THE WONDERFUL PROTEA
Today, I present one of my favourite plants and flowers. Protea is both the bottanical name and the English common name of a genus of South African flowering plants, sometimes also called sugarbushes. Here are a few tips on growing them, and some photos I took recently.
SoilProteas prefer a nice sandy loam or open soil. Some Proteas are less fussy and are quite happy in a heavier soil although they will not survive in heavy clay soils. If you do have heavy soils it will be necessary to first mound the soil to improve it and then dig in compost and gypsum to break up any residual clay.
pH or the acidity or alkalinity of soils. Plants often grow best where the soil pH is similar to their conditions of origin. Proteas prefer to grow in acidic soils as this reflects the conditions where they originate in South Africa and Australia. The majority of Proteaflora products need an acidic soil with a pH between 5.6 and 6.5. Some of our products do tolerate neutral to alkaline soils with a pH between 6.6 to 7.5. If that's a bit confusing, your local nursery should be able to tell you about your local soil and advise you on testing and treatment, if necessary. Check out the Our Plants page to find the plants best suited for your garden.
Old flower bedOnly plant in old flower beds if no phosphorus fertiliser has been previously used. Proteas are best grown away from plants you need to feed regularly. Avoid mushroom composts as they contain salts harmful to Proteas. It is also best to avoid applying blood and bone, manures and products made from them such as dynamic lifter, as the nutrient balance is not suitable for Proteas.
PlantingIn the Garden - Dig a hole to twice the width of the pot, when planting ensure your protea is not planted any deeper than it was in the pot. Firm the soil around plant and if required support with the plant with a stake.
In pots – Use a container of at least double the size of original and keep it off the ground to assist with proper drainage. Your potting mix needs to be suitable for natives with a slow release fertiliser.
PositionProteas thrive best in full sun with good air movement. The more sun your Proteas get the more flowers they will produce. Some Proteas can be grown in semi-shaded areas. Proteas are fairly frost tolerant once established. In winter they can usually handle frosts around minus 2° and some are more frost hardy, tolerating frosts of minus 6°. In the Southern hemisphere, Proteas will not survive on south facing walls.
MulchA natural mulch such as bark, straw or leaves protect the plant's surface roots, retain moisture and keep weeds down. Pull out any weeds by hand and avoid using herbicides near Proteas.
WaterProteaflora plants are pretty tough once they're established. Water at least twice a week in the first summer, preferably daily when it's really hot. The soil around the root system should not be permitted to completely dry out when the plant is young. You can gradually reduce watering as the plant becomes established about 2 years after planting old. Then the watering frequency depends on the prevailing conditions and whether your variety is listed as drought tolerant.
In pots they like a nice drink every day.
Clancy's comment: Pretty cool plants, eh?