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Firewise Privacy Screening

Is your privacy screening flammable? 

Fire Resistant shrubs and trees for privacy
Click the photo to view the full text

Vegetation between houses can either add fuel to the flames during a wildfire or help to slow fire spread.

When highly flammable plants like Leyland cypress, arborvitae, junipers or Italian cypress are used for privacy screening, they can ignite easily, burn intensely and quickly spread fire to your home or between structures (scroll down to see the impact of privacy shrubs in an Ashland wildfire).

Because fire-resistant plants are more difficult to ignite and burn, they are recommended for privacy screenings between homes. 

The 2012 OSU Extension Publication Fire Resistant Shrubs and Trees for Privacy in Southwestern Oregon contains suggestions for shrubs and trees recommended for privacy plantings that meet a variety of growing conditions and requirements. This publication provides examples of fire-resistant shrubs and trees that can be used to create a more fire-safe home landscape while providing the privacy you desire.​

Burned row of Leyland cypress
In 2010 a row of Leyland
Cypress carried fire closer
to homes in the Oak Knoll
Fire (photo by Ali True).

Generally, highly flammable plants have: 

  • Fine, dry, or dead material within the plant, such as twigs, needles and leaves
  • Volatile waxes, terpenes, or oils in their leaves, twigs and stems
  • Strong odor when leaves are crushed
  • Sap that is gummy, resinous, and has a strong odor
  • Loose or papery bark​

...While, generally, fire-resistant plants have: 

  • Moist and supple leaves
  • Minimal dead wood and do not tend to accumulate dry/dead material within the plant
  • Low sap or resin materials
  • Sufficient water and nuturients to be healthy​
  • Fire-resistant does not mean fire proof! Even fire-resistant plants that are not well maintained can burn. Be sure to keep all of your landscape plants healthy with appropriate watering and pruning
Maintenance is Critical. As with any fire-resistant landscaping, maintenance is critical. Deep watering, mulching, and the removal of deadwood and leaves help to maintain the overall health of the plant, thereby reducing the flammability of the overall landscape. Keep the following maintenance tips in mind when preparing your vegetation for wildfire: 
  • water adequately,
  • fertilize as needed,
  • control pests,
  • prune to remove dead material,
  • and remove dry leaves or weeds annually that accumulate between plant
Heavy shearing or pruning may promote a dense outer crown, resulting in less sunlight reaching the interior of the hedge and causing dieback of twigs. This dieback will create flammable material in the center of even healthy, well spaced shrubs and trees. 




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