rot, and insects. 

5. Build Hardscapes

image of garden pathway

Photo Credit: PublicDomainPictures

Hardscapes are non-living materials added to a landscape design. They can be both decorative and practical. Hardscapes include:

  • Driveways
  • Walkways
  • Fire pits
  • Patios
  • Retaining walls
  • Fences
  • Pergolas
  • Gazebos

As mentioned before, don’t use materials like wood for your hardscape. Instead, use concrete, bricks, and metal to minimize fire spread. 

Installing retaining walls around plant beds can prevent flames from reaching the plants. Constructing walkways in between your garden can also slow fire spread. 

Larger hardscapes like patios, pergolas, and gazebos can create a fire-resistant zone around your home. They also help firefighters battle the fire without endangering their lives.  

Importance of Fire-Resistant Landscaping for Texas

Texas is the second most wildfire-prone state in the country. So, it’s essential to prepare your home for wildfire. 

When wildfire attacks your home, you can’t prevent the damage altogether. But with fire-resistant landscaping, you can minimize the damage. 

Creating defensible space, growing fire-resistant plants, applying mulch, building hardscapes, and constructing metal structures can help minimize fire damage. Installing artificial grass can also help slow down fire spread.

If you’re busy with your work schedule but want a fire-resistant lawn, Wikilawn Texas lawn care experts are just a click away.

Main Image Credit: DigiStu / Canva Pro / License

About Wikilawn

Wikilawn’s mission is to provide the best resources and information to help you enjoy your outdoor spaces the way you want. Whether you are a DIY, lawn-loving, gardening guru, or someone who wants help in picking a local lawn care professional, we can smooth your path to a beautiful backyard!

About Wikilawn

Wikilawn’s mission is to provide the best resources and information to help you enjoy your outdoor spaces the way you want. Whether you are a DIY, lawn-loving, gardening guru, or someone who wants help in picking a local lawn care professional, we can smooth your path to a beautiful backyard!