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Garden Your Way to Better Bushfire Safety: Tips and Advice

Published: March 6th, 2015

Garden Your Way to Better Bushfire Safety: Tips and Advice

Gardening Expert Sabrina Hahn advises on plants and trees that help keep your property safer in bushfire season, and what to also avoid.


Why be bushfire aware?

It is true that if you live in Western Australia, bushfire awareness is as much part of summer as going to the beach and outdoor cinemas.

Whether you live in the city or in the bush, keeping your property as safe as possible in fire season can be further achieved by a thoughtfully planned and selected garden.

Nothing will ever guarantee your home to be 100% safe in a bushfire, but by making the area around your home less flammable, it all helps.


A simple trick to check if the tree or plant is flammable or fire retardant: 

Sabrina suggests this easy check to see whicht rees around your home are flammable and which are fire retardant.

Break off a very small branch, a twig with the leaves attached to it, take it to your stove and set fire to it.

“This may seem a little silly, but in actual fact, you’ll get to know which of your trees are highly flammable and which are fire retardant – it’s a pretty simple trick” she says.

If you live in an area which is prone to fire, then you need to make a decision about what plants and trees to keep near your house and what to remove.


The most flammable trees are:

  • Cyprus
  • Pines
  • Eucalypts
  • Other native WA plants
Grevilleas are popular native flowering plants
Grevillea Wickhamii. While natives are popular garden plants, they may not be the best choice in fire-prone areas. (Vanessa Mills – ABC Local)


Tree selection is very important.

Sabrina says any trees growing close to your home should be fire retardant.

“Meaning, that when the fire comes through that those trees slow it down, or they help cool that fire down” she advises.

There’s three main reasons that we put trees around our house to make them fire safe.

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 embers from getting into your home.

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.


The Best Fire Retardant Trees choose:

If you’re looking for trees that help you protect your property, Sabrina suggests fruit trees and nearly all of the deciduous trees.

If you live in an area prone to fires such as Perth Hills or the South-West, place deciduous trees strategically, in double rows, in the area you think the fire might move through.

“And definitely place deciduous trees around your house, rather than native trees” she says.


Maintaining your garden:

Keep on top of growth and foliage.

If you have huge amounts of leaf litter, particularly from native trees like eucalypts, you’re going to get a build up of a fuel source there for the fire to burn on.

It is important to prine your native shrubs, to rake up undergrowth and be considerate on something like mulch – use gravel rather than woodchips.


Plant Species List for WA of Fire Resistant Plants

E= Evergreen D = Deciduous


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


Aloe (all) E
Acacia iteaphyla E
Photinia E
Syzygium (lilypilly) E
Rhagodia (saltbush) E 
Atriplex (saltbush) E
Santolina E
Scaevola crassifolia E
Leucophyta brownii E
Correa sp. E
Chaenomeles japonica (Flowering Quince) D 
Nerium (Oleander) E
Sambucus (Elderberry) D
Viburnum tinus E
Maireana Cottonbush) E 
Eremophila (Emu bush) E
Escallonia E 
Acacia Cyclops E
Melaleuca nodosa E
Senna (Silver Cassia) E 
Strelitzia E 
Coprosma sp. 
Plectranthus E

Ground Covers

Scaevola aemula
Succulents (most) 
Carpobrotus (Pigface) 
Ajuga australis 
Nepeta (catmint) 
Eremophila Kalbarri Carpet
Arctotis sp.

This information is general only and should be considered a guide. More information can be sourced from your local council.


Hat Tip to ABC Perth

Featured Image: A shot from Henley Brook (Whiteman Park) on December 14 2014 via SBS News.

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