HOW TO GROW PROTEAS

Proteas and their many relatives form an important part of the unique floral kingdom called “fynbos” that is found growing predominantly in the winter rainfall areas of the Southern tip of Africa. Their natural distribution range extends out of this region and into Tropical Africa. Most of the plants cultivated in local gardens are of South African origin and include many hybrids.

Today most protea plants are propagated from cuttings ensuring strong vigorous growth and the ability to flower from a very young age. This fact alone makes them highly desirable flowering shrubs with a truly South African heritage. These new generation hybrid plants thrive in a range of climatic conditions and are found growing in gardens in many parts of the country.

PLANTING PROCEDURES

– Proteas need well drained soil and grow best in an exposed position on steep ground with free air movement and plenty of sunshine
– Dig planting holes twice as deep and three times as wide as the pot the plants are growing in
– Do not add any fertiliser or compost to the soil
– Proteas grow in phosphate deficient soils
– If soil is poorly drained add acid compost or peat moss at the recommended rate and mix thoroughly with the garden soil
– Soak the potted protea plant in a bucket of water for a few minutes, remove and let the water drain away
– Remove the pot or nursery bag with care so as not to disturb the root ball
– Plant the protea into the prepared hole at the same depth as the it was growing in the nursery pot
– Fill in around the root ball and firm soil down gently
– Form an irrigation basin around the plant to direst water to the root area
– Once planting is complete water well to settle the loose soil

FERTILISING AND CARE

– Place a layer of mulch around the protea to keep the roots cool and repel weeds
– Water regularly (every day or 2nd day) for the first 3 months after transplanting or until fresh new growth is produced
– Check regularly for symptoms of pests and diseases
– Water during dry weather
– Do not fertilise as a general rule
– Pick flowers when they are ready
– Prune back protea plants after flowering is complete to maintain shape
– Some proteas need winter frost protection in colder areas

PESTS AND DISEASES

– Aphids gather on the soft new growth tips and suck the sap out of the plant – control with a general insecticideor aphicide
– Chewing insects damage leaves and flowers – treat with a systemic insecticide
– Red spider mites are a problem on some plants in summer – use a suitable miticide
– Iron deficiency is identified by yellow leaves on weak growth tips – correct with a drench of iron chelate
– Certain proteas and their relatives are prone to a fungal disease that causes black spots on the upper and under surface of the leaves – spray with a copper based fungicide
– In grassland areas beware of rodent damage in winter
– Mice eat the bark at the base of the stem effectively ring barking the protea

GARDEN USES

– Excellent for “fynbos” indigenous gardens
– Use in large rock gardens or on sunny well drained banks
– Good in large pots and containers
– Some make good screening plants
– Wonderful long lasting cut flowers
– Attract birds and insects

SUMMARY

1. Proteas and their close relatives are truly South African plants
2. Plant modern hybrids grown from cuttings to ensure the best results
3. Take care planting them out correctly
4. Never disturb around the root zone of proteas both young and old
5. Only use fertiliser sparingly with due care and caution

SHOPPING LIST

– Spade and fork for digging planting holes
– Acid compost and peat moss for soil enrichment
– Watering can or hose pipe
– Short stake with suitable ties
– Mulch material like dry straw or pine needles