Native options to plant after you remove your fire-prone plants

This is a list of California native plants recommended for use as replacements for those species considered fire prone by the Town of Mill Valley and FIRESafe Marin. Plants are grouped into seven general plant sizes and functions: large trees, small trees, hedging shrubs, medium height shrubs, groundcovers, large grasses and vines. Fire-prone plants are noted in each category together with our recommendations for replacements. Each plant has a link to a plant card that includes information about sun exposure, watering needs, flowers and fruit, deer resistance and more.

In using this resource, please note:

  • This is not a list of fireproof plants. All plants will burn under the right conditions. Do not expect to plant it and forget it.
  • For defensible space, plant placement and maintenance are as important as the plant species you choose. Maintenance includes proper watering; it is particularly important to keep your plants hydrated during fire season. If you don’t maintain your plants, you have wasted the benefit gained from making smarter choices to start with. Information about plant placement and maintenance is available in depth on the FIRESafe Marin and Marin Master Gardener web sites. We urge you to review their recommendations thoroughly before you decide on plant locations and spacing. See: Marin Master Gardeners and FIRESafe Marin.
  • Failure to maintain both your house and your landscape in a fire-safe condition can result in loss of life and property during fire! Your first concern in the landscape should be to create noncombustible zones around your structures; the first 5 feet out from the structure should not include anything that is flammable. This includes plants, decorative bark, woodpiles, trash cans, wooden gates, barbecues, decorations, etc.
  • Native plants provide superior environmental benefits. All replacement plants on this list are native to California. They provide superior ecosystem services to us and to the other creatures with whom we share this earth, particularly birds and insects. They are the irreplaceable foundation of nature’s food chain. Native plants are tough, beautiful and highly adapted to our climate. We don’t need to look abroad for ideas on what to put in our gardens. This list includes just some of the many lovely and garden-friendly native plants that should do well around your home.
  • Native plants do better when planted at the right time. Native plants are not grown on an artificially sustained schedule as happens at commercial nurseries. Native plants tend to be available for planting when they are most likely to thrive. This means that plants are healthier when they come to you, but some species may be available only during certain months of the year. We urge you to plan ahead. We have arranged with 4 local nurseries to carry as many of these plants as they can source. Please call them to discuss what you want and when you will need it. They will do their best to get it for you.

The Watershed Nursery (specializes in native plants)
601 A Canal Blvd, Richmond, CA 94804 (second exit after the Richmond Bridge)

CNL Native Plant Nursery (specializes in native plants)
254 Shoreline Hwy, Mill Valley, CA 94941

Green Jeans Garden Supply
690 Redwood Highway, Mill Valley CA 94941

Sloat Garden Center
401 Miller Ave, Mill Valley; 415-388-0365
657 E Blithedale Ave, Mill Valley; 415-388-0102
700 Sir Francis Drake Blvd, Kentfield; 415-454-0262
2000 Novato Blvd, Novato; 415-897-2169

The Marin Chapter of CNPS will also sell many of these plants at our spring and fall plant sales, usually in March/April and September/October. Notice of upcoming sales is posted on the home page of this web site.

Email: If you contact us, please be sure to let us know where in the county you are gardening.

Get more information about native plants for home landscapes. This list is only a small sample of the large variety of California native plants used in home landscapes. If you want to dive further into the world of native plants and explore the many hundreds of other options, check out Calscape. It enables you to search native plants that grow in your zip code. It’s best to use Advanced Search, which allows you to filter with a variety of criteria, including type of plant, sun, water requirements, common uses (e.g., bank stabilization, butterfly gardens, deer resistant), availability in nurseries, flower color, etc. Clicking on a specific plant provides more information, including images, plant description and landscaping information.

Thank you for taking out fire-prone plants and replacing them with natives. This simple choice helps you, your neighbors, your watershed and the global biodiversity crisis.

TREES, large (Over 25 ft when mature)

Species to be replaced: Acacia (Acacia spp.): Cedars (Hesperocyparis spp.): Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus spp.): False Cypress (Chamaecyparis spp.): Firs (Abies spp.) (note: Douglas Fir is not Abies spp.): Hemlock (Tsuga spp.): Palms with dry fronds: Pines (Pinus spp.), some species: Spruces (Picea spp.): Yew (Taxus spp.)

Replacement plants:      

bigleaf maple, Acer macrophyllum

blue oak, Quercus douglasii

Catalina ironwood, Lyonothamnus floribundus; Lyonothamnus floribundus ssp. asplenifolius

coast live oak, Quercus agrifolia

coast redwood, Sequoia sempervirens

madrone, Arbutus menziesii

valley oak, Quercus lobata

white alder,Alnus rhombifolia

TREES, small (generally under 25 ft when mature)

Replacement plants:

Blueblossom, Ceanothus thyrsiflorus; also Ceanothus arboreus

blue elderberry, Sambucus nigra ssp. caerulea

California buckeye, Aesculus californica

hollyleaf cherry and Catalina cherry, Prunus ilicifolia ssp. Ilicifolia; Prunus ilicifolia ssp. lyonii

Ray Hartman lilac, Ceanothus ‘Ray Hartman’

redtwig dogwood,Cornus sericea

toyon, Heteromeles arbutifolia

western crabapple, Malus fusca

western redbud, Cercis occidentalis

HEDGING SHRUBS (6 to 12 ft in height; also see Vines)

Species to be replaced: Arborvitae (Thuja spp.): Bamboo, all tribes and varieties : Cedars (Hesperocyparis spp.) : Gorse (Ulex spp.) : Yew (Taxus spp.)

Replacement plants:

California barberry,Berberis pinnata

Concha Lilac,Ceanothus ‘Concha’; also Ceanothus ‘Frosty Blue’

Dr. Hurd manzanita, Arctostaphylos ‘Dr. Hurd’

hollyleaf cherry and Catalina cherry, Prunus ilicifolia ssp. Ilicifolia; Prunus ilicifolia ssp. lyonii

lemonade berry, Rhus integrifolia

Louis Edmunds manzanita, Arctostaphylos ‘Louis Edmunds’

mountain mahogany, Cercocarpus betuloides

Oregon grape, Berberis (Mahonia) aquifolium

Pacific wax myrtle, Morella (Myrica) californica

spice bush, Calycanthus occidentalis

toyon, Heteromeles arbutifolia

MEDIUM SHRUBS (can be kept 4 to 6 ft in height)

Species to be replaced: French Broom (Genista monspessulana): Scotch Broom (Cytisus scoparius; Cytisus striatus): Spanish Broom (Spartium junceum): Junipers (Juniperus spp.) all species

Replacement plants:

black sage, Salvia mellifera

Cleveland sage, Salvia clevelandii, cultivars‘Pozo Blue’;‘Winnifred Gilman’

coyote brush, Baccharis pilularis ssp. consanguinea

matilija poppy, Romneya coulteri

Mound San Bruno coffeeberry,Frangula californica ‘Mound San Bruno’

silver bush lupine, Lupinus albifrons; also Lupinus albifrons var. douglasii

snowberry, Symphoricarpos albus; also Symphoricarpos albus var. laevigatus

white sage, Salvia apiana; also Salvia x ‘Vicki Romo’

GROUNDCOVERS (up to 2 ft in height)

Species to be replaced: Junipers (Juniperus spp.) all species: Rosemary (Salvia rosmarinus)

Replacement plants:

bearberry, Arctostaphylos uva ursi ‘Point Reyes’; also Arctostaphylos uva ursi hybrid ‘Emerald Carpet’

dwarf coyote brush,Baccharis pilularis var. pilularis ‘Pigeon Point’ or‘Twin Peaks’

Joyce Coulter lilac, Ceanothus ‘Joyce Coulter’

Montara sagebrush, Artemisia californica ‘Montara’

Sonoma sage, Salvia sonomensis

Yankee Point carmel creeper, Ceanothus thyrsiflorus var. griseus ‘Yankee Point’

LARGE GRASSES (3 to 4 ft or taller)

Species to be replaced: Pampas grass (Cortaderia selloana, Cortaderia jubata): Fountain grass (Pennisetum spp.)

Replacement plants:

California fescue, Festuca californica

deer grass, Muhlenbergia rigens

giant sacaton, Sporobolus wrightii

giant wild rye, Elymus condensatus; also Elymus condensatus var. ‘Canyon Prince’


(Can be used for screening if grown on metal or masonry fencing)

Replacement plants:

California grape,Vitis californica

Catalina currant, Ribes viburnifolium

hairy honeysuckle, Lonicera hispidula

Island morning glory, Calystegia macrostegia

western clematis, Clematis ligusticifolia; also Clematis lasiantha