Plant and Defend: Basics of Defensive Plants

firethorn (pyracantha)

Security planting is one of the most effective ways to keep your home safe now and in the future. Plants that deter intruders can beautify the landscape while protecting your property, and they don’t stop working if the power goes out.

Start improving your home’s security today by assessing the plants around it. Overgrown shrubs can provide cover for intruders and tree branches may offer an easy entrance to a top-story window. Regular pruning of your existing landscape plants will instantly make your home less attractive to home invaders. But well-pruned shrubbery is only part of the plan.

Using Defensive Plants

Growing defensive plants at your property line is like having your own security team keeping an eye on things 24/7. Some trees and shrubs are useful deterrents against individual trespassers, but choosing the right plants takes some thought.

Barrier Plants

Before heading to the local garden centre, take these tips into consideration:

  • The further away from your home a plant is, the more low-maintenance you want it to be.
  • The best barrier plants are fast growing, attractive and require little care or supplemental water.
  • Using a variety of plants will create a more natural and attractive barrier.
  • Mixing plants provides more types of food and shelter to attract more types of wildlife.
  • A healthy hedgerow becomes home to a diverse number of birds, reptiles and small mammals—something that could be a real asset if a true emergency made it necessary to live off the land for an extended period.
  • Some barrier plants provide edible fruits and berries for humans.


Read: A Homemade Hydroponic Nutrient Solution Recipe


The best places for defensive plants depend on the size and shape of your property. For example, on a larger piece of land, a thick growth of thorny shrubs will add some much-needed security to a blind corner of your property, and a healthy crop of low-growing cactus covering the back boundary would certainly make an intruder think twice about approaching.

The methods used for defensive planting in an average-sized suburban yard are much different. Barrier plants in a typical neighbourhood setting would be closer to the home, planted under windows or around other vulnerable areas.

Before you grab a shovel and start planting, consider how defensive plants might affect your ease of access or your ability to escape in an emergency situation. The point of barrier planting is to increase safety, not make it difficult to leave or enter your own property. You don’t want to put yourself or your family in the position of climbing through cactus if you should ever need to slip away unseen.

Plant Selection

Ultimately the best defensive plants are ones that are well-suited for your growing zone and planting area. The plants listed below are considered hardy and suitable for most zones and conditions.

Pyracantha is called “firethorn” for a reason. The painful thorns of the pyracantha can grow up to 3 inches long. The beautiful shrub provides an abundance of orange, red and yellow berries in the fall which attracts birds and other wildlife. It grows quickly, up to 2 feet per year in the right conditions according to Clemson Cooperative Extension, and is low-maintenance and drought-tolerant.

Roses add charm to any landscape, but some varieties also add a layer of security. The “Voodoo” rose is not only a hot-orange stunner, but its thorns are “more menacing than barbed wire” according to master gardener Fred Hoffman in an article for HGTV. Roses have an unfair reputation for being fussy and hard to grow, but many varieties, especially wild roses, need little care.

Hawthorne is sometimes referred to as a tree and sometimes a hedge. But as you can see, the word “thorn” is right in this plant’s name. It produces sweetly fragrant and delicate pink blossoms in the spring and its berries are used in natural medicine to strengthen the heart and lower blood pressure. But whether you call it a tree or a shrub, you’ll be impressed by its thick growth of 1- to 5-inch thorns. Ouch!

American Holly, black locust, hardy orange, barberry, nettle (which is also delicious when steamed) cactus or even thistle are also plants to consider when developing your living barrier plan. If you’re an inexperienced gardener and have no idea where to start, make friends with the people who work at the garden centre. They can be an invaluable resource and help you from wasting money on plants that won’t grow on your site.

Plant Them!

Once you’ve figured out where your plants need to go and what kind you will be using you still need to plant them. I know it’s not as convenient as calling ADT to hook up your alarm system but in a grid down situation that alarm system won’t do you any good. Get out there, get dirty and get security!

Post by John Miler


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