Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

Firewise Landscaping

The goal of Firewise landscaping is to create and maintain a safety zone around the home. This "defensible space" increases the likelihood that a home will survive a wildfire even in the absence of firefighters. 

Defensible space should extend outward from the home from 30 feet (minimum) to 100 - 200 feet if the home borders heavy wildland fuels. This area does not need to be devoid of shrubs and trees, but should be wisely landscaped with plants known to be less-flammable separated by walkways and grassed areas.

Defensible Space

  • Breaks up the continuity of vegetation that might otherwise bring fire from adjacent wildland to the structure.
  • Provides room for firefighters to safely work to defend a structure.
  • Helps prevent a structure fire from spreading to adjacent wildland areas.

Within the zone of defensible space, follow these guidelines:

  • Thin trees so that the crowns (tree tops) are 10 to 15 feet apart.
  • Remove any "ladder fuels". Ladder fuels are vines and shrubs that can carry a ground fire up into the treetops.
  • Remove dense fuels, trim overhanging branches, and carefully plan your landscaping within 30 feet of homes.
  • Prune tree limbs so the lowest branches are 6 to 10 feet from the ground.
  • Remove any large groupings of plants like saw palmetto, yaupon, wax myrtle and gallberry, especially if the plants are close to the home, adjacent decks or porches or under eaves or overhangs.
  • Instead of flammable mulch like bark or wood chips, use lava stone or coarse gravel around any shrubbery that is within 5 feet of the structure. 
    ALLOW NO FLAMMABLE VEGETATION IN CONTACT WITH THE STRUCTURE.
  • Remove highly flammable plants characterized by resinous sap and waxy leaves. These include: saw palmetto, wax myrtle, yaupon, red cedar, cypress and young pine trees.
  • Locate firewood and propane gas tanks at least 50 feet from the structure.
  • Keep 100 feet of hose readily available at a faucet away from the structure.
  • Select less-flammable plant species to plant within the zone of defensible space.

Less-Flammable Trees and Shrubs

TREES

Trees and Shrubs

Ash

Magnolia

Sweet Acacia

Citrus

Maple

Silver Button

Crape Myrtle

Redbud

Tabebuia

Dogwood

Sycamore

Gumbo-Limbo

Jacaranda

Viburnum

Red Mulberry

Loquat

Winged Elm

Red Bay

Oaks

Citrus

Green Button

Peach

Plum

Mahogany

Black Cherry

Sweet Gum

Satin Leaf

Sparkleberry

Persimmon

Pigeon Plum

Hophornbeam

Blue Beech

River Birch

Pecan

Sea Grape

Hawthorne

Willow

Catalpa

Elm

Basswood

   

PALMS

Palms

Pindo Palm

Alexander Palm

Sago Palm

Queen Palm

Pygmy Date Palm

King Sago Palm

SHRUBS

Shrubs

Agave

Philodendrom

Century Plant

Aloe

Pittosporum

Coontie

Azalea

Red Yucca

Anise

Viburnum

Beauty Berry

Indian Hawthorne

Hydrangea

Pyracantha

Oakleaf Hydrangea

Oleander

Camellia

 

More-Flammable Trees and Shrubs

More-Flammable Trees and Shrubs

Pines

Juniper

Red Cedar

Italian Cypress

Bald Cypress

Arizona Cypress

Arborvitae

Saw Palmetto

Wax Myrtle

Pampas Grass

Gallberry

Cabbage Palm

American Holly

Boxwood

Melaleuca

Yaupon Holly

Yew

Leyland Cypress

The main idea is to create a less-flammable landscape that also meets the homeowner's needs. With a little planning, a landscape can be FIREWISE and also be aesthetically pleasing, provide food and cover for wildlife, require less water for irrigation and provide shade to cool the home and reduce energy bills.