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The second name for protea is extravagance for all the right reasons.  With large and tubular flowers and petal-like colorful leaves, protea is available in every color, texture, shape and size imaginable.  Native to Australia and South Africa, these are still new found adventure for many gardeners.

Experts say that growing protea is very much similar to growing avocado in your backyard garden. Moderate temperature and proper watering regime is the key to the success here. Proper drainage is also must. If it is hot, make sure that you provide proper water to the plant while keeping water drainage system in place. Water logging can cause root rot in the plant that are developed laterally near the surface.

The plant shows liking towards the cooler spot and the flowers are brighter and more vivid.  However, please ensure that proteas are planted in the spot where it can get maximum air ventilation and six hours of sun.

Acidic soil of level pH 5.5 to 7 is ideal for the plant.  Sand textured soil with decomposed granite works wonder for protea.

Buying Proteas

If you want to buy proteas for gardening, select the ones that show some new growth and have green leaves. Discard the plants with brown and off-color dead leaves. Go for plants that are sown in 1 gallon cans as gardeners have observed that they have better chances of surviving in new condition as they are young.   Their roots are almost ready to take on new soils and get used to it as well.

Usually proteas are seed-grown or cuttings-grown.  It is difficult to tell them apart and you need to trust your gardener for this. It is also important to know because proteas, which are grown from seeds, grow substantially but are just leaves or branches for two years.  Also, please note that it is impossible to tell the kind of flowers the proteas seeds grow. You might enjoy a totally different shape and size!

Whereas proteas grown from cuttings are just a clone of their parent plant with exact same size and shape, they bloom earlier than their seedling counterparts and in about a year. However, their growth is slower.

Planting Proteas

You need to dig a hole at least two times deeper than the pot. If you figure that the soil isn’t well-drained or is heavy in texture, it is recommended to add organic peat bark, gypsum or forest humus to the soil to even the soil.  Set the plant directly in soil keeping the fact in mind that the rootball stay intact and just at par with the soil line.

Water the plant thoroughly and let it settle.  Make sure that the soil is well-drained. Once it is done, spread the mulch around the plant but without disturbing the stem.  It is better to spread the mulch away from stem.

Proteas love shade and their roots should remain cool for better development of the plant. With a thick mulch layer, you can provide enough shade to the roots.  The plant, however, can be kept cool and in shade with a wire cage or palm fronds.

You can also grow proteas in large pots or containers if you don’t find the condition ideal in garden, you can easily climate control the pot with respect to drainage, temperature, watering and soil type.

Care for Protea:

Usually proteas become the victim of overwatering. So, ensure that soil is well-drained and mulched properly with forest humus, peat, bark, fir and organic material.  Ensure that the barking pit and the soil is properly mixed with organic compost.  Plant the protea in well-drained soil keeping the rootball intact.

How to Prepare Compost for Protea

Let the water settle down around the roots before you spread the mulch layer of 1 inch. If you don’t let the water settle down, this can lead to rotten roots and damage to the plant.  Make sure that young plants remain moist.  Keep checking on them on regular intervals.

Menziesii Protea is prone to gophers and hence, it is advised to line the pit hole with chicken wire.

  • Cut Flowers Protea:

With long stems and proper floral food, cut flowers can live up to two weeks or more.  Snip off the stems if you find the petals wilting or fading in color. Take out dead foliage immediately to extend the vase life of protea flowers. You can also consider adding 7-up or clear sodas to prep up the look of cut flowers.  Keep them away from direct sunlight and fruits.

  • Proteas aren’t fond of dry fertilizers. Ask your florist or gardeners before fertilization. Make sure that you use a very mild version of fertilizer or a slow release one. A stronger version of fertilizer can damage proteoid roots of protea.
  • Prune proteas in the first year to maintain a healthy growth. Matured and fully-grown proteas shouldn’t be pruned much to avoid unnecessarily damage to the plant.
  • Apart from deer and rabbits, insects aren’t much of a threat for proteas.
  • If you want to see proteas in action, visit the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden especially during late autumn or winters.