Fire Retardant Trees and Plants

Nothing can guarantee that your home will be safe in a bush-fire but you can make the area around it less flammable by planting fire retardant plants and trees. bush fire

If you live in an area which is prone to fire, then you need to make a decision about what to keep near your house and what to remove. The most flammable trees are Cyprus, pines, eucalyptus, and some other natives, some of which have been known to explode once engulfed in flames. Tree selection around your home is a crucial factor as the right ones may slow and/or cool the fire down.

There are three core reasons that we put fire resistant trees around our house to make them safer;

  1. The fire retardant tree is a physical heat barrier to the heat blast coming through.
  2. The fire retardant tree acts as a green shield in front of your house and stops the embers from getting to your home. As the fire comes through fine embers fly up, and the trees that resist fire will help stop those embers from getting through.
  3. Many trees will actually stop the fire from moving through because the amount of moisture in the leaf tissue of the plant is enough to stop the fire.

While fire buffer zones are customarily cleared with sweeping lawns and sprinkler systems, there are also many fire-retardant trees and shrubs that can be comprised in garden and farm plantings. They are usually plants with high salt or moisture content and low volatile oil content in their leaves.

Preparation begins with recognizing fire threats on your land, taking into account slope, aspect, the accessibility of water and the build-up of fine fuels (dry mulch, fallen twigs, bark and leaves). On the whole, the steeper the slope, the faster a fire moves, so houses on steeper land need wider buffer zones.

A simple test to gauge the fire vulnerability of the trees and shrubs in your garden (when fire restrictions permit burning off), throw a small sample of foliage from each tree and shrub onto a fire and see how much it flares up. Consider removing plants with foliage which flares fiercely.

Maintaining your garden

It is vital to keep on top of growth and foliage. If you have huge amounts of leaf litter, particularly from eucalypts or from things like melaleucas, you creating a build-up of a fuel source for fire. It’s important to prune your native shrubs, to rake up the undergrowth. If you need to mulch, use things like gravel or pebbles rather than woodchips as wood chips just keep the fire going and actually invites it in to your house.

All plants will burn if the fire is hot enough but fire-retardant plants are less likely to transfer fire. In windbreaks and garden plantings, they contribute to slowing fire by decreasing wind speed, burning less eagerly and thwarting the spread of embers

Recommended Trees, Shrubs and Ground Cover

Provided below are charts of recommended fire resistant plants, intended as a guide only, check with your local council for information more specific to your area.


Brachychiton aecerifolius (Flame tree)

Evergreen Trees

Deciduous Trees

Melia azederach (Cape Lilac) Brachychiton aecerifolius (Flame tree)
Magnolia grandiflora Pyrus (most ornamental pears)
Magnolia Little Gem Ulmus chinensis (Chinese Elm)
Acacia howitii Cercis (Judus Tree)
Acmena smithii (Lilypily) Prunus (all including ornamental)
Cupaniopsis anacardiopsis (Tuckeroo) Malus (apple trees)
Eleocarpus Mullbery
Citrus trees Loquot
Arbutus Quercus (only the deciduous oak trees)
Feijoa Gleditzia
Ficus (all including edible) Ficus (all including edible)
magnolia tree

Magnolia Little Gem


Evergreen Shrubs

Aloe (all) Correa
Acacia iteaphyla Nerium (Oleander)
Scaevola crassifolia Viburnum tinus
Atriplex (saltbush Escallonia
Maireana (Cottonbush) Acacia Cyclops
Eremophila (Emu bush) Melaleuca nodosa
Syzygium (lilypilly) Photinia
Rhagodia (saltbush)Strelitzia Coprosma
Santolina Plectranthus
Leucophyta brownii  Senna (Silver Cassia)



Nerium (Oleander)



Ground Covers

Scaevola aemula
Succulents (most)
Carpobrotus (Pigface)
Ajuga australis
Nepeta (catmint)





Carpobrotus (Pigface)

Living in or near the Australian bush has many lifestyle benefits. It also brings the need to plan bush-fire defenses for your property. During extreme bush-fire events none of these nor other plant types will protect your property although a good design and use of the plants listed will, however, reduce the chance of being burnt out.

Fire is a fundamental part of the Australian environment and many native plants are adapted to fire. Some recuperate well after a fire, re-sprouting from buds on their trunks and lignotubers or they are protected during fires by dense bark. Others need fire for seed germination as it opens woody cones or heats seed stored in the ground.

While acknowledging the good things about fire, it is imperative to plan fire protection zones around your property so that you can enjoy living near the bush without feeling threatened by fire.


Tips for Preparing a Safe Home

  • Plant trees at least 5 m from house to allow clear access. Have paved sections such as paths and barbecue areas and/or a pebble garden with herbs near to the house.
  • Position pools, tennis courts, etc., between house and direct line of fire threat. A lawn is a clear space that can be used as a fire break.
  • Space trees and shrubs to avoid continuous canopy that may carry fire. Careful arrangement of plants is essential. Don’t have trees that overhang the house.
  • Use plants around the house that can be pruned when fire threatens. Trees and shrubs with lignotubers will re-sprout and recover quickly if it is necessary to cut them back hard in the face of threatening fire.
  • Monitor the growth of trees and shrubs so that pruning is maintained, dead limbs removed, leaves put into compost bins with lids.
  • Avoid combustible door mats and brush fences. Use draft sealers around doors and screens on windows.

It is important to note that even with all of these safe guards put into place, in the face of extreme bush-fires, EVACUATION is still the safest means of survival.

If you need help ensuring your properties best chance of survival during a bush-fire, feel free to contact Jim’s Mowing on 131 546 or book online for a free quote.

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