The Proteaceae are a family of flowering plants predominantly distributed in the Southern Hemisphere. The family comprises 83 genera with about 1,660 known species. Well-known genera include Protea, Banksia, Grevillea, Hakea, Telopea, and Leucadendron. All of these grow well in the central highlands of New South Wales.
Proteas prefer well drained acidic soil with pH between 5.5 and 6.5. Some varieties will tolerate a higher pH. If planting in clay soils, prepare the soil by digging in Gypsum and a native organic compost, do not use mushroom compost. Generally, try to plant in a raised mound for improved drainage. Fertilise with a native slow release like Osmocote annually in Spring at about half the recommended rate.
Dig a hole about twice the size of the pot, remove the plant and gently tease out the roots. Plant in a raised mound about 10cm above ground level and firm the soil around the root ball. Water well immediately after planting. A compost of crushed sandstone is also recommended.
Protea can be successfully grown in pot, however, do not use self-watering pots or saucers as the soil needs to be free draining. Use native potting mix and choose a pot about twice the size of the current pot. Water well immediately after planting.
Once established, Proteas are draught tolerant. For the first year after planting the soil should be kept moist, thereafter, water in dry conditions. If the plant is growing vigorously and flowering well, you have got the water balance under control.
Proteas can be shaped to suit your garden style. Pruning is best done after flowering, by cutting the old flower stems back to 10 – 15cm. Remover untidy branches and favour strong new stems.
Plant selection depends on individual taste and what would best suit the area. As a general guide it is recommended that slopes be planted out with 4-6 grasses or ground covers per square metre. Trees and shrubs should be planted as they would in a normal landscape design.
To maintain the look and function of the site it is necessary to actively remove any weeds that appear, especially in the first two years of the site’s development. This will give the plants the greatest chance of survival and will promote the bank stabilisation. After the first couple of years the plants will have grown sufficiently to compete with any weeds that may appear. The site can then be treated in a similar fashion to any other garden bed and weeded in the same manner.
If the site is highly infested with weeds prior to planting it is recommended to use a herbicide to clear the area prior to planting. Alternately, plant only grasses and trees to begin with, then carry out spraying with broadleaf selective herbicides. Once the grasses have established and the weeds have been controlled the herbaceous plants can then be planted.