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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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Fire-retardant Plants Can Help Protect Homes

ALBUQUERQUE -- Landscaping can be part of a fire prevention strategy for homeowners who live in New Mexico's forests or rangelands, said a New Mexico State University horticulturist.

"We need to be sure that we use plants that are low-water using yet fire resistant, something that will slow a fire moving toward a house," said Curtis Smith with NMSU's Cooperative Extension Service.

Well-irrigated lawns, gardens, flower borders and fruit trees around the home can lower fire risk, he said.

"Turf near the house can offer some protection, as long as it's kept watered and no weeds are allowed to grow up that could ignite and spread a fire," he said.

Having a constructed wetland for wastewater also can serve as a fire barrier.

If an irrigation system or constructed wetland isn't possible, Smith suggests planting native or low-water using trees vines, shrubs and flowers.

"Some of these plants are ones we talk about during xeriscaping programs," Smith said. "They do well with minimal irrigation and won't help a fire spread."

Smith suggested the following plants for landscaping near homes in forested areas:

Shrubs - New Mexico olive, threeleaf sumac, littleleaf sumac, silver buffaloberry, shrubby cinquefoil, mock orange, chokecherry, mountain mahogany, fendlerbush, native roses, black sage.

Vines - grapes, western woodbine, Boston ivy; trees - bigtooth maple, narrowleaf cottonwood, hackberry, Russian olive, box elder.

Flowers - winterfat, Rocky Mountain iris, iceplant, Rocky Mountain zinnia, Rocky Mountain penstemon, four o'clocks.

Landscaping should be part of an overall fire prevention strategy that includes use of fire-retardant building material and a clearing around the home, Smith said.