Question: We live in a high fire area and I’ve heard about fire safe landscaping. What should I plant around our property? C.H. Rainbow, CA

Succulents, unlike native chaparral plants, are 80 percent water, which makes them truly fire-resistant. I recommend planting large, landscape-sized succulent plants and succulent groundcover around and along fire-zone perimeters. Here are four tough, attractive and fire-resistant succulents you can add to your existing landscaping to create a fire barrier.

  • Aloe kedongensis has a growth habit somewhat like bamboo, with canes that grow to about 12 feet and cluster densely and makes a good fire barrier.
  • Portulacaria afra, also known as Elephant’s Food, is an upright-growing plant (8-12 feet tall) with reddish brown stems and emerald green leaves.
  • Senecio mandraliscae, also known as blue chalk sticks, is a fast-growing groundcover known for its beautiful blue color. Extremely fire resistant, this low-maintenance plant works well under larger plantings and helps prevent erosion.
  • Agave franzosinii can reach dimensions of more than 25 feet. Grown for its foliage, this succulent has powder blue leaves with leaf-printing marks.

See CalFire’s article about the importance of defensible space in protecting your property at www.readyforwildfire.org/defensible_space/.


Question: Are there any soft succulents that will tolerate below freezing temperature or snow? L.S., Bloomington, IL

Although most succulents must be protected from freezing, there are a few species of soft succulents that can tolerate freezing temperatures, including many varieties sempervivums and some sedums. On a recent visit to Goshen, Indiana, I was fascinated to see a host of these plants growing and thriving between rocks and along walkways in my sister-in-law’s garden. Though these images of Sempervivum tectorum and Sedum anglicum were shot in July, we are assured they survived quite nicely one of the Midwest’s snowiest winters on record. Sempervivum arachnoideum is available for sale.

Sempervivum arachnoideum


Anita O. from Yucca Valley asks:

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Don’s Answer:
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