Protea

Protea flowers

A large family of tender exotic shrubs from South Africa, having a wide diversity of interesting flower forms. Apart from botanical gardens, Protea are rarely found growing in the UK, due to their tender nature and dislike of rich wet soils.

Family: Proteaceae
Botanical Name: Protea
Common Names: Cape artichoke flower, sugarbush

Foliage: Evergreen, leathery, elliptic leaves.

Flowers: Exotic flowers surrounded by highly coloured bracts and or florets.

Flowering Period: Mid-summer to early autumn.

Soil: Gritty free draining soil (sand or low-nutrient loam). Acid or neutral pH. Avoid waterlogged conditions.

Conditions: Best in full sun. East, west or south facing aspect, in a sheltered position.

Habit: Bushy.

Type: Tender Perennial.

Origin: South Africa and Australia.

Hardiness: Tender in the UK - protect from frost.

Planting and Growing Protea

Grow in a well-drained, acid to neutral, low-nutrient soil, in full sun. Suitable for south facing slops, raised beds and containers. When planting in a container use an open gritty 'Cactus Mix' compost. Dislikes rich clay soils or composts containing fertilizers or phosphates.

Plants vary in height, shape and flower type, depending on variety. Large forms can only be grown in frost-free southern areas of the UK. Smaller Protea can be successfully container grown in a conservatory or greenhouse, then placed outside during the warm summer months.

Many varieties provide an excellent source of cut flowers.

Taking Care of Protea

Water only as required. Water sparingly in winter.

Pruning

Apart from dead-heading, no other pruning is necessary.

Pests and Diseases

Generally pest and disease free

Propagating Protea

Easily raised from seed. Alternatively take semi-hardwood cuttings in summer and root in a free draining, cactus compost, in a propagator.

Varieties of Protea

Protea amplexicaulis (clasping-leaf sugarbush) is a prostrate shrub with chocolate brown flowers, often borne on the underside of the branches during spring.

Protea caffra can grow to tree like proportions up to 13ft (4m) high. Produces deep pink flower heads in summer.

Protea cynaroides (Giant Protea) is a sprawling shrub with amazing flowers up to 9in (23cm) across. It has bracts in varying shades of pink.

Protea magnifica produces flowers in late summer and autumn. Height to 6ft (2m).

Protea grandiceps (Peach Protea, red sugarbush) is an unusual form with clusters of pink-red ball shaped bracts that never fully open in summer. It has leathery leaves with red margins. Height up to 6ft (2m).

Protea longifolia (long-leaf sugarbush) has long narrow foliage and greenish white flowers with touches of black. Flower from autumn throughout the winter. Height up to 6ft (2m).

Protea magnifica (queen protea) bears bracts in a range of colours from white to deep pink. Height up to 6ft (2m).

Protea nana (mountain rose) is a low growing form with deep pink to deep red flowers, from late spring to early summer. Height up to 3ft (120cm).

Protea scolymocephala (thistle sugarbush) is a low growing form covered with pale green or yellowish flowers in the autumn. Good as cut flowers. Height up to 3ft (120cm).