March 2021 - Leucadendron
The southern tip of the African continent is home to the Cape Floral Kingdom. It is the smallest of the six Floral Kingdoms on earth. Floral Kingdoms are geographical areas that host similar plant life, and they typically cover large swaths of the Earth’s surface. For example, Holarktis, the Floral Kingdom in which we live, encompasses North America, Europe and parts of North Africa, and the entirety of Asia.
\It may be the smallest, but the Cape Floral Kingdom is host to some of the most biologically diverse regions on Earth. It is estimated that one in five of all the plant species found in Africa calls the Cape Floral Kingdom home. Our March plant of the month, Leucadendron, comes from this miraculously diverse land, and it has found an agreeable home here in our own neck of the woods.
Leucadendron, a type of Protea, found favor in the late 1700s as botanists began to cultivate plant species from around the world. The aristocratic classes had access to the plants through royal collections from Paris to St. Petersburg.
Now, ‘Safari sunrise’ is a popular cultivar with other types available on the market. ‘Salignum Blush’ has striking bright red foliage and blooms. Leucadendron makes for excellent cut flower arrangements and is known to have a very long vase life, remaining vibrant even after the water dries.
In the garden, select full sun, do not fertilize, and only apply water in establishment. Regular watering will stress them and may cause them to be short-lived. Keep in mind that these plants evolved in harsh soils with no summer rain and cool, wet winters, just like here. Deer don’t much care for them, either. Ask at your local nursery about this wonderful low water using shrub option. And for other ideas, please take a look at Watersavingplants.com.