13 Best Fire-Resistant Trees for a Defensible Landscape

Protect your home from wildfires by choosing trees with low-flammability and fire-safe attributes! Former organic farmer and horticultural expert Logan Hailey digs into 13 fire-resistant yet beautiful trees for a defensible landscape.

Close-up of a Honey Locust tree against a blurred blue sky background. This is one of the fire-resistant trees, which is characterized by its distinctive doubly compound leaves, the foliage consists of numerous small leaflets arranged along the branches. The leaves provide a light, lacy appearance. The tree produces brown flat seed pods hanging from the branches.


Planting a defensible landscape in fire-prone areas with dry summers is key to protecting your home and property from devastating forest fires and wildfires. This doesn’t mean you must go without shady landscape trees and pretty plants. Instead, you can strategically choose species less likely to ignite or contribute to the spread of fire. Choosing the right firewise trees enhances the safety and aesthetic of your property. 

However, regardless of the fire resistance of a given species, no tree is completely fireproof. According to the USDA, trees should be planted at least 10-30 feet from any structure and properly maintained to reduce “ladder fuels,” or low-hanging thin branches prone to catch fire first.

Let’s dig into the 13 best firewise trees for any landscape and how to maintain them for a safe and beautiful landscape.

What are Fire-Resistant Trees?

View of a flowering Robinia pseudoacacia tree against a blue sky. Robinia pseudoacacia, commonly known as black locust, is a deciduous tree with a distinctive appearance. It features pinnately compound leaves, comprised of numerous small, oval leaflets. The tree bears fragrant, drooping clusters of white flowers.
Deciduous trees are generally more fire-resistant than evergreen conifers due to their broad, moist leaves.

Firewise landscape trees have high moisture content, thick bark, and minimal accumulation of flammable fuel, such as dead leaves or fallen branches. These trees are the safest additions to a home landscape in a fire-prone area. They act as a natural barrier to slow or halt the progression of flames during a wildfire.

Generally, deciduous trees are more fire-resistant than evergreen coniferous trees. Deciduous trees usually have broad leaves that fall in the autumn. A deciduous tree’s moist, thinner leaves tend to shrivel when exposed to extreme heat rather than erupt in flames in the canopy. They have higher moisture content and do not readily ignite in winter because there are no leaves on the tree.

In contrast, coniferous evergreen trees like pines and conifers have dryer leaves with a large amount of resin and sap in their cones and branches. The sap can catch fire and burn quickly, causing rapid escalation of wildfires. The foliage of conifers tends to be denser and creates a lot of fallen foliage at the tree base, which can become more fuel for a fire.

13 Trees for Firewise Landscaping

Firewise landscaping does not need to be bland or ugly. These gorgeous trees provide fire safety, shade, and beauty; some even produce delicious edible fruit! Before selecting a fire-resistant tree, be sure the species is adapted to your area and that you have sufficient yard space to accommodate its mature growth size.

Live Oak (Quercus virginiana)

Close-up of Live Oak tree branches against a blurred background. The leaves are dark green, oval, glossy, covered with raindrops. Green acorns grow abundantly on the branches. These acorns have a distinct cap, known as a cupule, which encases the base of the nut.
Live oak, with its fire-resistant bark, is a popular shade tree in fire-prone regions.
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
water-needs water needs Dry to medium
height height 40-70 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 7-10

Live oak’s thick, fire-resistant bark has made it one of the most popular tree species in fire-prone regions. The extensive canopy of a mature tree provides ample shade to reduce the possibility of dry underbrush and weeds. This tree has very low flammability. Oak trees are keystone species with high ecological value.

In the West, it’s best to plant coast live oak (Q. agrifolia), also known as California live oak. In the Southern United States, choose live oak (Q. virginiana).

Honey Locust (Gleditsia triacanthos)

Close-up of Honey Locust (Gleditsia triacanthos) tree branches against a blurred background. The Honey Locust (Gleditsia triacanthos) is a deciduous tree that has pinnately compound leaves that give a feathery appearance. The bipinnately compound leaves are composed of smaller leaflets, creating a fine texture. The tree produces long, twisting pods that contain the seeds, and these pods turn a rich brown color as they mature.
Native to North America, this adaptable deciduous tree is firewise but needs proper maintenance.
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
water-needs water needs Moderate
height height 30-70 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-9

Native to Central and Eastern North America, this deciduous tree is adaptable to different light conditions and requires moderately moist soils. It has a flat-topped canopy with a broad shape to lightly shade your yard without causing problems for turfgrass. Hardy across a range of climates, the honey locust has attractive, finely compounded leaves and gorgeous yellow flowers, with spectacular leaf color in fall.

The plant is safe for firewise landscaping as long as you maintain proper pruning to clear the lower 10 feet of branches. Some honey locusts produce thorns and large amounts of seed pods. Be sure to choose a thornless and podless cultivar like ‘Sunburst’ to ensure the tree doesn’t become a nuisance. 

California Bay Laurel (Umbellularia californica)

Close-up of a flowering branch of a California Bay Laurel (Umbellularia californica) evergreen tree. It boasts glossy, dark green, lance-shaped leaves. Small, pale yellow-green flowers bloom in clusters.
Resistant to fire, it’s prized for its aromatic leaves and beautiful wood.
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
water-needs water needs Low to moderate
height height 30-80 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 7-10

Also known as Oregon myrtle, this captivating deciduous tree is native to most of the West Coast and thrives in moderately moist soils and Mediterranean climates. It has a pleasant aroma, and the bay leaves are a popular seasoning for cooking. The thick, waxy texture of the leaves makes them less likely to catch fire. When crushed, they give off a peppery scent.

Bay laurels can grow as small shrubs or larger trees. They produce pretty yellow-green flower clusters for a long period of summer. The wood is particularly beautiful and prized in woodworking.

American Sweet Gum (Liquidambar styraciflua)

Close-up of American Sweet Gum against a blurred garden background. Its star-shaped, deeply lobed leaves turn brilliant shades of red, orange, and purple. The tree produces small, spiky, spherical fruits that hang from slender stems.
Adaptable sweet gum trees are fire-resistant and feature star-shaped leaves.
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
water-needs water needs Moderate to high
height height 60-75 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5-9

Sweet gums are known for their unique star-shaped leaves and spike-ball-shaped fruits. Native to the Southeast, American sweet gums are widely adaptable as long as they have sufficient moisture throughout the year. It even tolerates poor drainage and wetland soils. 

This tree’s nice conical growth habit keeps its branches high off the ground, increasing its fire resistance. Young saplings establish rapidly and can live for over 100 years. They are most valued for their striking autumn displays of rainbow-colored foliage.

California Sycamore (Platanus racemosa)

Close-up of California Sycamore branches in sunlight. The tree features large, palmate leaves that have three to five lobes and create a dense canopy. It produces small, spiky, spherical seed balls that hang in clusters.
This California-native tree has fire-resistant qualities, attractive bark, and palm-shaped leaves.
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
water-needs water needs Moderate to high
height height 50-100 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 7-10

This deciduous tree is one of the most popular additions to firewise landscaping in California thanks to its ornamental appearance and thin, moisture-rich leaves. The ultra-deep roots are great for landscaping because they go straight down rather than out. The unique bark is its most distinguishing feature; it starts green or gray and slowly peels away to reveal white inner bark, creating a colorful shredded appearance. 

The palm-shaped leaves are slightly pubescent (hairy) and provide shade. The fruits look like red seed balls that may need to be cleaned up from your yard.

Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides)

Close-up of branches of a Quaking Aspen tree (Populus tremuloides). The tree produces small heart-shaped leaves with finely toothed edges and a blue-green color. The bark is smooth and pale, marked by dark scars that contrast against the white trunk.
Resilient quaking aspens resist wildfires due to their high moisture content.
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
water-needs water needs Low to moderate
height height 20-80 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 1-6

Quaking aspens are highly resilient in arid and drought-prone areas, perfect for harsh cold climates. The high moisture content of aspen trees often makes them the last ones standing in wild forest fires. The moist deciduous leaves and thick twigs do not burn easily. As a landscape tree, quaking aspen is as stunning as it is functional. It is considered “quaking” because of the peaceful way that the leaves flutter in the breeze. 

Aspen trunks have an unusual white bark with unique markings that sometimes look like eyes. As the tree gets taller, it goes through its natural self-pruning process, where the lower branches get shaded out and fall off, leaving behind the eye-shaped scars.

Aspen trees may produce suckers from the root systems, so annual pruning and cleanup of select branches near the base is required. Most famously, aspens turn vibrant yellow in the autumn and will delight lovers of brilliant fall foliage.

American Wild Plum (Prunus americana)

Close-up of Prunus americana branches with ripe fruits against a blurred background. The branches are covered with green, oval-shaped leaves with serrated edges. The fruits are medium-sized, round in shape, with pinkish skin.
Fire-resistant wild plum, with fragrant flowers and edible fruits, benefits from proper pruning for safety.
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
water-needs water needs Moderate to high
height height 15-25 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-8

This wild plum tree is recognized by its fragrant white flowers and small, edible plum fruits in the summer. If you remove any lower dead branches, this tree is particularly safe for firewise landscaping.

Like many fruit trees, it holds plenty of moisture through the hot months and resists burning. The most important thing to remember is to prune young trees so they grow as a central trunk. Unpruned wild plums can become shrubby or form a thicket, making them less fire-resistant and less attractive.

Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia)

Close-up of flowering Black Locust branches against a blurred background. The compound leaves consist of small, oval-shaped leaflets arranged in pairs along a central stem. The tree produces cascading clusters of fragrant, white flowers with a hint of yellow.
Drought-tolerant black locust, a fast-growing fire-resistant tree, features durable wood and is nitrogen-fixing.
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
water-needs water needs Low
height height 50-75 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-8

This drought-tolerant deciduous tree prefers abundant light for optimal growth but will tolerate a west-facing orientation. It is resilient in arid climates and adaptable to the cold. The rapid growth and durable wood make it ideal for fire-resistant treescaping. As a member of the Fabaceae (pea) family, black locusts work with symbiotic bacteria to fix their own nitrogen in the soil.

Black locust is known as one of the strongest timber sources in North America and is often chosen as rot-resistant fence posts and building materials. They are also one of the fastest-growing trees, ideal for erosion control and windbreaks.

The pinnately compound leaves have rounded leaflets and an attractive blue-green hue. The foliage retains plenty of moisture to resist catching flames. 

Water Birch (Betula occidentalis)

Close-up of Water Birch tree branches against a blurred background of a sunny garden. The leaves are simple and serrated, with a dark green hue.
Moisture-rich water birch, native to the Western U.S., is ideal for wet landscapes.
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
water-needs water needs High
height height 20-40 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-7

With a name like water birch, it should be no surprise that this plant holds plenty of moisture in its trunk, branches, and leaves. It is native to the Western U.S. and grows thin, pretty, oval-shaped leaves with pubescent reddish-brown twigs. The twigs have warty resin glands but do not cause the same fire-prone issues as coniferous resins. 

Water birch is ideal for wet areas of your landscape and cannot handle drought. For a more heat-tolerant tree in southern climates, consider the native river birch (Betula nigra). It grows much taller (up to 70 feet) and easily handles scorching summers.

Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum)

Close-up of Japanese Maple. Its distinctive, palm-shaped leaves are deeply lobed and come in a range of colors, including vibrant reds and purples. The foliage creates a delicate, lacy effect.
Japanese maple, with crimson leaves, is a small, low-flammability ornamental tree.
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
water-needs water needs Moderate to high
height height 6-25 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5-9

The Japanese maple has finely textured crimson leaves and a low-branching profile for a smaller landscaping tree. This popular ornamental has very low flammability thanks to its moisture-retaining foliage and minimal dead wood. It adds aesthetic value while contributing to fire resistance.

The leaves are especially striking in the fall when they brighten their red and yellow hues. Pruning is helpful to remove deadwood and enhance the safety of this dwarf tree.

Red Maple (Acer rubrum)

Close-up of Red Maple branches in a sunny garden. The Red Maple (Acer rubrum) is a striking deciduous tree known for its vibrant foliage and distinctive form. The leaves, deeply lobed and serrated, turn a brilliant red or orange hue in the fall.
Red maples, with vibrant leaves, offer fire resistance if maintained 20 feet from homes.
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
water-needs water needs Moderate to high
height height 40-60 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-9

The vibrant leaves of red maple are deciduous, thin, and have high moisture content, making it a good fire-resistant tree candidate if planted more than 20 feet from your home. This versatile landscape tree is less fire-resistant than others on this list because it requires more annual maintenance. 

If you’re willing to keep up with dead leaf removal and pruning of lower branches, red maples can be a beautiful addition to your yard. But if you want a low-maintenance firewise option, skip the maples and go for a live oak or aspen!

Purple Smoketree (Cotinus coggygria)

Close-up of Purple Smoketree (Cotinus coggygria) tree branches in a garden. Known for its dramatic foliage, the leaves range from deep purple to rich maroon, creating a bold backdrop in garden landscape. It produces clusters of tiny, inconspicuous flowers surrounded by fluffy, smoke-like hairs.
Purple smoketree has velvety purple leaves, is fire-safe, and reaches 20 feet tall.
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
water-needs water needs Moderate
height height 10-30 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5-8

Purple smoketree gets its name from its purplish-pink flower clusters’ smoky, whimsical appearance. Fortunately, it is unlikely to create smoke because the velvety purple leaves are unlikely to catch flame. This slow-growing tree produces a nice open rounded crown and reaches up to 20 feet tall. Dwarf varieties are much stouter at 10-15 feet.

Purple smoketree prefers well-drained soil and tolerates some summer drought. Annual pruning and deadwood removal ensure maximum safety.

Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia spp.)

Close-up of a flowering Crape Myrtle tree (Lagerstroemia spp.) in a garden with a blurred background. The tree produces clusters of crinkled, crepe-like flowers of purple color. The leaves are dark green, glossy, lance-shaped.
Crape myrtles, with diverse flower shades, are fire-resistant and drought-tolerant but require regular pruning.
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
water-needs water needs Moderate
height height 15-25 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 7-9

These classic flowering trees are perfect for Southern gardeners who enjoy big floral displays. Crape myrtles are relatively fire-resistant due to their thin bark and minimal dead material. They are relatively drought-tolerant once established.

They come in a diversity of varieties for different zones and visual appeal. Flower shades include pink, purple, red, and white. Regularly removing dead flowers and branches further enhances fire safety.

Highly Flammable Trees to Avoid

Coniferous trees pose the greatest risk to fire-prone landscapes because they have lower water content, denser growth, volatile oils, and highly flammable resins. Many species also produce a lot of deadfall that can accumulate at the tree’s base, creating more fuel for fire spread. Avoid planting these species within 100 feet of your home or other structures.

Juniper (Juniperus spp.)

Close-up of a Juniper branch against a blurred green background. The tree has dark green needle-like leaves and cone-like seed structures. These cone-like seed structures are blue in color with a white powdery coating.
Junipers, highly flammable due to their resinous sap, are unsafe in firewise landscapes.

As one of the most flammable trees, junipers have no place in a firewise landscape. The high resin content and volatile oils make these trees a major hazard. In the wild, the fine foliage in dense canopies contributes to rapid wildfire spread.

Pine (Pinus spp.)

Close-up of a Pine tree on a blurred green background. It produces evergreen needle-like leaves, bundled in clusters, known as fascicles. Pine cones, the reproductive structures of pine trees, are made up of woody, cone-shaped scales arranged in a spiral pattern.
Pine trees, with resin-rich branches and cones, are fire-prone, posing risks.

All pine species contain extra resinous sap in their branches and cones, creating an easily ignitable fuel source that rapidly spreads fire. The piles of pine needles, pine cones, and fallen branches at the base of trees create more potential fuel that becomes dangerous during the hot, dry fire season.

While many wild forest pines are adapted to fire (for example, Jack pine or Pinus banksiana needs fire to trigger its cones to open up and release the seeds), these trees are best kept far from a home landscape.

Spruce (Picea spp.)

Close-up of Spruce branches with pine cones against a blurry blue sky. This coniferous, evergreen tree has bright green needle-like leaves. The needles are four-sided, attached individually to the branches, and are sharp-pointed.
Spruce trees with resinous needles and droppings pose a significant fire hazard.

Once again, this tree’s volatile saps and resins pose a major risk to fire-prone areas. Spruce have fine evergreen needles that form dense canopies and accumulate on the ground when they dry. More frighteningly, a tall spruce tree could drop dry, flammable needles on your home’s roof, creating a major fire risk.

Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus spp.)

Close-up of Eucalyptus tree characterized by tall, straight trunk, smooth bark, and lance-shaped leaves. The leaves are dark green, smooth, oblong, with pointed tips.
Eucalyptus trees, with flammable bark and oils, pose a fire risk.

All eucalyptus species are prone to fire due to the nature of their bark and the strong oils inside the leaves. While eucalyptus smells great, their volatile oils are very flammable.

They also form dense groves where not much else can grow. If you have an established eucalyptus you truly love, vigorously maintain its safety by removing lower branches, pruning up to 10 feet off the ground, and regularly cleaning up debris.

Cypress (Cupressus spp.)

Close-up of Cypress tree branches against a blurred background. The Cypress tree is characterized by its slender, upright form, featuring feathery, scale-like leaves that grow in flattened sprays.
Due to high flammability, Cypress trees, especially Italian cypress, are unsuitable for fire-prone areas.

While cypress trees make popular privacy barriers, they are a bad selection for fire-prone regions. Italian cypress (Cupressus sempervirens) has particularly high sap content and wood that burns very hot. Officials recommend removing all cypress trees within 100 feet of a structure or 15 feet of a roadway. 

Final Thoughts: Choose Deciduous Trees With High Water Content and Low Debris

Protect your home and landscape from a devastating wildfire by choosing ornamental trees with high water content, deciduous leaves, little to no saps or resins, and the smallest amount of accumulated debris. Prune your trees regularly to remove “ladder fuels,” which are low-lying branches and dead foliage that may become fuel for a rapidly spreading fire. 

Avoid planting coniferous resinous trees near your home for the most fire-safe landscape. As always, be sure to consult local and regional resources like the U.S. Forest Service and the National Fire Protection Association for specific recommendations and resources about the safest plants for your area.

A close-up of a dogwood tree reveals its intricate branches, gracefully reaching for the sky. Adorning these branches are delicate pink blooms, like nature's own confetti, celebrating the arrival of spring.


How to Plant, Grow, and Care for Dogwood Trees

If you live in North America, chances are you’ve noticed beautiful spring-flowering dogwood trees. But did you know that they are just as at home in your landscaping as they are in the forest? Gardening expert Kelli Klein walks you through how to plant, grow, and care for dogwood trees.

a view of a large black walnut tree looking up from the bottom displays a large canopy against the backdrop of a blue sky.


What Can You Plant Near Black Walnut Trees?

Are you struggling to keep other plants alive under the canopy of your black walnut tree? There’s a good reason for that. In this article, gardening expert Melissa Strauss explains why this occurs and what you can plant near these trees!

magnolia tree blooming with pink flowers


When Do Magnolia Trees Bloom?

Are you wondering when your magnolia trees will start blooming this season and how long those blooms will last? In this article, gardening expert Melissa Strauss shares when you can expect your magnolias to bloom, and how long their beautiful white flowers will stick around.

Bradford pear tree growing with white flowers in garden landscape.


11 Reasons to Avoid Planting Bradford Pear Trees

The beautiful white flowers of the Bradford Pear tree make it an enticing option tof any garden or home landscape. But these popular trees can often cause more problems than people anticipate. In this article, gardening expert Liessa Bowen shares some of the top reasons you need to avoid Bradford Pear trees in your garden or home landscape plans this season.