The Best Plants to Restore Your Landscape After a Wildfire in Colorado

In the wake of a wildfire, the landscapes of Colorado’s Front Range, encompassing towns like Arvada, Golden, Lakewood, Littleton, Westminster, and Wheat Ridge, are often left charred and transformed. As the smoke clears, the daunting task of restoration begins—a crucial step not only in bringing back the natural beauty of the region but also in ensuring the health and resilience of our ecosystems.

Keep reading to discover the best plants for restoring our uniquely beautiful Colorado landscapes post-wildfire. By focusing on native plants and understanding the new environmental dynamics, we can turn a scene of devastation into an opportunity for ecological renewal and resilience.

Key Takeaways

  • Wildfires significantly alter soil composition, making it crucial to choose plants that help prevent erosion and restore soil health.
  • Selecting native plants is key in preventing the spread of invasive plant species, which can dominate and unbalance the ecosystem after a wildfire.
  • Native plants are essential for supporting local wildlife, rebuilding the food web, and restoring ecological functions in post-wildfire landscapes.
  • Choosing fire-resistant plants, particularly native species, is important for creating natural firebreaks and reducing the risk of future wildfires.
  • Consider the changes in sunlight exposure due to wildfire damage and choose plants, especially trees and shrubs, that are suitable for the new conditions, whether in full sun or shade.

Grasses and trees sprout in a Colorado forest after a wildfire. Thoughtful Wildfire Restoration: Why It Matters

Wildfires, while a natural part of Colorado’s forest life cycle, can leave the land vulnerable to ecological imbalance. In areas like the Denver foothills and throughout Jefferson County, the selection of plants for reseeding and replanting is not just about aesthetics; it’s about choosing species that thrive in altered conditions, prevent further degradation, and pave the way for a robust and vibrant ecosystem.

There are many benefits of landscape restoration efforts after a wildfire, such as the four described below.

1. Prevent Erosion

Wildfires drastically alter soil composition and the condition of your landscape. The intense heat can sterilize the soil, reducing its ability to support plant life. Additionally, removing vegetation exposes the soil, increasing the risk of erosion and soil compaction from rainfall. Erosion degrades the land and can lead to sedimentation in nearby water bodies, affecting water quality and aquatic life.

2. Combat Invasive Plant Species

Another major concern is the risk of invasive species. Wildfires can create a blank slate, an environment where aggressive, non-native plant species can easily establish themselves. These invaders often outcompete native flora, leading to a loss of biodiversity and further ecological imbalance. A landscape dominated by invasive species can also be more prone to future wildfires, creating a vicious cycle of destruction and poor recovery.

3. Support Local Wildlife

Plants native to the Denver foothills and Jefferson County are adapted to the local climate and soil conditions. They are more likely to support local wildlife, including pollinators and other beneficial insects, birds, and mammals. They play a critical role in rebuilding the food web and restoring the ecological functions of the area.

4. Mitigate Future Risk

In addition, if you make the right plant choices, it can help minimize future wildfire risks. Certain plants are more fire-resistant than others and incorporating them into the landscape can create natural firebreaks, reducing the spread and intensity of future fires.

Aspen Trees canopy in West Denver.Resilient Colorado Plants That Regrow After Wildfires

In the unique climate and terrain of Colorado’s Front Range, certain native plants have adapted to survive and even thrive in post-wildfire conditions. Understanding which plants naturally regrow after wildfires can guide your restoration efforts, as these species often require little to no replanting.

Grasses

Native grasses like Blue Grama and Western Wheatgrass are adapted to the local climate and can quickly reestablish after a fire. Their deep root systems help stabilize soil and prevent erosion.

Learn more about Colorado grasses >>

Flowers and Herbs

Many wildflowers have an underground structure called the caudex that allow them to resprout after a fire. These plants play a critical role in attracting pollinators, which are essential for ecosystem recovery.

  • Indian paintbrush
  • Lupine
  • Columbine
  • Fireweed

Shrubs

Some shrubby trees can sprout from their root collar or rhizomes even after intense fires, helping to stabilize soil and providing habitat for wildlife. Examples include:

  • Antelope bitterbrush
  • Rabbitbrush
  • Mountain mahogany
  • Gambel oak
  • Chokecherry
  • Willow

Learn more about fruiting and flowering shrubs for the Colorado Front Range >>

Trees

Certain coniferous trees, like the ponderosa pine and Douglas fir, have adapted to resist fire damage even from a young age. Others, such as the lodgepole pine, limber pine, bristlecone pine, white fir, and juniper, have moderate fire resistance when fully mature. These species can survive low-intensity fires and are essential for restoring the forest canopy.

Some deciduous trees may sprout new growth from the root crown, stump, or rhizomes, even after the tree itself has been burnt to the ground. These include:

  • Cottonwood
  • Alder
  • Birch
  • Aspen

Learn more about Colorado trees >>

Columbine flowersChoosing the Right Plants for Post-Wildfire Landscaping

As you embark on the journey of restoring your landscape in the aftermath of a wildfire, particularly in regions like Denver’s Front Range, choosing the right plants becomes a pivotal decision. Post-fire landscapes often present unique challenges, such as altered soil conditions and changes in sunlight exposure.

For instance, if the fire has cleared large trees, areas previously shaded are now likely to be bathed in full sunlight. This shift necessitates that you consider the changes to your landscape and carefully select your new plants, rather than simply replanting the same species that were present before the wildfire.

Opting for native species is not just a matter of preference but a practical strategy for successful restoration. These plants are naturally adapted to local conditions and are more likely to flourish in the changed environment. Moreover, they play a crucial role in supporting and rebuilding the local ecosystem.

Below, you’ll find the best choices for native trees and shrubs to plant after a wildfire has burnt your property. When selecting plants, don’t forget to consider factors like sun tolerance and ecological benefits, as these will help you rebuild a resilient and thriving landscape.

Native Grasses to Seed or Replant

These species are drought-tolerant and low-maintenance, making them ideal for sustainable landscaping. Their deep roots help prevent soil erosion and they quickly green up the landscape.

  • Indian Rice Grass ‘Nezpar’ or “Paloma’
  • Blue Grama or Eyelash Grass (the State Grass of Colorado!)
  • Western Wheatgrass
  • Arizona Fescue
  • Junegrass
  • Little Bluestem

Colorado Native Flowers & Herbs

Native flowers and herbs are great for your local ecosystem. Flowers add color and attract pollinators. These species are adapted to the local climate, requiring less water and care.

  • Native or woolly yarrow
  • Monkshood
  • Columbine
  • Sages
  • Whiplash daisy/trailing fleabane
  • Blanket flower
  • Bearded iris
  • Lavender
  • Silver lupine
  • Prairie coneflower
  • Broom groundsel
  • Smooth goldenrod
  • Thyme

Native Shrubs for Soil Stabilization

If you are going to plant shrubs, it’s especially important to plant drought-resistant native shrubs that contribute to soil stabilization and play a vital role in creating natural firebreaks that can help mitigate future wildfire risks. Good choices include these species:

  • Little-leaf mountain mahogany
  • Redtwig dogwood
  • Apache plume
  • Cliff/rock spirea
  • Wax flower
  • Creeping grape holly
  • Western sand cherry
  • Antelope bitterbrush
  • Snowberry
  • Yucca

Native Trees for Wildfire Restoration

Native trees, with their inherent fire-resistant qualities, play a critical role in reducing the vulnerability of landscapes to wildfires. Adapting to local conditions allows them to better withstand fire, providing an essential layer of protection to your property. Below are some excellent trees to help restore a wildfire-damaged landscape.

  • Rocky mountain maple
  • Thinleaf alder
  • Serviceberry
  • Hawthorn
  • Honeylocust
  • Crabapple
  • Flowering plum
  • Western Mountain Ash
  • Aspen

LAM Tree Service planting an evergreen tree on a Colorado Foothills property.FAQs About Wildfire Restoration & Management

Q. Are all native plants fire-resistant?

A. Just because a plant is native doesn’t mean it is fire-resistant or appropriate for use in a firewise landscape. All plants are flammable at different times of year and in different locations, so careful planning is necessary.

Q. Why are deciduous trees more firewise than conifers?

A. Deciduous trees are more firewise than conifers because conifers contain a lot of oil or resin, which is fuel for a fire, while deciduous trees’ leaves contain more water. During the winter, the loss of leaves and the higher moisture content means that deciduous trees remain less of a fire hazard.

Q. Should I remove the conifers from my property?

A. Not necessarily! To minimize wildfire risk, ensure that conifers are a fair distance apart to reduce the chance of fire spreading, and keep them properly pruned.

Q. What is wildfire mitigation?

A. Wildfire mitigation allows you to minimize the destructive effects of wildfire on your property by creating a defensible space around your home. It can also include choosing or modifying the home’s construction materials to more fire-resistant materials.

Q. What is a defensible space?

A. Defensible space is the area around your house where the vegetation, including shrubs and trees, has been modified or removed to reduce the intensity of a wildfire and slow its spread.

Restore Your Fire-Damaged Landscape with LAM Tree Service

Restoring your landscape with the right native plants after a wildfire can significantly enhance your property’s beauty and ecological health. However, navigating this process can be challenging.

LAM Tree Service is here to help if you’re unsure where to begin. We specialize in creating firewise landscapes, starting with ensuring sufficient defensible space around your home to enhance safety. Our expertise extends to a range of fire mitigation services tailored to your specific needs. Our goal is to help you realize that with some planning and upkeep, you can have an aesthetically pleasing yard that is resilient against wildfires.

Call LAM Tree Service at 303-674-8733 today, and let’s start planning your firewise landscape together.