In praise of Proteas
The protea family really shines during August, boasting with their vibrant colours before the rest of the garden catches up during spring. This is a great month to invest in leucadendrons (cone bushes), leucospermums (pin cushions) and proteas to brighten up your garden.
When purchasing a Protea you must remember the following :
- It needs to be planted in a sunny area.
- Ensure that it has good air circulation by providing enough space when planting.
Most of them are indigenous to the Western Cape, so they will feel at home in sandy, nutrient poor soils. Add a small amount of peat when planting.
During the first 3 years it is important to water the young plants well to establish strong growth. Once established, these plants will need water only during the dry spells.
DO NOT use concentrated fertilizers, as these plants prefer nutrient poor soils. Rather apply organic mulches such as pine bark or pine needle as these will break down slowly and feed the plant the natural way.
How to take care of them :
- As these plants have shallow root systems, regular mulching prevents drying and keeps the roots cool.
- Also avoid digging around the roots as they are very sensitive.
- Pull all weeds by hand.
Here’s your guide to planting these indigenous beauties :
- Choose an area of your garden that receives full sun for most of the day, and where the soil drains well. Proteas do not cope well in soggy soil.
- Dig a hole three times as wide and twice as deep as the nursery bag in which you bought your protea plant. Mix in plenty of protea potting soil or acidic compost. Do not add any fertilizer.
- Carefully remove the protea from the packaging. They do not like having their roots disturbed, so be very gentle with the root ball.
- Plant the protea in the prepared hole, at the same depth as it was in the packaging. Firm the soil down well.
- Water your protea well and mulch the surrounding soil with pine needles, bark chips or wood chips.
- Once well established, proteas should be pruned once a year. Use sharp secateurs and cut all branches back to about 10cm from the main stem.
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