Proteas are native to South Africa and belong to the same family of plants (Proteaceae) as the Australian-grown banksias, grevilleas and Waratahs.
The family Proteaceae was among the earliest groups of flowering plants on the supercontinent of Gondwana become it disintegrated into the continents we know now. With about 1600 species, it is a dominating plant group throughout the Southern Hemisphere floras.
The best time to see Proteas at the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden is from late autumn through winter.
Different species of Protea grow best in different soil types and climates. You are best speaking to a local nursery on which types are best for your area.
We recommend planting in autumn or spring. This allows your Protea to absorb as much sun as possible while while establishment.
For best results allow plant of space between plants for air to circulate and avoid planting any Protea deeper than the surface level of the pot.
We suggest avoiding the use of any fertiliser when planting out Proteas. The Proteas unique root system (called 'proteoid' roots) naturally seeks out the available nutrients in the soil.
For necessary fertilisation during the early stages of growth use an Australian native plant fertiliser - either a very mild solution of soluble fertiliser or coated slow-release pellets with low or zero phosphorus.
Maturing Proteas may also need fertilising, especially if the type of soil in your garden is free draining.
Protea root systems must be kept lightly moist until the plants are well established, which can take up to 18 months or more.
The frequency of watering will depend on soil type and climatic conditions however mature proteas only require deep watering once a week during dry spells, or once a fortnight during a dry winter.
Mulch and Weed Control
We suggest using natural mulches (leaves, wood chip or general shredded garden waste) of around 10cm thickness to help retain moisture and improve your garden's aesthetics.
Avoid fresh young mulching materials which tend to draw nitrogen out of the soil as they rot. This can cause harmful fungi.
Be sure to keep mulching materials away from Protea stems as this may cause them to rot.
Proteas can be lightly pruned during the first year to give good shape and help them establish resistance to strong winds.
Mature proteas should not be severely pruned as this may permanently damage them.
We recommend cutting the flower stems as long as possible and ensuring there is foliage remaining on the stem below the cut.
Fresh cut flowers can be maintained by regularly cutting 10-20mm off the bottom of the stems and frequently changing the water. For best results add a 1/4 teaspoon of household bleach to every litre of fresh water.
For dried arrangements, flowers can be hung upside down in a dark place with some air circulation. This will help to retain more colour and prevent the growth of mould.
Proteas as Pot Plants
It is possible to grow the smaller varieties of Protea in containers using a coarse, well-drained native potting mix and keeping the plants in a sunny position with plenty of air circulation.
Avoid over-fertilising or letting the container dry out.