King Proteas – How To Care For Yours:
Owning a protea can be a lot of hard work. With its temperamental attitude towards the soil and fragile root system, caring for a protea can be a daunting task for a gardening-newcomer. But there’s no need to fret, dear reader. Here at Rambling Rose, we have created an easy guide to caring for your King Proteas!
But where do proteas come from? These beautiful and rustic plants have an interesting history… The protea family was named ‘Proteaceae’ in the 1700s by the founding-father of modern botany and taxonomy, Carl Linnaeus. And although it was only named in the 1700s, the Proteaceae family is one of the oldest flowering plant families on the planet – dating back over 300 million years with over 1500 different species!
Coming in a variety of shapes and sizes, proteas are found worldwide – with over 850 species in Australia to 330 South Africa. But one thing which ties all the different protea species together is their unique, proteoid root system – which, simply put, is a cluster of roots that grow horizontally. Proteas are also known as sugar-bushes, due to the large amounts of nectar they produce, improving the presence of nectar-dependant wildlife – like birds and insects. Proteas are also hardy enough to survive various environmental hazards, with dormant buds able to live through some frost and wildfires.
You may be thinking to yourself “If King Proteas are such finicky plants, will I be able to care for it?” Well, you don’t have to worry! Even though they are a unique plant, we’ve drawn up a few tips for you to follow:
- They require a well-ventilated, sunny and well-lit area, as well as soil with excellent drainage.
- Proteas thrive in acidic, nutrient-poor soil.
- Proteas require watering every two to three weeks, while the new plants require more frequent watering. Do not overwater.
- Do not disturb the protea’s roots as they are prone to fungal attacks. When transplanting, try to be as careful as possible, and avoid interfering with the roots.
Caring for Indoor Proteas
How do you care for King Proteas in a vase?
- Cut about 0,7cm off the end of the stem, and remove all the leaves which would sit below the surface of the water.
- Place ¼ teaspoon of bleach per litre of water in the vase, the prevent the growth of algae which clogs the roots (repeat this in 4-to-5-day intervals).
- Keep them out of direct sunlight.
How do you care for King Proteas in a pot?
- Plant in a pot with even amounts of bark, grit and peat.
- Ensure the pot is large, and the potting soil is bark-type.
Pruning and Preserving
Pruning is an important aspect of caring for any plant. Pruning plants improves the quality of the plant, and can increase the number of flowers, helps to prevent disease, extends the life of the plant and creates stronger, more vibrant plants.
- Prune young proteas around 6 months to a year after planting. Try to aim for spring to late summer for maximum effectiveness.
- Can be pruned again after the first flowering by cutting the flower stem 10cm above where it branches out from the main stem.
- Cut off any weak and damaged stems, to promote healthy growth.
Protea flowers can be preserved and kept for extended periods by drying them out. Here’s how:
- Most proteas will dry without shedding their leaves or petals. Expect the flower’s colour to deepen and darken a little.
- When the bloom has reached the end of its life, remove them from their vase and hang them upside down or place them in a bucket for 3 weeks to dry out. Avoid drying it out on its side, as it will deform the final shape.
- The preserved protea will last a few years if looked after correctly.
Although King Proteas may seem like a difficult plant to care for, it’s all a matter of perception! With the plant’s natural hardiness and ability to survive in tough conditions, this plant is perfect for the budding botanist. Just remember not to overwater the plant and disturb its roots!